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  • Writer's pictureSara Bond

Pairings Project: BLOODFLOWER by K.J. Harrowick

TLDR; if you like your science fiction epic and sprawling with a fantasy sensibility and a slow burn romance, then this is the book for you.

My reading genres these days are a lot of gothic lit, escapist fantasy, and swoon-worthy romance. Turns out, I could have found almost all of it in one book. K.J. Harrowick’s BLOODFLOWER is a sci-fantasy romance that drags you down deep into a brutal, primitive world with grounding in science, magic, and such hopeful, wistful romance that you can’t help but get swept along.

K.J. Harrowick is one of my favorite people already, but when I got to read the final version of her debut novel, I was reminded exactly why she is my critique partner and friend. She crafted a story that falls in love with the tropes of fantasy, science fiction, and romance, and weaves them together in such a new fashion, that you remember why you read genre fiction in the first place. There are dashing, but damaged heroes, brilliant but raw and uncertain heroines, complex and deeply understandable villains, and a world that feels familiar and foreign at the same time. Harrowick plays with her tropes so well that you can’t tell if relationships are star-crossed and ill-fated, time-swapped and poorly-reborn, or just plain too-complicated-for-tropes. And yet, the characters never feel out of their depth or torn by their own plots. They are active and engaged in their own lives, and their cross-purposes drive the story into unexpected twists and turns that had me turning pages.

Oof. Sorry. That was a lot of back-cover gushing. Let me get to it.

Bloodflower is about Jaden, an ecologist from an technologically advanced world that discovers a power in her that can control the very fuel of starships. Trouble is? She has no real control over her power. It seizes her, seduces her, and rips at her very being until she knows she can rip apart moons if she looses the little power she has over her magic. So she is locked away and studied, by scientists who hope one day to master her power and use it to their ends. She is studied, tortured, and eventually put to sleep in a pod, and after nearly 4,000 years awakens on a terraformed moon.

While she’s slept, though, entire civilizations have risen and fallen. The moon Sandaris is not what she knew, with swords and sorcery replacing her science and computers. She is awakened by a ranger, an exiled prison guard turned freedom fighter, and desperate for human contact and strength she no longer possesses, she binds her magic to him, wedding their souls together. Jon Ayers wants to be offended at the lack of consent in this binding, but is drawn both to Jaden’s vulnerability and strength. He sees what she has to offer his band of outlaws as they seek revenge on the powers that have destroyed their families and their world in pursuit of the power to control the stars. Jon also knows that she needs him, the protection he can provide, and the path he offers to find a way out of this world she doesn’t understand.

The thing is, I could describe this novel in about seven different ways and not come close to capturing all the stories it tells. It is EPIC in its scale, and yet never falls trap to the continent-spanning travel montages that so many books in the genre do. Harrowick has written a story that is heavily character driven and drives from one tense scene to the next, that sometimes you wish she’d spend five pages on the merits of the consistency of Lembas bread and how to make acorn meal just so you could catch your breath. The romance is inevitable and yet driven by choice; the fates of the characters are inevitable, and yet fully and openly chosen.

This book is cinematic in a way that you hope Howard Shore will one day have to compose a dozen different interweaving themes for it. Its got a visual quality that cries for interpretation, and a story that is deeply rooted in its complex characters. And the world-building creates a playground for so many more stories to come (which BETTER be on their way).

TLDR; if you like your science fiction epic and sprawling with a fantasy sensibility and a slow burn romance, then this is the book for you.

COCKTAIL PAIRING: The Sandaris (apple whiskey sparkler)

When it came to choose a cocktail for BLOODFLOWER, I knew I wanted something light and romantic but also something dark and complex. I wanted the light, bubbly feeling of early, uncertain romance, which meant prosecco, champagne, something effervescent and hopeful, and a tiny bit sweet. But I needed it to blend with something dark, and complex, something distilled in a basement and hiding its strength.

In short, I wanted a whiskey and champagne cocktail that was sweet and hopeful and strong.

To start, I went with a rye instead of a bourbon. Most champagne cocktails will default to a bourbon as a mixer, because it’s already more delicate and sweet than a straight whiskey or rye. I didn’t want something that would fall apart against the other flavors. Like Jon Ayers, my dark base needed to hold up against the flavors it would mix with. A rye offers more strength and substance over sweetness, (because it’s distilled from more grain and barley than corn) and retains more of a robust frame than bourbon.

So I had my bases that felt right to the drink, but I needed something to mix with them.

I thought to the setting of the book, but also to how it made me feel. A lot of the timeline of the book occurs over a fall/winter timeline. There’s snow, there’s scarcity, there’s cold and chills, and harvest. It spoke to me of apples. So, I followed it. I picked up a bottle of apple cider with my rye and prosecco, and started to play. I think I got the balance of complex heroine, conflicted love interest, and counter-intuitive plot. Then I named the drink after the moon that is the main setting of the book; so y'all get to try the Sandaris.

(Warning: it's incredibly drinkable, and I can't be responsible for the hangover if you have more than one or two---which is something you do when you're trying to get the balance just right.)

I hope you enjoy!

The Sandaris

2 oz whiskey of your choice (I went with rye)

2 oz apple cider

1 oz simple syrup

A few dashes of Angostura bitters

4 oz sparkling wine/prosecco

Stir in the first four ingredients over ice in your shaker or a glass. Strain into cocktail or wine glass. Top with prosecco. You can garnish with apple slice or a cinnamon stick.


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