Book Review: An Heir to Thorns and Steel (Blood Ladders Trilogy Book 1) by M.C.A. Hogarth [Audiobook]

Morgan is a university student studying folklore when he discovers that not only are elves real, he might be their prince. Hoping to find a cure for his worsening disability, he goes to their lands and sets off on a quest, getting further entangled in danger and elf politics.

Book Review: An Heir to Thorns and Steel (Blood Ladders Trilogy Book 1) by M.C.A. Hogarth | reading, books, high fantasy, disability
Title: An Heir to Thorns and Steel
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 352
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon


This is a high fantasy story about Morgan, a university student studying folklore and living with a disability that causes daily seizures, among other symptoms. Around the same time that his symptoms start worsening, he discovers the existence of elves, and, if the creatures that showed up in his house are to be believed, he himself might be an elf and a prince. Hoping to find a cure for his illness, he goes with them to the land of the elves. From there, he’s given a quest, and he gets further entangled in elf politics.

I really enjoyed this story! The beginning was slow (more on that below), but I got hooked as it went on. There were some unique things, and the portrayal of the elves and their society was interesting. They were beautiful and otherworldly and immortal and cruel, and some of the individual elves were intriguing, like Sedetnet (I have no idea how to spell that because I listened to the audio) and the way he used dice to make decisions just to escape boredom and add some unpredictability to his immortally long life.

I enjoy the writing too. It was kind of like that old-timey, eloquent writing, but still easily understandable.

Morgan was a great character. He loved learning. He loved stories. At first I thought he was kind of pompous, but that feeling went away the further I got into the book, and I found him to be determined, compassionate, and humble. He just wanted to be independent and live the same kind of life healthy people could. As the book went on, I think he became more able to roll with the punches and take things in stride. There were a few things he handled maybe a little too easily to be believable, but that wasn’t a big deal to me.

Speaking of Morgan, the chronic illness he had was not a real one (it had a fantasy-related cause), but it was one of the most realistic depictions of chronic illness I’ve ever read about. His illness is nothing like the one I have, but I could still relate to some of the emotional aspects and how much it impacted his life. It wasn’t the happy, inspirational depiction you often find in media, but I think this kind of depiction is important too. And it’s not like he was portrayed in a negative way—he went on this whole adventure. Normally I don’t like storylines in which a character’s illness turns out to be a fantasy thing and there’s going to be a magical cure available to them, but I felt like it worked here, especially since the illness was portrayed so well.

While I’m on this topic, I’ll say that there was a lot of description of Morgan’s symptoms and pain, and from the standpoint of story pacing, it did slow things down in the beginning, and there were long stretches where not that much actually happened. However, from the standpoint of putting the reader in the characters shoes, I thought it was great. It really showed you just how much his life was affected by it. I also think it was necessary for the reader to understand how bad it was in order to understand the seemingly impulsive decision he made to go to the elves. Anyway, I wasn’t bothered by it, and the pain/seizure episodes were mentioned with less and less detail as the book went on.

The friend and family relationships in this book were great too. They were so deep and meaningful. These were characters who weren’t afraid of their feelings or afraid to feel deeply for others, especially Morgan.

I listened to the audiobook for this, and I loved the narration by Philip Battley. It sounded natural, it had just the right amount of emotion, and the narrator had a nice voice and accent.

Overall, this book started slow, but for good reason, and I was hooked by the end. These elves and their society were fascinating, the disability was realistically portrayed, the characters were interesting, and I look forward to continuing!

Trigger warning: Suicide attempt. Many mentions of vomiting.


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12 thoughts on “Book Review: An Heir to Thorns and Steel (Blood Ladders Trilogy Book 1) by M.C.A. Hogarth [Audiobook]

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  1. Greg

    Elves are awesome and how cool would it be to discover you’re related to elves? I’d love it lol. Sounds like the disability rep was awesome too even if the illness was fictional.

  2. Olivia Roach

    Interesting that the most accurate portrayal of chronic illness that you’ve read yet happens in what is actually a fictional story! I am glad you could enjoy this one so much. I would be thrilled to be studying something mythological and then to find out it truly existed 😛 You’ve been reading a lot of diverse books lately 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      Wouldn’t that be so awesome though?! I mean, I’m not even studying supernatural creatures, but I do read and write about them a lot, and I would love to find out some of them were real LOL. but yeah, I really liked this book, and I guess I have been reading some pretty diverse books lately!

  3. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    This sounds like a good read. And this is an example of authors doing chronic illness right. It doesn’t have to be a real chronic illness, but it sounds like it was written as a chronic illness may be and realistic in that sense.