Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review - HEART'S BLOOD

Heart's Blood - Juliet Marillier
Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy/Gothic-ghost story flair :P
# of pages: 402 (HB)
Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family and his home of Whistling Tor. But when the young scribe Caitrin is retained to sort through family documents, she brings about unexpected changes in the household, casting a hopeful light against the despairing shadows.
But to truly free Anluan’s burdened soul, Caitrin must unravel the web of sorcery woven by his ancestors before it claims his life—and their love…


My Thoughts
Raise your hand if you love books with fairytale storylines? Raise your hand even *higher* if you like stories based on/inspired by/or in any way affiliated with the tale of "Beauty and the Beast"?
Guys, as much as I love fairytale stories in general, "Beauty in the Beast" still, after 18 years, is my favorite story ever. EVER. And Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite writers EVER. The combination of the two made for a very exhilarating read.
I plowed on through this one because the tone was more up my alley than her other books, and so in the beginning I found HB way more exciting and thrilling than the others. Though it takes place in medieval Ireland, the story is written in a Gothic mystery/ghost story tone, and to be sure, the first half of the novel was quite creepy and foreboding - I loved it!
The first 1/3 of the book is most heavily concerned with the eeriness of the supernatural and the inspiration of "Beauty and the Beast," and this part of the story was by far my favorite. If you're even slightly familiar with Disney's Beauty and the Beast, you will notice delightful similarities between that film and this novel, both in the "Beast" dude's characterization, the household staff (they're not enchanted objects, but...you'll see!) and other stuff, too. About halfway into the novel, the focus leaves the B&B inspiration and takes more of a historical turn. Those pesky Normans are encroaching on Irish land, oh boyo! And I like historical fiction as much as the next history major, but see, it kind of took away from the Gothic elements and fairytale scenario. Then the last 1/3... *facepalm*. This has really never happened in a JM novel that I've read, so it's really weird to say that I thought the book lost its focus big time. JM stated in an interview that this story has "elements" of the "Beauty and the Beast" tale in it, but that it's not a straight retelling, and I think that's kind of where the problem lies, because according to the coverflap, the story is about Caitrin solving a family's supernatural curse in a Gothic suspense-romance style novel...so there was a lot of stuff in there that distracted from the overall story and made me kind of impatient. The story isn't about the heroine in and of herself, but how she relates to the hero and this cursed place...so, that was kind of a letdown. Most of the JM books I've read get better as the story goes along, and this one didn't.
For the most part, characterization was brilliant. I've already mentioned how cool the similarities are between Disney's Beast and Anluan, the awkward, brooding Tor chieftain. In fact, I'd say that Anluan is one of my favorite Marillier characters *ever*. I just wish he would have stayed "beastly" longer - he undergoes that character change into a nice, sweet, mannerly guy a little too soon. And then there's the main character, Caitrin. There was just something about Caitrin that wasn't as endearing as other Marillier heroines: Sorcha, Tuala, Nessa, and even Jena. In addition to a tendency towards a "greater than thou" attitude, there was just something "off" about her, especially the way she interacted with the Beastly character, Anluan. Their chemistry seemed very forced, almost like Marillier grew tired of telling sweet, subtle love stories and wanted something...idk..."earthier." It was kind of weird. When they got together (way quicker than in her other books, too) it didn't seem as significant and I didn't really have much of a reaction to it. And so that was a bummer.

I know I'm nitpicking, and probably unnecessarily. I enjoyed this book, and if you are a fan of JM's other works, you will most likely enjoy this one, too. It's not without its issues, and I guess I focused on the "issues" because they just seemed strange and not what you'd expect from this author. But still, if you are a fan of anything fairytale, anything Gothic romance, or anything "Beauty and the Beast," this book NEEDS to be on your TBR. Very well-done. My only caution is that you will probably enjoy the beginning better than the middle or end. That was the case with me.
FINAL GRADE:

5 shout-outs!:

Christina T said...

I love Juliet Marillier and fairy tale retellings too so this was one I couldn't wait to read. I did like it but I prefer the Sevenwaters books. You are absolutely right that this book seemed to lose focus. I did get into the story faster than I did with some of her other books, particularly the Bridei Chronicles. Great detailed review!

Kristina Barnes♥ said...

*raises both hands, a foot, and a head* I love books that have fairytale storylines. I didn't even have to read your review to know that I would probably want to read this book. xD (Your review just added the fuel to the fire!) Thank you for the review, m'dear! :)

Christie (The Fiction Enthusiast) said...

Fabulous review, Amelia! This sounds like an amazing read. I’m a huge fan of Beauty and the Best so I’ll definitely check this out. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

Oh, sounds great! I've only ever read one book by Juliet Marillier, which was Daughter of the Forest. I'm definitely interested in trying more of her books though, so this one's going on the TBR list. Thanks for the review!

Sniffly Kitty said...

I have to say that I am not a huge fan of Juliet Marillier. I thought Daughter of Prophecy was pretty good, but couldn't get into the following books. I also didn't much like Wolfskin either >.<

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