Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

Title:  Heart's Blood
Author:  Juliet Marillier
Publisher:  Tor 
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover:  402 pages
ISBN: 0451462939
Summary from Goodreads: 
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…

  • Overall rating: 8/10
To buy this book: IndieBound | The Book Depository | Powell's | Amazon
Add this book to your: Goodreads Shelfari | Library Thing | Visual Bookshelf

Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood is a romantic fantasy inspired by Beauty and the Beast and set around Whistling Tor, a mysteriously haunted fortress in 12th century Ireland.  Caitrin, a young scribe whose father recently passed away leaving her at the mercy of abusive relatives, finds her way to the eerie Whistling Tor in search of work.  What she discovers there is a physically-impaired chieftain who is plagued by a dark curse and has withdrawn from his responsibilities to his people.  Part ghost story, part love story, Heart's Blood is a tale of courage and hope.  

What I Liked:
-     I have always loved Beauty and the Beast-inspired stories, and this one has several of the key elements that I adore about that fairytale - an intelligent heroine, a cursed man, magical mirrors, a precious garden with a priceless flower, and a whole host of characters bound by an enchantment.
-     The haunted hill, the forbidding castle, and the mysterious residents of Whistling Tor all add to the wonderfully dark and spooky atmosphere of this book.  I am a fan of Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters series, and Heart's Blood reminded me once again of how skilled she is at bringing her settings to life.  It is very easy to immerse yourself in her version of the 12th century Irish landscape, to feel the threat of Norman invasion, and to find yourself caught up in the whisperings about sorcery and a mysterious curse.  In such a setting, the fantasy elements feel perfectly natural.
-      I liked the balance within the romantic coupling.  This story is about a heroine and a hero who encourage each other to help themselves and to face their own challenges with courage.  The hero must learn to accept his physical deformity without being incapacitated by it, and the heroine is haunted by an abusive past that left her crippled by fear and grief.  Rather than sweeping in and saving each other, they each inspire one another to be brave enough and hopeful enough to conquer their own demons.
-     The secondary characters are interesting and memorable.
-     Magnus, the galloglaigh hired by Anluan's father, is now one of my favorite Marillier characters.  Love him!
-     I also liked that this is a Beauty and the Beast story in which the 'beast' doesn't undergo some grand physical transformation.  Instead, the transformation centers around the fact that he must learn to see himself as an exceptional man who is worthy of love and capable of becoming the chieftain his people need, despite his disabilities and his family's tragic and discouraging past.

What I Wished:
-     This book is more than just a mystery novel about a curse on the inhabitants of Whistling Tor, but I still wish that the mystery element of the story had been much more difficult to solve.  Caitrin was generally an intelligent and observant character, but it took WAY too long for her to figure out a key aspect of the mystery that seemed extremely obvious from the very beginning of the book.  Seeing all the characters overlook or ignore so many clues throughout the story was frustrating to the point that I actually set the book aside for a couple of days.  But I enjoyed the setting, the secondary characters, and the romance so much that my desire to see how it all turned out overpowered my annoyance regarding the mystery.

Heart's Blood is a love story between a cursed Irish chieftain and a scribe trying to escape the dangers of her past, but it is also a dark fantasy about overcoming grief and despair with courage and hope.  If you enjoy fairytale retellings, historical romance, or historical fantasy, you will want to check out Heart's Blood.  If you would like to learn more about Heart's Blood or Juliet Marillier's other novels, please visit her website, her facebook fan page, or the Writer Unboxed blog to which she contributes.  You can also listen to a podcast interview with Juliet Marillier on The Villa.  I look forward to checking out Juliet's upcoming YA series, the Shadowfell trilogy, which will be published in 2012.

Read the first chapter of Heart's Blood here!


danya said...

I've seen this one before but never looked that closely at the description, and didn't realize it was based on Beauty and the Beast! I usually like fairytale retellings so I might just have to check this one out :) Thanks for the awesome review!

Chachic said...

My copy has the same cover that you posted and I love the girl in front of a mirror with a library in the background. As you know, I'm a huge fan of Marillier's Sevenwaters series so I look forward to reading this one. I'm glad you liked it. I'm always game for a Beauty and the Beast retelling.

Violet said...

danya - If you like fairytale retellings, I think you have a very good chance of enjoying Heart's Blood. I would also recommend Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest, which was inspired by another classic fairytale, The Six Swans. :)

Chachic - I really like that cover image too. :) I look forward to hearing what you think of Heart's Blood. I didn't love Caitrin & Anluan quite as much as I love Sorcha & Red or Liadan & Bran, but it is still a romantic story set in a richly-imagined world.

Deepali said...

I am really trying to get one of her books to read- my library doesn't seem to have too many.
Will keep looking..
e-Volving Books

Deepali said...

Btw, re your comment about romantic historical fiction on e-Volving Books, tell me, what else do you recommend?
Do you read Gail Carrigan? (I love her books! all 2 so far..)

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