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BOOK REVIEW – Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

BOOK REVIEW – Heart’s Blood by Juliet MarillierHeart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
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Synopsis:

Whistling Tor is a place of secrets and mystery. Surrounded by a wooded hill, and unknown presences, the crumbling fortress is owned by a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan's family and his people; those woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.

For young scribe Caitrin it is a safe haven. This place where nobody else is prepared to go seems exactly what she needs, for Caitrin is fleeing her own demons. As Caitrin comes to know Anluan and his home in more depth she realizes that it is only through her love and determination that the curse can be broken and Anluan and his people set free.

Trust me, I wanted to love this book so, so much. But if Heart’s Blood casted a spell on me, captivating me, I encountered the same problems I had with Shadowfell, making it hard to entirely connect with the story, especially in the second half.

Fascinating settings : Think about an ominous forest, a mysterious castle, whose inhabitants have been suffering from a curse for years. What not to love?

If I wasn’t completely won by the writing (I’ll come back to that), I can’t deny that the descriptions were beautifully crafted and so vivid, it felt as if I was there.

An intriguing plot : Beauty and the Beast is (shockingly, lol) one of my favorite fairytales of all times, yet its retellings rarely manage to capture the magical enthrallment I felt the first time I read Beaumont’s tale, and I’ve grown to resent and avoid them, to be honest. The fact is, either they’re too close to the original (but boring) or they’re so twisted that I can’t recognize anything. None of this here. If the story turns let me bewildered (in a good way), Juliet Marillier included several aspects as winks to the fairytale reader and I loved that.

From the underlying darkness threatening every turn, to the longing oozing from every page, I flew through the first half, enchanted.

A well-developed and complex cast of characters :

Caitrin is a wonderful and relatable heroine : after having been abused by her family after her father’s death, she finds the courage to flee and is constantly testing her strength. She’s by no means our kickass/soul eating warrior, yet she is strong, in her not so flashy way.

Anluan is a crippled, cursed man whose anger issues would have infuriated me if his character wasn’t so multi-layered, so complex. Please don’t judge him too fast : he can be maddening, but he’s not violent and so, so loyal. The despair of this awkward, self-loathing man who hides behind his grumpiness moved me. So burdened and tortured, unable to see that life can be more.

As for the other inhabitants of Whistling Tor, what can I say except that I loved them all? From Magnus the kind soldier to Eirith the crazy monk, they all add something magical to the story and I couldn’t help but draw parallels with the Beast hilarious and endearing companions.

✔ The romance is believable, light and straights-on wonderful. They made me squeal. I know! GAH. They gradually learn to trust each others’, to overlook the appearances and their fears.

Unfortunately there was a counter spell. Sigh.

✘ Trust me, I don’t mind a little predictability… Until I reach the point when it influences (in a bad way) what I think about a MC. Sadly, it was the case here. It took Caitrin so much time before solving the mystery (IN SPITE OF ALL THESE EVIDENCES EVERYWHERE), it drove me nuts. See, I understand that she’s willing to trust, but come on. This is too-much. From the moment I figured it all (way too fast) I grew restless, then annoyed, even if I didn’t want to be. I was constantly making excuses for her lack of judgment, until the moment I COULDN’T.

✘ While I realize that it’s a prevalent trope in fairytales, in my opinion the hope talk grew old pretty fast. Hope will prevail. Because Hope is the key. Don’t you believe that? Have you understood how important hope is? Do you? Do you? Are you sure? Because I’m going to repeat it over and over again. Oh. My. GOSH.

✘ As I said earlier, if I appreciated how beautiful the descriptions were, it remains that the writing was often too wordy for me. I’m by no means an action lover, but it was so frustrating sometimes that I had a hard time not to skim. Indeed some parts…. dragged….so much…that I couldn’t help but be bored, unfortunately, and yes, I wanted the author to go to the freaking point.

► That’s why it sort of lost its magic by the end. Way too long in my opinion, and yet I’ll still keep a fond memory of Whistling Tor and its unusual inhabitants.

BOOK REVIEW – Shadowfell (Shadowfell #1) by Juliet Marillier

BOOK REVIEW – Shadowfell (Shadowfell #1) by  Juliet MarillierShadowfell (Shadowfell #1)
by Juliet Marillier
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill--a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk--Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death--but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban's release from Keldec's rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.

If I had to choose a word to describe it I’d say that this book is … quiet. Look, quiet is not necessarily a bad thing – it brings a different atmosphere along its path, almost soothing and completely enchanting.

There is a lot of walking in this book, and when I say a lot, picture Frodo and Sam wandering in the Middle-Earth. That kind of walking.

The plot is incredibly repetitive, the whole book revolving around the fact that a)Neryn has to go to Shadowfell, b)she doesn’t trust (with reasons) Flint, c)she has a power that makes her able to see and talk with fairies and other magical creatures. I won’t lie to you, this is highly frustrating at times.

③ I might have been under a spell because despite the walking, despite the repetitions, I was never bored, but enchanted and enthralled. Will it be the same thing for you? Fuck if I know. I can’t say without doubt that you won’t be dying from boredom, but I sure didn’t, not for a second, and it was a page-turner for me (trust me, I’m astonished).

Neryn is afraid but fierce, independent, and believable – she wants to be strong but doesn’t succeed all the time and that’s GREAT. She doesn’t trust the first guy coming (I confess that I would have LOVED that she trusts Flint on sight, but hey, I’m weak, she was right, okay, I stop sulking – maybe). And if she sometimes takes risks, it’s only because she wants to overcome the obstacles she meets during her quest.

“Weapons sharp. Backs straight. Hearts high”

If I had some concerns about her personality at the beginning, her courage and her perseverance definitely won me along the way.

Flint is the best kind of characters : hard to trust, complex, morally ambiguous , conflicted. I can’t express how much I’m eager to learn more about him.

“Become my friend and you embrace a nightmare. I don’t wish that on anyone.”

I might be crazy, because I felt attracted to this tortured guy from the start. *shrug*

The Little Folk speaks in a dialect that can be unsettling at first :

Bide ye here awhile. Dinna be afeart o’ the shadows; they canna harm ye. Sit quiet; ye look weary tae the bane. I willna be lang.”

Strangely, it didn’t bother me because a)it’s rare and 2)it became easy to translate pretty fast. Don’t ask me, I have no idea why, except maybe because it makes sense : contrary to many books that use a dialect, the author goes beyond throwing some words here and there, but uses a coherent language, and once the reader has digested the initial surprise, it becomes more and more easy to follow their conversations.

① The writing is really, really good, not heavy and flows smoothly. As far as I’m concerned, the way Juliet Marillier writes played a large role in determining my enjoyment.

Nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems : indeed while at the beginning the boundaries between good and evil seem to be thick and steady, we quickly realize that nothing is as simple as it appears. Good reasons can lead to bad choices, and the contrary is also true. This world is brutal, unforgiving, and sometimes there’s no such thing as a right choice. To be frank, I can’t wait to learn more about this world.

③ Although I can’t say when this event occurred, in the end I care about every one of these characters especially Flint. God I love him, and in my opinion that’s perhaps the most important of all things, don’t you think?

PS. I don’t know why the blurb says that Flint is handsome because he’s not, and that’s one of the things I loved about him.

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