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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Amazon | Goodreads
Fantasy, 485 pages
Published October 2nd 2009 by Tor
Whistling Tor is a place of secrets, a mysterious, wooded hill housing the crumbling fortress of 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 Caitlin 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.

As I've mentioned on an occasion or seventy, I am a BIG fan of Juliet Marillier and count her Daughter of the Forest not only as my favorite fairy tale retelling, but among my favorite books, period.  Because of this, I am always just about equal parts excitement and trepidation when I start a new book by her.  A part of me knows it's never going to measure up to the pedestal I keep Daughter of the Forest on, and part of me doesn't care because I know it's going to be so frakking good anyway.  So I went into Heart's Blood, which had been on my wishlist for eons, knowing I was going to be let down and that I was still going to love it.  It's such a strange way to read a book...

Heart's Blood is a very full and complete story - as her tales always are - easily standing on its own two feet outside of its Beauty and the Beast bones. In fact, many readers may not even recognize it outright as a B&B tale, it's so well-developed beyond that.  Marillier is at the top of my list of authors to recommend both to people looking for a fairy tale retelling and people who think they'd never like or want to read a fairy tale retelling.  The elements are there for those who love the tales, but her stories are so much more than a simple fairy tale, always.  Her world-building is thoughtful and skillful, and beyond her gorgeous writing, her handling of a story is sure to please so many different types of readers, looking for so many different things.  Her stories are atmospheric and lush, very vividly detailed and lovingly rendered - the types of stories to escape into, to sigh over, and to push rabidly on every reader to cross your path.

In addition to her world-building, Marillier shows a real mastery of character-building.  As with her other works, Heart's Blood demonstrates great character growth for so many of the characters, right down to the minor ones.  Marillier can really make you grow to love someone in such a short time-frame, she is just so very good at building a character.  They can be introduced in the end of the book and still you root/fear/feel for them. But  beyond letting you love them, she gives each of them, right down to the most minor, the chance to become a round character and have their moment to shine.  Marillier doesn't deal in cardboard characters, and hallelujah, if that is not every reader's dream...  So you can only imagine that if her minor characters are full and realized, her main characters are practically touchable.  Caitrin and Anluan are no exception, and I really feel as if, were I to climb some random Irish hill with a castle at the top, I'd find Anluan pacing unevenly yet stormily about the courtyard...

That said, I felt there were some... missing links.  Missed connections, I guess... I felt like Caitrin and Anluan should have loved each other, that they were absolutely meant to love each other, but I couldn't quite see how they did.  It was like, there's something there and they're made for each other, but within the actual text of the story, it was never really put out there, not fully. It wasn't given enough of a foundation, beyond the reader's expectation.  It was close, so close, but there was just something a little off, some teensy but key moments where the romance buds and blooms, and I don't know, maybe they happened offstage, but I needed them (because I'm living vicariously, dammit!). I'm sure I'm being hard on Marillier because I know just how goddamned well she can build a romance and make me believe every palpable, heart-rending, fluttery moment of it. But still...

But this is really a tiny drawback, because even Marillier slightly off her game is leagues beyond what you'll get from many authors out there.  Something I came to realize as I finished this book was that I trust Marillier implicitly.  I'll go wherever she wants to take me, because I know she's going to make it worthwhile.  Heart's Blood is fantastic as a Beauty/Beast retelling, of course, but so much more than that.  It adult moments, but it's not gratuitous; it can be dark, but it's never without hope. Marillier understands balance and she understands longing, and it's a very honest story.  Marillier is always honest and doesn't toy with her readers, and I've come to respect and trust her immensely because of that.  Her writing is very authentic and real-feeling, always.  Even when that may be uncomfortable.  And above all, her stories fulfill something deep inside of the reader, and I love her for that.

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  1. I know Juliet Marillier is one of your favorite authors. I REALLY need to get to one of her books!

  2. Maybe it's because I read HEART'S BLOOD first, but I fell completely in love and it's my current favorite Marillier title. Then again, I'm also a huge sucker for B&B, esp. a more "realistic" version like this one. Yes, exactly, I think Marillier is also a great read for anyone who doesn't read fairy tales! Are you as excited to read SHADOWFELL as I am?? I squealed when I found an e-ARC up. Out loud!!

  3. I just reviewed this one this week!! In relation to your comment on trusting Juliet Marillier, I feel the same way. I just read Shadowfell and she did some things a little differently and ended with a cliff hanger (!!!) she never does this! I honestly didn't know how to feel and then I just decided that we've been through so much together that I just have to trust her instincts! :] Great review!

  4. You've read Shadowfell?! *is jealous*

  5. Ahh! That's EXACTLY the way I feel when I read a new Melina Marchetta book (or when I decide that I REALLY need to read the rest of her published stuff...) I LOVE her SO much that I KNOW I'm going to LOVE it all, but seriously- It can NEVER be Jellicoe Road again, ya know?

    But yes... I REALLY do need to read Daughters! (Sorry I'm a fail face... :P)

    AND This one sounds great! I shall have to get on the Marillier Adult bandwagon soon! :) (I've read both Wildwood & Cybel, need to "advance" now :) )


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