Heart’s Blood

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

Set during the time of the Norman invasion of Ireland, Heart’s Blood is an intricate blend of historical fantasy and ghost story. Trained as a scribe, Caitrin is a skilled and learned woman, but all this changes when she is subjected to the cruelty of her distant relatives after her father’s death. On the brink of losing all sense of self, Caitrin realizes that she must escape or forever become a victim. Running as far as she can, Caitrin is ill-prepared for the demands of traveling across Ireland on her own, but is spurred by her desire to find herself once again overrules any fear she might feel in doing so.

Reaching the fortified settlement of Whistling Tor, Caitrin is stunned to find herself an object of curiosity–no one ever goes to the Tor; it’s cursed. Uncertain what to believe when told tales of uncanny folk in the forest surrounding the chieftain’s keep, Caitrin is nevertheless drawn to the Tor and seeks a position translating and transcribing Latin for the chieftain of the Tor, Anluan, who never leaves his keep and is said to be monstrously disfigured.

When Caitrin reaches the keep, she finds that all is not quite as it seems, but neither is the Tor the place of horrors that she was warned against. Suddenly, Caitrin finds herself enmeshed in battle to save the heart of Whistling Tor and restore it to the holding it once was, if only she can get its chieftain to see things in a different light…

I will start by saying that I LOVED this book. I’ve read a few books that I’ve enjoyed recently, but I have not been truly engrossed by any of them (a few I went so far as to give up on after a few chapters). This is part of the reason my posts have been so short…

Heart’s Blood grabbed me from the very first. Not only was I intrigued by the mystery, I was drawn in by Marillier’s prose and ability to give me a bit of the chills when describing the circumstances surrounding the inhabitants of Whistling Tor. Caitrin is a real and believable heroine and Anluan a troubled but worthy hero. I don’t want too much away about the curse, but the ghostly, uncanny folk that live at Whistling Tor are just as intriguing as the heroes. This novel is rich with characterization and that is one of the elements that I most crave when I read fiction, something that I haven’t quite gotten recently. Reading this book felt like becoming part of something strange but wonderful.

death by chocolate

n6955While on my quest for that elusive element in fantasy fiction–the strong female protagonist (or girls who do things)–I was introduced to Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery & Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot a magical romance set in Regency era England. Caught up in the magical machinations of their country neighbor, Sir Hilary,  and his sometime co-conspirator, the power-hungry Miranda, cousins Kate and Cecilia find that their entry into society is about to become a lot more interesting.

Forced to stay home in Rushton Manor while Kate has her first Season in London, Cecilia begins a correspondence, keeping Kate abreast of all the happenings in Essex–like the arrival of Miss Dorothea and the appearance of the rude Mr. Tarleton. Meanwhile, Kate finds that there is more to London than balls and dancing when she runs into the vengeful Miranda, who mistakes her for someone named Thomas, and her enchanted chocolate pot. Finding themselves in the middle of an intrigue, Kate and Cecilia learn that sometimes the rules of decorum must be broken… especially if one does not wish to be turned into a tree.

As someone who loves Regency, I found Sorcery & Cecilia to be a delightful read, it’s fun and quirky and makes the idea of sorcery seem entirely plausible. The epistolary form allows for two very distinct voices to come through as Kate and Cecilia recount their adventures (Wrede and Stevermer wrote the novel as a Letter Game that turned into something more), making the novel seem like a  real glimpse of the past.

The novel is followed by two sequels, The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician, also co-authored by Wrede and Stevermer.