Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Review: Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Title: Heart's Blood
Author: Juliet Marillier
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Although Heart's Blood is only my second Juliet Marillier novel, I can already count her amongst my favorite authors...ever. Marillier has a distinct style of writing stories about kind, but fierce, female protagonists and tortured romantic interests, creating beautiful love stories all against a backdrop of fantastical imagination. If that isn't a recipe for success, then I don't know what is. Yet, with Heart's Blood, Marillier has surpassed her previous prowess, writing one of the most remarkable fairy tale re-telling of Beauty and the Beast that I've ever come across. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Heart's Blood has replaced Beauty and the Beast in my heart for I loved it far more than I did the original.
Unlike many authors who allow the constrictions of a fairy tale re-telling to constrain their limits of creativity, Heart's Blood is based only loosely off of Beauty and the Beast. Instead of brave Belle who replaces her father's place in the Beast's tower, we have strong Caitrin who seeks a job as a scribe on Whistling Tor, home to many mysteries. Instead of Beast, a truly horrific character, we have Anluan, a crippled and unhappy man who is oh-so-very-human. Instead of talking candles, clocks, and teapots, we have a motley crew of enigmatic spirits. And, most importantly perhaps, instead of a curse to correct the vanities of a foolish young prince, we have an age-old burden of evil and terror which is a curse like no other. While there are many similarities between the two tales, Marillier's takes on a life of its own quite often and the true linkage between these two fables is their combined theme of hope.
Caitrin is a heroine I love. On the surface, she seems to be perfect: kind, gentle, fierce, and brave. Yet, as the novel progresses, we are able to slowly peel back the many layers to Caitrin's personality, revealing her insecurities, vulnerabilities, and flaws every bit as egregious as Anluan's. When we first meet Anluan - bitter, angry, and stubborn - it's hard to warm up to him, but before long, he becomes a love interest every bit as swoon-worthy as the next. Although Heart's Blood is, at its core, a novel about hope, it is also a romance and the slow, subtle, and skillfull manner in which Marillier brings together these two flawed beings is utter perfection. It will make you sigh with contentment for theirs is an epic tale that will worm its way firmly into your heart.
In all honesty, there isn't very much more to say about Heart's Blood. Its realistic characters came alive for me, its intriguing setting grabbed me in from the first page, and the lore that this book is filled with is every bit as interesting as the fable it's based upon. If there are any faults to be found, they lie with the middle of the novel which became far too cheesy for my liking. Caitrin is the driving force behind Anluan's character change and much of that stems from the hope she gives him, but at times, this could borderline on preachy and become increasingly repetitive. Furthermore, the villain in this novel is rather obvious, but the multiple layers to the villain's evil nature will keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing until the end.
Heart's Blood is, in so many ways, a perfect novel. Wonderfully flawed characters, atmospheric setting, and a romance that will make you crave for something that real yourself, it is a fairytale you won't want to leave. It has made me a die-hard Marillier fan and I will be rushing out to get my hands on all her other novels at once - this type of writing is just too good to wait for. It demands to be read, savored, and cherished like no other.