I’ve loved Juliet Marillier since reading Daughter of the Forest. She’s one of my bucket list authors that I hope to read, or at least attempt to read, all of her works. She has such an amazing way with weaving a tale, of creating emotions and atmosphere. Her books all feel a little bit like magic. I seriously love her style. So, when I discovered that she had written a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast it immediately went on my TBR list. Unfortunately, I have way too many books on that list with not enough time to read them (book reader problems, am I right?) so it waited patiently for me for 2+ years to get around to it. This past weekend, we had no plans so it was the perfect opportunity to cozy up to a book and spend the weekend reading.
“But hope is such a tenuous quality. To feel it and then to be denied what one most longs for…Better, surely, not to hope at all, than to open the heart to a hope that is impossible.”
Heart’s Blood maintains the feeling of what I consider the classic telling of Beauty and the Beast, having derelict castle whose curse encompasses all those who live within its borders, including its “beastly” master. But as with all her works, Mrs. Marillier was able to add her own spin to the story. Caitrin, our young protagonist, is the on the run from her wicked aunt and cousin. After the death of her father, the two of them swooped in like greedy vultures and claimed inheritance to the estate. Lost in her own grief, Caitrin was in no position to defend herself against them. She suffered at their hands, both mentally and physically, for nearly a year before finally finding the courage to get away. Her escape led her to Whistling Tor, with a village surrounded by a formidable barrier, with tales of a forest filled with whispers and manifestations, and with a warped and twisted chieftain who ruled over it all. Despite the warnings from the villagers, Caitrin gains employment as a scribe at the castle, home to an interesting array of characters, from the gnome-like Olcan and his giant dog Fianchu, to the austere lady but not quite Lady Muirne, to the bickering Rioghan and Brother Eichri, and at the heart of it all, Lord Anluan, the misshapen master. It doesn’t take long for Caitrin to realize there is more to the story than just superstitious gossip and as she grows closer to this family of oddities, she knows that she must do everything in her power to help them.
“Patterns could be broken; paths could be changed. All it took was courage.”
And hope. That’s really what this story is about. It’s the hope that we can control our futures, that there is, even in the darkest of times, a way back into the light.
I loved the supporting cast, including the host. Give me a good, haunted, creepy forest any day. I also really like the way the relationship between the castle inhabitants and the village was handled in the end, that they come together to fight a common enemy versus becoming the enemy to one another.
I think there were a few things that she left open, such as Olcan and his back-story (which hints at a fae ancestry though it is never expounded upon) as well as the history of the mirrors, which could have been explained a little more fully. Especially the mirrors. What’s the origin? Did Nechtan really create them all? And to what purpose? And one mirror is a little different from the rest. Why?
I also found Anluan sending Caitrin away a little messy. If he really wanted her to leave and believe he did not want her, why send what he did with her? It doesn’t make sense. And the real reason behind the banishment seemed a little bit immature. It just didn’t quite click for me. Plus, the “bad guy” reveal was definitely no shocker. I knew almost from the onset who it was.
However, I don’t read her works to be shocked, I read her works to be swept up in the characters stories and their emotions. Did she deliver here? Yes and no.Like I said, I loved the secondary cast, but I felt a little ambivalent when it came to Anluan and Caitrin. Don’t get me wrong, I always want the beast to end up with the beauty (or to end up with another beast, so long as he’s happy), but I found them both to be a little flat, a little dull, a little bit boring.
So where does that leave me? I loved the setting, the atmosphere, and the secondary characters. I liked the story well enough, though the two main characters were a little on the meh side. I’m not disappointed, per se, but I do think there was something lacking. I’m giving it 3.5 stars, but I’m rounding it up to 4. Bam.