In A Nutshell

  • Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
  • Notes: A celtic interpretation of the Beauty & The Beast legend.
  • Recommended for: Fans of Marillier and Fans of the story Beauty & The Beast

A different take on a familiar story . . . The synopsis is as follows:

Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family. And only the young scribe Caitrin can unravel the web of sorcery woven by his ancestors before it claims his life-and their love…

Marillier is the best at taking old legends and re-writing them into beautiful Celtic stories featuring strong women. After all her original Daughter of the Forest is based on the Grimm’s The Six Swans story. Heart’s Blood delivers with subtle strength. I’m a big fan of Marillier and once I started this book I couldn’t put it down. Now I wouldn’t say it’s better than some of her Sevenwaters books, but it’s definitely up there.

First, Marillier picked one of my most favorite fairy tales: Beauty & The Beast. I was a Disney child and loved B&tB so much that I’ve read other adaptations of it including Robin Mckinley’s Beauty. But I haven’t found an adaptation that didn’t sit squarely in the Young Adult section of a bookstore. Heart’s Blood is mature story and is clearly directed not just to young women, but to women in general.

Second, as always with Marillier, are the characters. She is always able to create characters that you relate to and root for. Caitrin reminded me a lot of Liadan from Son of the Shadows. There is a problem with the synopsis. It emphasizes Anluan and doesn’t really show you that Caitrin, as the book opens, is not a perfectly strong girl. When the book opens she is running away from an abusive home. But even from that opening scene you know her strength. It’s never easy to pull yourself out of what seems like a hopeless situation, and from the first page you can’t help but respect her perseverance.

Anluan is a difficult but telling character. I really like how Marillier writes her men. Most books involving a romantic male lead focus solely on the Heroine and leave the hero to be a rake/rogue who eventually reforms and wins the girl. Marillier holds nothing back – her hero’s are not perfect, and neither are her heroines. Her characters are never perfect, but that’s why they are so great. Their imperfections make them human, and their struggle to right their wrongs make them interesting. Anluan is the leader of Whistling Tor, but because of a seizure when he was young he is now handicapped. But that isn’t even the largest part of his struggle. His land, and holdings are under a curse thanks to his great-grandfather. A curse that everyone writes off as hopeless, until Caitrin comes.

As for criticisms, the story moved slowly at points. I’m used to it because Marillier is very good at detail. The story is complex at points and once you get to the end you realize why the details are important to pay attention to.

My favorite aspect of this book? That I felt it ended in a proper way. So many authors write great stories and it’s like they get to a point where they go “OMG I’m so done with writing this story. I’ll just say the chick is pregnant and close up in three pages.” That drives me crazy. I honestly take a full star off of a rating if I found the ending to be shoddy and rushed. But not with H’sB. Marillier closes up this story like a weaver and loom, making sure every thread is set. I see in the title that this is part of a series and I’m really looking forward to the next installment.

Bottom line: If you want an easy romance novel – you should probably pick something else. But if you are a fan of Beauty & The Beast or you enjoy fantasy adventure with romance interwoven then you should definitely check this book out. Even if Romantic books aren’t your cup of tea – if you are feeling fanciful, you should check out this book. I recommend it for a long weekend, or a slow rainy day.