Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Review – Heart’s Blood © Juliet Marillier

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Title: Whistling Tor Bk1 – Hearts Blood

Author: Juliet Marillier

Publisher: Pan Macmillan UKPenguin US  - Pan Macmillan AUS

Main Characters: Caitrin - The young scribe & Anluan The Chieftain of Whistling Tor

This is a stunning gothic love story based on the legends of Beauty and the Beast. 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 Caitrin 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.

 

At a place where two tracks met, the carter brought his horse to a sudden halt.

‘This is where you get down,’ he said.

Dusk was falling, and mist was closing in over a landscape curiously devoid of features. Apart from low clumps of grass, all I could see nearby was an ancient marker stone whose inscription was obscured by a coat of creeping mosses. Every part of me ached with weariness. ‘This is not even a settlement!’ I protested. ‘It’s - it’s nowhere!’
‘This is as far west as your money takes you,’ the man said flatly. ‘Wasn’t that the agreement? It’s late. I won’t linger in these parts after nightfall.’

I sat frozen. He couldn’t really be going to leave me in this godforsaken spot, could he?

‘You could come on with me.’ The man’s tone had changed. ‘I’ve got a roof, supper, a comfortable bed. For a pretty little thing like you, there’s other ways of paying.’ He set a heavy hand on my shoulder, making me shrink away, my heart hammering. I scrambled down from the cart and seized my bag and writing box from the back before the fellow could drive off and leave me with nothing.

‘Sure you won’t change your mind?’ he asked, eyeing me up and down as if I were a prime cut of beef.

‘Quite sure,’ I said shakily, shocked that I had been too full of my woes to notice that look in his eye earlier, when there were other passengers on the cart. ‘What is this place? Is there a settlement close by?’

‘If you can call it that.’ He jerked his head in the general direction of the marker. ‘Don’t know if you’ll find shelter. They’ve a habit of huddling behind locked doors at night around here, and with good reason. I’m not talking about troops of armed Normans on the road, you understand, but … something else. You’d far better come home with me. I’d look after you.

Heart’s Blood © Juliet Marillier

 

 

Review

Every now and again I read a book that is simply perfection – Juliet Marillier – HEART’S BLOOD is one of those books for me. Prior to the release I remember seeing the cover and thought this book will knock my socks off and so said, so done.

The book starts of with Caitrin a young scribe making her way to parts unknown, running away from a greater evil.  With only the bare minimum plus the tools of her trade as comfort, she is dropped off late in the evening in the woods near to what is known as Whistling Tor.

Not only is Caitrin cold and frightened but she is determined to move on because what is behind her is far worse than what is in front of her – that is until she comes upon strangers going her way plus a barrier with villagers hurling stones at them.

Caitrin is desperate and holds her own and request lodgings for the night. The villagers are not savages and they offer Caitrin what help they can, but they also warn her of the curse of the Tor and gives her some dire warnings about what goes on in the house up on the hill - the home of the chieftain of the Tor itself.

Within twenty-four hours Caitrin is under the crumbling roof of the house on the hill and there is more there than the villagers feared in residence, and even more than she herself would have imagine even possible.

This crumbling fortress is home to Anluan – the last of his line and the only one who has any control of the malevolent army that is the curse of the Tor. Anluan is the guardian of this curse, a century old and he needs someone to help him sort out what remains of his family history, Caitrin is capable and ready – but Anluan was just not prepared for Caitrin.

As days and night passes and the curse draws it shroud around the Tor, Anluan and Caitrin finds that they need each other – Anluan for the courage that only Caitrin can give him and Caitrin finds everything in Anluan that she admires about a man plus she is determined to do all she can for the century old residents of the Tor. Their life is fated to disaster even before they have had a chance, because no matter how much Caitrin wishes for Anluan to be the man she wishes him to be Anluan has had his entire life and the voices to become set in one mode – defeat; Anluan would rather push Caitrin away before he allows the curse of his family to befall her.

HEART’S BLOOD is everything that I expect a good fantasy to be – the setting is dark, the characters are such that they saw into me and I just can’t look away. The storylines are numerous and many and they all roll and tip over each other vying for dominance, but as all good story tellers does – Ms Marillier reigns then in with descriptive words lengthy scenes and enough mystery to keep me going.

The story revolves around a century old curse that has not only crippled a village but an entire family has fallen foul of its evil arms.

Caitrin comes along searching for her own path to self confidence but finds herself taking an even braver step that not only give to Anluan the one thing he had lost – Hope, but she gives an entire set of people the first ray of sunshine they have ever experience in a century.

Then there is Anluan, the broken man – literally and figuratively. Without even knowing him, I was intrigued by him – he acted like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and in some ways he did. As with men reared in that time – Anluan have high expectation of himself and finds himself wanting, it was a pleasure to watch him see himself through someone else’s eyes and it was like a flower opening - the end product was a force to be reckoned with.

There is most definitely shades of Beauty and the Beast here – but Caitrin’s and Anluan romance is not one that rushes up on them and it was not expected to be so – their love was a calling and it feeds off the changing seasons, the sighing of their hearts, the wish for best and the hope that each will be the best of themselves.

The setting of HEART’S BLOOD is 12th century Ireland and I love everything about that period – the savagery of it, the superstitious-ness of the people, the way they love with their entire being and the fact that life and death are but a whisper and it’s literally survival of the fitness and the craftiest. Marillier describes the period beautifully – I was there, I saw, I felt and I did not want to leave.

This book is a character driven book, with not only the main protags capturing my heart, but life long friends making the journey worthwhile. Then there was the cursed people wanting just the pleasure of sleep and villagers who aptly knew the meaning of sticking with the devil you know than the one who wants to overrun the Tor boundaries.

The storylines were suited to the time, there was no big drama – it was treachery, unfair play, power play and some neat scenes of rolling back the years to give me a look at the past, to see how it stacked up against the present and made me dig deep down for that hope for the future.

If you like books that will stand the test of time, about characters that refuse to die, gothic in it’s feel – dark and  malevolent in it’s evil but with a pace that suits the time, creeping, crawling and then in the clear light of day you can’t look away – this is the book for you.

I totally enjoyed this journey and I am hoping this is not the last visit that Ms. Marillier takes me on to Whistling Tor.

 

Read the entire first chapter here:

Excerpt

 

14 Speak To Me:

Blodeuedd on 15 December 2009 at 07:03 said...

Great review EH.
I am curious about this one since she sure has a special style (even if I got a bit depressed by two of her books but I am just a HEA loved too much) ;)

Erotic Horizon on 15 December 2009 at 11:50 said...

@Blodeuedd..

This one would be right up your stream - think, bloodshed, mystery and mayhem...

And all this was before dinner...

So good..

E.H>

Mandi on 15 December 2009 at 11:54 said...

Lovely review...I do enjoy a good fantasy every now and then. I have not heard of this book!

Chris on 15 December 2009 at 13:50 said...

*makes note for if I ever get back to reading fantasy again*

Patricia Altner on 15 December 2009 at 14:23 said...

What a beautifully written review about a fascinating story. Thank you for bringing this novel to my attention.

Next - add this to my "buy soon" list!

Erotic Horizon on 15 December 2009 at 15:11 said...

@Mandi..

Other than the fact that this was really good - the fact that I have not read any decent fantasy in a long time made a difference to me enjoying this book..

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 15 December 2009 at 15:12 said...

@Chris..

*makes note for if I ever get back to reading fantasy again*

Top of the list please Chris - top of the list..

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 15 December 2009 at 15:13 said...

@Patricia..

Thank you, high praise indeed..

This was a solid read for me...

Hope you enjoy it..

E.H>

Smokinhotbooks on 15 December 2009 at 16:54 said...

EH I'm buying this! Shame on you for writing such a great post, now my husband won't get any Christmas presents 'cause I'll be spending money like crazy on my book addiction.

Gricel on 15 December 2009 at 18:27 said...

Great review! I remember seeing this one listed on JM's site and I was curious to know more about it.

Erotic Horizon on 15 December 2009 at 21:11 said...

@K.C...

Please dont get me involved in hubsters gift....

As it's Christmas, Hubby will take payment in kind - he told me... so there!!! LOL

Enjoy the book my dear...

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 15 December 2009 at 21:12 said...

@Gricel...

I do hope this one works for you -Marillier does have a style all her own...

Thanks for coming by...

E.H>

Deanna/ibeeeg on 18 December 2009 at 05:04 said...

Fantastic review! I am convinced, this story is one for me to read. Now...just to get my hands on the book.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Erotic Horizon on 18 December 2009 at 06:08 said...

@Deanna..

I look forward to what you think when you get the chance to read Heart's Blood..

It was truly a journey that I enjoyed making..

E.H>