I don’t know why I waited so long to read Heart’s Blood because I’ve been a fan of Juliet Marillier ever since I read her Sevenwaters series. Also, this one is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which is my favorite fairy tale and I always enjoy reading retellings of it.
Here’s the summary from Juliet Marillier’s website:
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; the woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.
And yet the derelict fortress is a safe haven for Caitrin, the troubled young scribe who is fleeing her own demons. Despite Anluan’s tempers and the mysterious secrets housed in the dark corridors, this long-feared place provides the refuge she so desperately needs.
As time passes, Caitrin learns there is more to the broken young man and his unusual household than she realised. It may be only through her love and determination that the curse can be lifted and Anluan and his people set free…
Let me just say that I love the cover above showing a girl standing in front of a mirror in a library. The library and mirrors play major roles in the story so it’s an appropriate cover design. Heart’s Blood is a haunting retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I was surprised by how different the whole atmosphere in this one was compared to the Sevenwaters series. This one is much darker with a mysterious curse surrounding the chieftain of Whistling Tor, Anluan. Caitrin discovers the place while she’s running away from her own problems. Desperate to be employed as a scribe, she willingly works for Anluan transcribing family documents. This is a perfect professional set-up for both – Caitrin knows not a lot of people will employ a female scribe and most people are afraid to visit Whistling Tor, let alone live and work there. As she learns the secrets of the area, Caitrin becomes determined to find a way to break the curse. I liked that Caitrin is a scribe, she was trained by her father who had the same profession, which is unusual in a world where women focus on domestic duties. I also liked that Caitrin has a complicated past and in the course of getting to know Anluan, she learns how to deal with her own troubles. This is retelling where Beauty does not just help the Beast but has to overcome other difficulties in her own life. The secondary characters were also well-developed and I liked how they had their own stories but they’re united by their loyalty to Anluan.
I was able to predict part of the outcome of the story and as a result, I wasn’t wowed by this story like I was expecting. I’m a fan of unexpected events that blow me away. I also would have loved the interactions between Caitrin and Anluan to have more depth – I felt like the two of them didn’t have enough scenes together and I wasn’t as invested in their love story as I would’ve liked. Though darker than her other books, Juliet Marillier’s writing in Heart’s Blood retains its standard beautiful and lyrical flow. While this book didn’t displace my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling from its position (the title belongs to Beauty by Robin McKinley), I still enjoyed reading this and I hope that Juliet Marillier will continue to write retellings for other fairy tales. She already has retellings for The Six Swans (Daughter of the Forest) and Twelve Dancing Princesses (Wildwood Dancing) but I’d love to read more. I guess I’m just glad that I still have a couple of books from her backlist to go through. I fell in love with her writing in the Sevenwaters series and I can’t get enough of it, even if I don’t end up loving her other books. Recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings or readers of dark, haunting fantasy.
PS: I loved that The Book Smugglers has a quote on the back cover. Yay Ana and Thea! Here’s a picture:
This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.