by Juliet Marillier
I’ve long been a fan of Juliet Marillier. Reading her Sevenwaters series years ago may have sparked in me an undying love for historical-fantasy-romance set in the British Isles. So when I randomly came across Heart’s Blood on the shelf at the library, I snatched it up. I didn’t realize (but should have expected) that like her other works I’ve enjoyed, this too was a very loose re-imagining of a fairy tale in a Celtic setting. Sevenwaters was a wonderful version of The Six Swans, this was a completely unexpected take on Beauty & the Beast. And it says something that I didn’t even realize this while reading, but only afterwards. Marillier’s version is darker and a bit haunting, and quite beautiful. Caitlin is a scribe fleeing an abusive family after her beloved father’s death. Anluan is a young lord, crippled and struggling to keep hold of his land and people in the face of the Norman invasion. His home, instead of being a prison, is a refuge for her. There’s the enchanted castle and servants, though cursed and haunted is a more apt description. There are magic mirrors, and a library, and a brute of a man that Caitlin doesn’t want to marry. But there’s also dark magic, abuse, and murder – Marillier doesn’t shy away from harsher topics. It’s part ghost story, part mystery, part romance, and completely worth a read. My only (minor) complaint is that the culprit, to me, was obvious well before the reveal in the book. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the story.