Book Review: Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
This retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, is set in a medieval Ireland facing the constant threat of Norman invasion. Caitrin, an Irish lass trained in the trade of a scribe by her now deceased father, runs away from an abusive situation and stumbles upon the mysterious Whistling Tor. The crippled lord of the area lives in Whistling Tor and seeks a scribe. The local villagers warn Caitrin against taking the summer job due to a fear of the host living on the hill, but Caitrin sees no other choice.
Fantasy is one of those genres that I have never been able to get into, but I do love fairy tales, so I thought maybe a retelling of a classic would work for me. When will I ever learn that I just don’t like fantasy?
Marillier does all the elements of a fantasy book well. She sets up the mysterious, old land of Ireland with just enough description to place the reader there but not so much as to slow down the action. Gothic mystery seeps through every page. The idea of the non-human servants and household members of the castle are creatively handled, as is the lord’s beast-like qualities. The members of the host who could so easily have flowed together are artfully individualized.
Additionally, the romance between Caitrin and the lord of the castle is one I actually approve of for once in a YA book. They both are flawed and have issues to work on, but love each other and have good hearts. Thank you. That’s what a relationship is supposed to look like. I would be entirely comfortable seeing a teenage girl reading this. It’s a healthy, realistic relationship.
Still, though, I had to force myself to slog through the book. I was bored a lot of the time. I don’t like long descriptive passages of a forest. I don’t like reading about dull politics of various areas of Ireland. I’m not interested in explanations of the other-worldly figures. The most interesting part to me was the mirrors all over the household, and they were not addressed fully to my liking. In spite of being able to recognize this as a well-told story, it failed to draw me in. I don’t particularly know why. My best guess is that it is fantasy, and fantasy has always bored me. I was hoping venturing away from the more typical knights in shining armor and dragons style fantasy would solve the problem, but I was wrong.
Thus, this YA fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast is creative and well-done. I recommend it to those who know they enjoy a good fantasy story, but those who do not should probably skip it.
3 out of 5 stars