Title: Blood Magic
Author: Tessa Gratton
Genre: Southern Gothic / YA
Publisher: Random House Children (US)/ Doubleday Children’s (UK)
Publication date: 24 May 2011 (US)/ 7 July 2011 (UK)
Hardcover/Paperback 416 pages
The murder of her parents has left Silla damaged and lost, and Silla’s insistence that her father is not to blame only alienates her further from her friends and family. When a mysterious spell book arrives, Silla hopes it will lead to some answers about her parents’ killer. In her first attempt at magic, in an old graveyard near her home, Nick, the new boy in town spies on her; he recognizes the magic that Silla is performing as the same magic his mother performed with him, before she went mad.
Before long, Silla and Nick connect, though Nick is unwilling to share his history with blood magic with Silla. When Silla’s friends start showing signs of possession, Silla, Nick and Silla’s brother, Reese, must contend with a deadly, immortal woman who will stop at nothing to take the book of spells from them.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone with a companion book called The Blood Keeper set to be published in 2012
How did I get the book: Review copy from the UK publisher
Why did I read the book: Because I LOVE Southern Gothic novels.
Silla’s parents died recently in an alleged murder-suicide. Silla is the one who found them and has been trying to come to terms with the tragic event ever since – to no avail. Plus, she is the only one who does not believe that her father killed her mother and then killed himself, despite the appearances. When she receives an old journal by mail, written in her father’s handwriting and containing magic spells with blood as the one common ingredient, she realises that this is the opportunity she had been waiting: if the spells work, it means her father was not crazy. And if he was not crazy, perhaps there is a different explanation for what happened to them.
Nick has just been dragged against his will to Silla’s small town by his father and new stepmother after his grandfather died. Now he has to come to grips with living in this tiny place, with no friends. All he wants is to finish high school and then get away from Yaleylah, Missouri and go in search of his absentee mother.
Blood Magic‘s opening act takes place at an old cemetery where the two protagonists of the novel meet for the first time as Silla performs her first magic spell with success – which Nick accidentally witnesses but pretends he hasn’t. The two exchange a few words, as new neighbours will do, and go about their ways. What Silla doesn’t know and what Nick doesn’t tell is that he has a very intimate knowledge of Blood Magic, having lived through an early childhood in which his own mother performed spells with his help. He had been trying to forget those memories but the sight of Silla’s blood brings it all back again. The allure of blood magic is too powerful to resist and the two embark on a dangerous journey, which becomes exponentially more risky as someone else in town seems to know about Blood Magic and the journal.
The narrative alternates between Silla’s and Nick’s point of view interspersed with journal entries of one Josephine Darly, very clearly marked as the villain of the piece.
I have mixed feelings about Blood Magic.
There are several aspects of the novel which I enjoyed immensely. I think that each character’s voice was delineated clearly and I liked both of them: Silla’s voice is imbued with a darker tone (and how could it not be, with everything she is going through?) without being extremely moody whereas Nick’s is the lighter voice of the duo. They are very different people with interests and hobbies: Nick likes Haiku and music, Silla is into theatre. Although there was an element of inst-attraction between the two and the relationship did develop at speed of light, at least there was no brooding angst, no dark secrets and both Nick and Silla acknowledged their attraction and plain lust in a straight forward manner that I appreciated. I also loved Silla’s relationship with her brother Reese and felt his character was very well developed as well.
There were several good elements about the story itself and the manner in which the plot developed with regards to the mystery of Silla’s parents’ death as well as Nick’s mother’s part. The ending of the novel was a shocker and I was impressed with the darker tone and the fact that there was serious repercussions for what they had been doing. I also loved the atmospheric feel of the novel which is that of a Southern Gothic: this is a sub-genre of horror that I truly enjoy.
I was less crazy about certain elements of the worldbuilding with regards to Blood Magic: a few things didn’t make a lot of sense as it was never clear WHO exactly is capable of Blood Magic. Everybody? All you need is to know the spells plus get some blood? Although there were clearly indications that some people do have better, stronger blood, I was never sure why were these people’s blood so strong.
The romance is not central to the story (I wouldn’t qualify this as a Paranormal Romance for example) and as aforementioned there were things I liked about it but I also felt that the writing kept slipping into clichéd territory (things like “inexplicably” wanting to touch him, or feeling like one’s skin is about to burst, etc). Not to mention, that there seems to be a certain element of “fate” surrounding their story and I am usually not comfortable with “meant to be” stories.
The next paragraph is a bit spoilery so you have been warned:
And then in the end, after many horrible things happened, Nick has an unflinching conviction that Blood Magic is a GOOD thing and can be used for good and is adamant about it. This felt too forced because everything up to that point said otherwise, from their independent histories, the past, what happened to each other, what happened to their families and so on and so forth. Plus, Nick used as an example a book that was written by a murderer to explain his conviction. I felt that this was a somewhat intrusive message, with the text SAYING that there is no intrinsic evil, that magic is as good as you want it to be, which is ok and I understand that, but that is not what the story I read showed me. I appreciated Silla’s stance a lot more at that point which was much more believable – and yet it took her not time at all to cave really easily to his position.
So yeah, as I said, mixed feelings. All things considered, I think this sits firmly on the “good” side of the spectrum and I did enjoy the book. Tessa Gratton is definitely a new author to watch.
Notable Quotes/Parts: Isn’t this a great opening line?
It is impossible to know who you really are until you spend time alone in a cemetery
Additional thoughts: This unofficial book trailer is fun:
Rating: 6 – Good
Reading next: Well Wished by Franny Billingsley
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