Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Series: Standalone
Genre: Romance
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Whistling Tor is a place of secrets and mystery. Surrounded by a wooded hill, and unknown presences, the crumbling fortress is owned by 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.

Am I the only one that reviews a book before I've actually finished it? I mean, I don't put the finishing touches on a review, but I have the bulk of it wrote out often and if not, I have notes and ideas that I want to touch upon. Often, that's how I can tell if I'm writing a review to begin with.

I will say, I had a very scathing review written, then I reached the last ninety to hundred pages and things…started improving. Not enough to make me actually like this book, but enough that I now understood some of the choices made earlier on. Also not enough to make up for the absolute rubbish I had to read to get there.

This book wasn't entertaining enough to distract me from the flaws ala 'ooh, shiny'. It felt like it was too long because things just started getting dragged out and the people had to be a very special brand of stupid to not put things together.

While I was reading this story, something felt off to me. It took me forever to figure it out, but I think I did. The people sound modern. The attitude isn't modern at all. Then there's the problem of too much real world encroaching on my fairy tale. I do, honestly, prefer settings that are more fantastical, but beyond that, this is not a happy book. There is what would nowadays be considered domestic abuse. Yeah, I know that this sort of thing happened a lot in the past, (still does, I know) with women being little more than a mans possession for most of history. I know that, but that doesn't mean I want to read about it.

Reading about women not being important makes me both sick and angry, which is a very volatile combination for me. In this book, Caitrin is an abused woman that finally escaped her abuser. That's good. I know it can't have been easy, but… I don't want to read it. I'm sorry. I wish I had know this before buying it because I would have given it a pass immediately.

Caitrin interacts with few women in the first three hundred pages. Of these, one of them hates her. She hates her because…well, because they are competing for the attentions of the same man. She hates her so much that she thinks it a good idea that Caitrin goes back to the man that abused her both physically and emotionally! The Caitrin is called both a 'slut' and is told she has a 'whore's body' - thanks to her voluptuous curves. Both of these were told her by other women. (I think they were both flashbacks, but still…) When I first read slut, I was going, is that right? Did I really just read that?

*groans and massages temples*

Why? Why do I get stuck reading books like this?

When I first met Caitrin, I thought 'finally, a girl that makes decisions for herself'. But then I got more information. Every choice she makes is directly related to a man or men in her life. What she can do for them. She reacts to their actions. It's tiring.

I find it a bit disturbing too, the way Anluan was depicted as 'the Beast'. This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. That's why I have problems with it. Anluan is crippled. He's a bit temperamental. … That's it. That's the sum total of what makes him 'the Beast'. Okay, so, the villagers call him a 'monster' and a 'freak'. *nods head* That's probably about what would have happened. They don't know him and only have vague stories about what he's like. No problems. (And, he's really not a very good chieftain.)

But: This is a story about Beauty and the Beast. So, this young man, that has a genuine physical malady is a beast. … *sighs* I don't even think I have words. The only thing good about this is that, once the 'curse' is broken, he won't turn into a handsome prince. He'll still be himself. I do like that. I like that very, very much.

Other, random, Notes:

It always a bad situation when you're reading a romance and your favorite character isn't either of the two mains… (Rioghan and Eichri are both awesome!)

There are so many plot points that stem from miscommunication or poor communication. While not everything in the plot could have been solved with just one good, long conversation, too many of the plot point could have been solved by doing just that. I've never been a fan of the conflict in a book being brought on by misunderstanding on an inability to talk things through.

Round about the same time the book improved a bit, Caitrin was long gone from the Tor. She returned, and things went right back down hill again.

It seems stupid (and sad) that the answer to the 'curse' would be so mundane. (Not to mention the way things played out there. Hated it.)

If I were to list every problem I had with this book, it would be too long and no one would read it. (Considering my unpopular opinion, I'm not sure anyone's going to read it anyway.)

(I've never gave trigger warnings before. I think I should with this book. There is the abovementioned abuse talked about after the fact and memories of it. There's also allusions to animal abuse and talk of suicide.)

Honestly, I keep going back and forth between a one and two start rating. But, considering the fact that I hated the first three hundred pages (and only read this because I had to because I was participating in Fairy Tale Fortnight at the time) and the fact I was very, very displeased with the ending... Two stars is too generous. Rated one star for Rioghan and Eichri. And because it's over.
Thank you so much The Book Rat & A Backwards Story for hosting this.