Heart's Blood - Juliet Marillier This tale is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast in its darker, Gothic incarnation. Although I’m not a fan of dark fantasy, I liked this novel.
The protagonist Catrin is a young scribe, on the run from her greedy, abusive relatives. Her mindless flight brings her to Whistling Tor, an enchanted castle with its strange cast of inhabitants. The owner of the castle, Anluan, is a crippled young man, dogged by a family curse that has already lasted a hundred of years.
Brought together by fate, the two young people grope their way towards each other through mistakes and doubts, rudeness and pride, while simultaneously fighting off the vengeful spirits of the past and the fears of the unknown future.
The pace of the novel is a bit slow, contributing to the heightened tension, and the narrative is strong and expressive, evoking the gloomy atmosphere of a haunted medieval stone pile. But a couple of inconsistencies irritated me.
First – Caitrin is supposed to be seventeen years old but she acts and thinks as a much older woman, wise far beyond her years, which belied her mindless terror of her wicked relatives. Second – following the author’s clues, which she liberally sprinkled throughout the novel, I guessed who the villain was half-way through the story. Inexplicably, the heroes only discovered the identity of the evil one in the last couple of chapters. Of course, the book wouldn’t have lasted for 400 pages, had they found out and eliminated the baddy earlier, but then the author shouldn’t have opened up her bag of tricks to the readers either. The way the story goes, I was left to wonder if the heroes are really as stupid or as naïve as they seem.
Other than that, it was a gripping and entertaining read.