Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review: Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Blood Magic (Blood Journals, #1)Summary from the author's website: For Nick Pardee and Silla Kennicot, the cemetery is the center of everything. Nick is a city boy angry at being forced to move back to the nowhere town of Yaleylah, Missouri where he grew up. He can’t help remembering his mom and the blood magic she practiced – memories he’s tried for five years to escape. Silla, though, doesn’t want to forget; her parents’ apparent murder-suicide left her numb and needing answers. When a book of magic spells in her dad’s handwriting appears on her doorstep, she sees her chance to unravel the mystery of their deaths. Together they plunge into the world of dark magic, but when a hundred-year-old blood witch comes hunting for the bones of Silla’s parents and the spell book, Nick and Silla will have to let go of everything they believe about who they are, the nature of life and death, and the deadly secrets that hide in blood.

I'm a huge fan of Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series and was always curious to read the work of her crit partners so I’ve been looking forward to Blood Magic ever since I learned about its existence. A friend who read it before me said that it was different and sent me on my way (she's a master non-spoiler). It was definitely different. Bloody. Dark. Often disturbing. And good. I just kept turning the pages until there weren't any left and then I let it all soak in for a few days. The verdict: I really liked this book. The characters were all different and evolving with even the minor players not fading into the background. The plot developed quickly and with plenty of twists, and didn't feel forced or contrived. Even the magic made sense and grew in intensity and complexity as the story progressed. The narrative voices were very fitting and I got an extra kick out of one of the characters listening to a CD of a band Maggie Stiefvater created for her books.
I liked how secrets were gradually revealed until the very end of the book. There was always more coming and every puzzle piece was surprising in its own way although the greatest reveal towards the end of the novel was the most impressive. I actually had to set the book aside to wrap my mind around it all.
What I did not particularly enjoy was how, well, bloody the book was. I know, I know, the title should've clued me into that, but I just didn't expect such goryness from a YA novel. By the time it was all over the kids were literally soaked. I think the last time I read a book where blood was as revered and flowed as freely was when I read Anne Rice's vampire books. I'm not a fan of horror and this book was straddling the line just like those were and because of this I would not recommend this book and this series (if the first volume is any indication) to younger and/or impressionable readers.
I look forward to reading Blood Keeper, the next novel in the Blood Journals series. It's scheduled to come out next year but if I get to find out the answers to the remaining questions and learn more about the mysterious but definitely significant characters who barely made an appearance the wait will be worth it. As far as you are concerned, my fellow reader, Halloween is coming up, you might want to check this book out. It's got just the right vibe.


  1. Great review. I've been noticing, as I read more YA, that many of them are book I wouldn't want my kids reading - because of content. This would be one of those. Thanks for pointing it out.

  2. This tendency concerns me because a book has to pass through a lot of hands before it's published and marketed and apparently none of those people said "Wait a minute, is this really appropriate material for young readers? Should we be marketing it as YA?". Granted, it's not middle-grade, but we all know that kids tend to want to read about characters who are a bit older than they are and what do they find when they go looking? Things that can make adults cringe.
    Publishers might argue that kids are perfectly capable of setting aside a book that makes them uncomfortable and that parents should monitor what their kids are reading but shouldn't they shoulder some of the responsibility too and at least put something like "recommended for 16+" on the cover? As you can tell this is a sore issue for me :)