When a narrative is potent enough to absorb my thoughts long after I turn the final page, I know I’ve got a winner in my hands. And so it is with Heart’s Blood, a gothic romantic fantasy set in 14th-century Ireland.
Whistling Tor is a place of secrets, a mysterious wooded hill housing the crumbling fortress of 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; the woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom. And yet the derelict fortress is a safe haven for Caitrin, the troubled young scribe who is fleeing her own demons. Despite Anluan’s tempers and the mysterious secrets housed in the dark corridors, this long-feared place provides the refuge she so desperately needs. As time passes, Caitrin learns there is more to the broken young man and his unusual household than she realized. It may be only through her love and determination that the curse can be lifted and Anluan and his people set free…
Marillier continues to deftly blend elements of the fantastical and spiritual with the corporeal and earthly in Heart’s Blood, shifting the focus from human’s interactions with mythical, ethereal beings to those of unquiet spirits. Although darker in tone than many of her previous books, the novel’s rendering of strong characterizations and complex emotions shines brightly. This novel tackles strong themes, such as abuse and faith, with subtlety and finesse, while engaging readers’ senses with striking descriptions of place and time. An enchanting, touching read—highly recommended.