Heart’s Blood

By Juliet Marillier

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Roc, 2009

Genres: Fantasy, historical fiction, historical fantasy, paranormal, romance, paranormal romance

ISBN: 9780451462930

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 402

Setting: Whistling Tor & Market Cross, Ireland

Time period: 12th century

Plot summary: When Caitrin, a young female scribe, finally musters the courage to flee her tormentors at home, she travels as far as her limited funds take her.  She ends up in the village of Whistling Tor, a place filled with wary residents.  There she learns that the local chieftain, Anluan, is seeking a scribe for a project.  Caitrin eagerly heads to the fortress to apply for the job and discovers first hand along the way why the villagers are so wary.  Whistling Tor is a place filled with many secrets and unusual residents.  When Caitrin finally makes it to the fortress she finds many more surprises, including a very unusual chieftain with a dark family history.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: A steady, moderate pace

Characterization: Told in first person through Caitrin.  Anluan is the most important secondary character.

Frame: The story begins at dusk with Caitrin seeking a place of refuge.  This quest for safety evolves throughout the story, which includes both dark and light frames.

Tone: A mixture of apprehension and hope

Story line: A fairy tale like story in which the characters must confront their darkest fears to win their hearts’ desires.

Subject headings:

From PCPL:

Family secrets — Fiction.

Magic — Fiction.

Blessing and cursing — Fiction.

Man-woman relationships — Fiction.

Fantasy fiction.

Love stories.

Similar authors: M. Delbridge offers some read-alike suggestions for Juliet Marillier in an essay in NoveList (2006) which includes:

Lynn Flewelling – The Bone Doll’s Twin

Judith Tarr – The Rite of Conquest and King’s Blood

Marion Zimmer Bradley – Avalon series (which begins with The Mists of Avalon)

Diana L. Paxson (who also writes for the Avalon series, in addition to other books)

Morgan Llywelyn

I would also add Robin McKinley, Jules Watson, and the Boudica series by Manda Scott.

Personal notes: I liked this book a lot, but not as much as The Sevenwater series or Wildwood Dancing.  This might have to do with figuring out some important things before Caitrin did in the story.   I did enjoy that Caitrin was a scribe and that her work brought her to a library.  I also enjoyed the twist at the end involving Emer and Gearróg.

Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – female scribe, physically challenged man, physically abused girl, spirits, giant dog, gnome-like man, sorcerer and apprentice

Juliet Marillier’s website (which includes a wonderful pronunciation guide for the characters and place names in the story)

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