With this post I have the amazing pleasure of getting to introduce you to our brand new partner in reviewing, Leiah!
Leiah has been a friend of ours for some time, and we found ourselves always talking about books, giving each other recommendations, and mocking each other with what awesome authors were coming to our part of the continent. So, as she was pretty much part of the family anyway, we decided to make it official.
That makes it sound like a wedding.
Whatever. Leiah is awesome, and she is now one of us. Mwahahahaha. You can find out all about her on our About page. And for her first review we thought she and I would do a discussion review of Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton. There’s also a giveaway at the end.
Leiah: I’m so excited to have my first review post on whatchYAreading and to have it be for Blood Magic. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for about a year, since Ms. Gratton announced it was being published, and it was well worth the wait. I was intrigued by the title and its promise of, well, blood and magic. This book really delivered on both. I do feel that I must warn readers that this book isn’t for the faint of heart. There is a lot of cutting, blood, and one scene that I seriously had to hold back the gag reflex on. I loved it though. I thought the writing was lyrical and the story kept me guessing, right up until the end.
Caitlin: I didn’t care too much about the book until I saw the cover. I’m a cover person all the way. Even if the plot sounds less than stellar, I will pick up a book if it has a gorgeous cover. And Blood Magic has a gorgeous cover.
But then, yes, I was intrigued by blood and magic. Magic especially. I love books about witches and will generally give all of them a try. So, I was excited for this book to the point that I pre-ordered it, which I never do because I prefer to go to a bookstore and rifle through a book before spending money on it.
Leiah: You are such a cover lover, Caitlin, whereas I don’t really judge a book by it’s cover (insert rim shot here), but I agree that it is a beautiful cover-I thought the chipped blood red nail polish was a nice touch. Once I felt the cover however, I was in love. It’s like velvet. Random thing to notice or be excited about, yes, but it was interesting to add such a pleasant tactile aspect to the reading experience. The first thing I usually do is strip the dust jacket off a hard cover, but I kept this one on and just rubbed it over and over. I’ll stop being creepy now. On to the actual book.
The only plot I knew about the book was from the above summary, but from reading a few of Tessa’s stories on The Merry Fates, I knew I liked her writing style. I wasn’t disappointed when I was thrown right into the action, first with a very ominous opening chapter, and next when we meet Silla, the protagonist, after she receives an old, handwritten book of her father’s full of magical spells from a stranger.
Caitlin: My favourite thing about the book was the point of view switching. Which, I usually hate. Absolutely, positively hate. One time I couldn’t review a book at all because, even though I’d liked the book, all I could talk about was how much I hated the point of view switching. But Blood Magic handles it perfectly. There’s very little overlap, and both points of view feel necessary to the story. Silla and Nick worked together perfectly as narrators. I never, ever thought I’d enjoy a book this much with point of view switching but Blood Magic does it perfectly.
Leiah: Yes, I agree. Point of view switching is a very tricky thing to get right, and Ms. Gratton does it really well here. Not only are there the two main characters driving the story forward, but we also get old diary entries from a character named Josephine, who wrote them in the early 1900’s. These entries contain pivotal pieces of information that inform the reader about blood magic and also shape the mystery of the story. I loved them and looked forward to coming upon them in the book.
I liked that this was indeed a paranormal romance but we didn’t have to suffer through the usually present love triangle that a lot of YA books employ. Nick and Silla meet and from then on the focus is on them learning about each other and the magic that surrounds them. It was refreshing to not have to deal with a derivative “who will she choose?” plot line.
Caitlin: Yes, I liked that there were still two male leads and one female lead but that Reese was safely tucked away in the Brother zone.
As far as the plot is concerned Blood Magic is basically a whodunit with…well..with magic involving blood. The mystery of who murdered Silla’s parents is what drives her and Nick and Reese to explore the magic as much as they do. While reading I found I kept changing my mind about who had actually done it until very near the end. I don’t usually guess ahead with these types of things, so it was a nice change to be so involved with the characters that I was attached to the culprit being someone in particular.
Leiah: Reese! I loved that he was her big brother and their sibling relationship. They had experienced such a tragedy, and that they remained there for each other made me happy. I felt the same way you did, Caitlin, about the mystery aspect. Trying to figure out who the murderer was kept me reading far later into the night than I had planned. There were several supporting characters that I wasn’t able to trust and that helped me feel Silla’s sense of uncertainty and urgency in figuring out all the clues she’s presented with. Nick and Reese were both characters that Silla, and I, needed in order to not completely lose it. It gets pretty dicey as the story moves along. Ms. Gratton doesn’t hesitate to make her “baddie” very, very bad. This really is about life and death, and the antagonist isn’t playing around and doesn’t care who gets hurt in their quest to get what they want.
Caitlin: The one thing I wish for, as far as the murder plot is concerned, is, well, I’d hoped there’d be a last minute twist. Like a proper whodunit. I kept expecting there to be one last thing. But there wasn’t really. Once the murderer was revealed, that was it.
Leiah: I was stilling expecting one more shoe to drop as well, but I think there are still a few important questions surrounding the murders, even though we do find out “who did it,” to lead us into the next book (which I found out from Ms. Gratton will take place five years into the future and is due out in April of next year.) While I was left with A LOT of questions overall due to the extensive history we learn about, they only left me excited and wanting to reading more. I did feel that this book was good and wrapped up by the time the end came around though. I’m getting a little frustrated with the major cliffhangers of series books recently, so I was quite happy that this ended rather cleanly.
Before wrapping this review up, I had a moment while reading of “Oh, I see what you did there,” with Silla’s participation in the school play and how it relates to the rest of her life. Before the brutal slaying of her parents, Silla was a star. She was talented, beautiful, and popular. After, in response to their deaths and her grief, she changes her appearance drastically, removes herself from her friends, and instead of playing Lady MacBeth, she’s relegated to playing one of the witches. From a “star” to a “supporting character,” not only in the play, but in her own life. I was happy to see Silla begin to take control again and realize that she had to become the “lead character” in her own life to save herself and those around her. She couldn’t just sit back and let others do it in her stead. Clever girl, that Tessa Gratton, or I could be completely reading into things.
Caitlin: I’ve always thought the witches are the better characters in The Scottish Play and would prefer to play one anyway.
Leiah: Haha, yes, I agree that the witches are choice roles, but Silla would have played Lady MacBeth in her school’s production, without question, if her parents hadn’t been murdered. It’s the lead role and her not playing it, even though she is by far the most talented, as noted by Nick, is just one more way she had removed herself from life.
Nick. Let’s talk about him for a minute. New hot guy in town with a few secrets of his own. How did you like him as a character?
Caitlin: My biggest feeling about Nick happened the day after I read Blood Magic. I was on my way to work when a guy in snazzy jeans, a nice shirt, and pinstriped vest, and fedora walked down the stairs toward me. I was pretty sure it was Nick. Almost followed him.
I pretty much think that physical descriptions tells you all you need to know about his personality. Other than the fact that he is all bogged down. But, in comparison with Silla’s dead parents, I kind of thought Nick’s parental issues were…childish.
Leiah: Now, don’t be so hard on old Nick. I do think that if he had never moved to Missouri he would have gone through life with his giant chip firmly planted on his shoulder, none the wiser to the secrets in his family. Once he meets Silla though, and sees her perform magic, his life is changed forever. I enjoyed his growth and his bravery at facing his past as the story progressed. Both of the main characters seemed like very real teens to me. They weren’t adults written as teenagers, they had real vulnerabilities and flawed ways of dealing with their issues due to their youth. I did bristle a little bit at the way he called Silla “babe” all the time though. I can forgive him that tiny foible for staying true to his unique style and the fact that he’s from Chicago. Biased? Yes, but I’m fine with that.
When I finally finished the book, it has just over four-hundred pages, what I was left with was what a truly complex and layered a story Blood Magic is. From Josephine’s diary, the mystery surrounding the death of Silla and Reese’s parents, Nick’s discovery about his own family history, to how it all finally weaves together and plays out in a spectacularly creepy fashion. It’s a well-written, thought out, and creative plot that I loved and I think readers will enjoy.
Caitlin: That pretty much leaves me with nothing to add. Can’t wait for the next book!
Leiah: I can’t wait for it either, and we’d like to offer our readers a chance to be as excited for it as we are by offering a giveaway! We are giving away one copy of Blood Magic.
The giveaway is for a currently unsigned copy of Blood Magic. If the winner is willing to wait until July 19th, Leiah is willing to get the book signed by Tessa for you. If you can’t wait and need it NOW, then we will happily send it on right away. Your choice.
The contest is open to all US/Canada residents. And you enter by filling out THIS FORM. You can receive an extra entry by tweeting a link to the contest.