I sincerely doubt I will ever be able to do a Marillier novel justice whenever I write a review. She is simply in possession of this magical ability to weave words together in an incredible way, and I am so in awe of her writing talent. This is the fourth novel of hers that I've read so far, and it is wonderful. Heart's Blood does start off slow, so slow that I was concerned I wasn't going to get hooked on the story at all. But I need not have worried, since it started picking up little by little, until I was completely invested in the outcome of Caitrin and Anluan's tale. In the end, Heart's Blood was another masterpiece from Marillier.
Caitrin is the sort of heroine I enjoy in my fantasy reads. She's brave, the kind of courage where she does get scared but can push past the fear. She's smart and talented, well-versed in all the things one needs to know to be a scribe. She's loyal, completely devoted to the people she truly cares for and determined to do right by them. She's independent, willing to make her own way in the world instead of having her life dictated by others. I admired her for how she works hard to make her own way, to recover from the trauma of her past circumstances and for how she always strives to do the right thing, even when discouragement and fear try to dissuade her. She's a great main character, and one that readers will find easy to root for, as I certainly did.
And then, on the other hand, we have Anluan, the misshapen cripple who is the master of Whistling Tor. He's been living in near solitude, save for a small group of loyal companions, and it's made him abrasive and awkward in turn. He has quite the temper, but he also has a good heart underneath it all. It's that good heart that actually led to his self-imposed imprisonment on the Tor, as readers will soon discover. Even though he was often gruff and curt at the start of Caitrin's acquaintance with him, I could sense that there was more to the story. Eventually, Anluan's true nature is revealed - and it will make you love him even more than you might already have.
It's actually their relationship that really makes this story amazing, at least for me. Yes, I was certainly fascinated by Caitrin's personal journey. Yes, I thought that the impending doom that was lying over the Tor was also interesting. Yes, the lore of Whistling Tor was compelling. But it was the subtly illustrated dynamic between Caitrin and Anluan that really made Heart's Blood so very excellent. They antagonize one another at the start, when they're still strangers and know nothing of one another. Slowly, they strike up a tentative friendship, and then, eventually, it blossoms into an undeniably epic romance. I was seriously rooting for these two, because it just made so much sense for them to be together. They were generous with one another, and genuinely liked each other. But more importantly, they challenged one another - to be better, to face their fears. I really love that there was a mutually supportive relationship between them! And it doesn't hurt that their few romantic interludes made me swoon.
I didn't think I was going to fall in love with Heart's Blood. But I did, thanks to the Marillier magic. If you're not a fan of slower-paced stories, then you might struggle with this book. But if you don't mind a slow start, or you decide to give Heart's Blood a shot anyway, I really think that you'll enjoy the way that the plot crescendos into something magnificent. It's another excellent tale from the library of Marillier, and one I can personally recommend.
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Roc Hardcover | Publication Date: October 2, 2009
Source: Purchased in hardcover
Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family and his home of Whistling Tor. But when young scribe Caitrin is retained to sort through family documents, she brings about unexpected changes, casting a hopeful light against the despairing shadows. But to truly free Anluan's burdened soul, Caitrin must unravel the web of sorcery woven by his ancestors before it claims his life-and their love...