Saturday, July 2, 2011

REVIEW: Bloodspell by Amalie Howard



Bloodspell
(Bloospell #1)
by Amalie Howard (website)
Released: 06.01.2011
394 pages
Publisher: Langdon Street Press (website)
Recognition: selected by Seventeen Magazine as a Summer Beach Read
Source: received by publisher for fair and honest review for the Teen {Book} Scene tour



The spell was simple...

Cruentus Protectum (Defend the Blood)

But what do you do if your blood is your enemy?

Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds -- much less one that reveals she's a witch with unimaginable power.

What's more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own...

Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood's deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?
(from GoodReads).


REVIEW: To be honest, the synopsis doesn't do the book justice. And to be fair, the book shares similar plot devices with other books which feature an 'outsider' female and a vampire male love interest.  I've read those books and their fallen angel counterparts.  It made me nervous to pick this book up for that reason, as I've found some of those other YA offerings to be rather boring.

Here's the difference between them and Amalie Howard's Bloospell: her writing is better, her characters more dynamic, and the plot far richer and more compelling.  This is a great read, and it takes the washed out 'supernatural forbidden love' premise, adds some twists and makes it exciting to read again.  Truly a breath of fresh air!

Let's talk writing.  At first, I was worried.  Until page 16, I wasn't into the story.  I didn't care for the dialogue, and I just wasn't engaged.  Then BAM!  Victoria turns 17, the clouds parted, the sun shined, and Ahhhhh!  I was hooked.  The writing picked up, and it pretty much flowed from there on out.  Victoria is a sort of tragic character: she's lost both parents to a horrific car accident, she always been an odd one and feels very alone, and she is attacked, both verbally and physically by her classmates.  She moves onto another school after turning 17, and that's where the story really begins.  Howard is a debut author, and here are some instances of using cliched phrases, and there are a few, very few, awkward moments.  However, there is an eloquence to her simple word choices that make the book flow easily and really grabs your attention.  It's been a while, but I truly didn't want to put the book down.  I just wrote this review today, and I am itching to get back to it and reread a few things. 

Oh, and here's another great thing about this book.  Obviously, there is a romance, but what the synopsis can't tell you is that Howard's writing of it is very sensual.  Not slutty.  Not sexy.  Sensual.  She really appeals to your senses as you read it, and that made the romance more compelling in a way that I haven't read in YA.  Observe:

The words stuck in her throat as Christian unclenched his jaw and forced himself to face her, gently grasping her shoulders.  Liquid silver started stared into molten jade, and he touched his lips to hers, the kiss tentative at first, as if he were afraid to give himself over to it.  But as the warmth within her bloomed, decimating walls and reason, his lips sank into the softness of hers with desperate urgency.  Victoria dug her fingers into his arms, caught.  It felt as though her life began and ended in that kiss.

Kind of hot, huh?

The fact that Bloodspell is also written from both Christian and Victoria's points-of-view also makes the story more compelling, particularly as Christian's character becomes more developed.  While he occasionally displays the "I want you, but I'm too dangerous for you," syndrome, the interesting twist here is that Victoria is a witch, and not just any witch, but The Witch.  She's lethal, and it's not a stretch to say that she is more so than Christian.  If need be, she could kill Christian.  Boyfriend better watch his neck, because no one is putting this baby in a corner.  If he every tried to put her up against a rock so he could take care of a sitch, she'd be like, "Yeah, okay. Bare your fags while me and and my awesome witch amulet make short work of this."  Okay, maybe not, because Victoria is actually a kind and laid back character, but there's no doubt that her powers are badass.  There seems to be a respect between the two in acknowledgement for the what the other is, both the good and the bad.  There's something feral in them both and at times attempts to posses them.  For Christian, it's his bloodlust, and for Victoria, it's her blood, or rather, the power in it.  While Christian does show his "I gotta protect her" jones, it never felt possessive or stalkerish to me, as it has in other books.  It felt more like a practical response to an actual threat to Victoria.  She is brand new to this world; he's been in it as a vampire for almost two hundred years.  He knows exactly what she's up against, and at the same time acknowledges that she likely is every bit the potential danger her enemies fear her to be. Added into the mix are secondary characters that are much more than filler - every one of them has a purpose, and it was SO refreshing to find they are not merely background noise.

Here's what makes this book a standout in urban fantasy/paranormal YA: Howard entwines personal, family, and mythical history and adds in a good dash of the 1800s.  It feels seamless and makes the plot so interesting.  Howard is descriptive, but not overly so, and thus the world building here is done naturally and as-it's-needed.  The history and the world building combine and produce a story that is rife with politics, rivalries, betrayal, violence, and yes, death.  In other YA paranormal/UF books, it sometimes can feel like that it's romance painted with a supernatural brush.  In Bloodspell. the paranormal element feels like an established world with its very own conflicted history in which a Romeo and Juliet type romance takes place.  It makes the story richer, the stakes higher, and I certainly am looking forward to #2.  The last critique I would give this book is that the ending could be shorter and more tightly written - it's a tad drawn out, but overall, Bloodspell is a great twist and a welcome addition to the young adult section.  I recommend it.

Who I think will like this book - fans of:
  • Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly: Bloodspell isn't as emotional as this one, but both Donnelly and Howard are good with research and historical detail.
  • Nightshade by Andrea Cremer: completely different books, but both have that world building and political intrigue that really keeps the plot moving.  
  • The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith: no, it's not steampunk in the least, but there's something about the descriptions of how things are run, as in people, not clockworks and gears, that had me thinking about the world building in steampunk.
  • Also, if you are a fan of Denise and Spade in the Night Huntress/Night Huntress World series by Jeaniene Frost, you may also like Christian and Victoria.  They reminded me a little of them.





Quotes:

"'My father was quiet, ' she told him.  'My mother was not.  They were polar opposites, but you'd think they were a match made in heaven the way he loved her and she, him.  He'd sit and listen to her play for hours like it was their special language.  I miss that the most, their music.  It made me feel . . . part of something beautiful.'" (this line really got me)

"Don't be afraid of who you are.  You cannot hope to control your power if you do not understand it and who you are.  You must protect yourself at all costs, even against those you . . . love.  He hesitated lost for a moment, and Victoria felt his thoughts flicker briefly into a strange nothingness before moving back to the consciousness she recognized.  His words were hard.  Love is a breeding ground for betrayal.  Guard against it." (she's a witch - did I mention she can have rad metal conversations with her familiar?)

"After a while Lucian spoke, curiosity evident in his tone.
'So why do you care so much?  Giving in to the temptation of a little forbidden snack?'  Lucian's laugh was derisive.
'None of your damned business.'
'That's forbidden, too, in case you forgot.  Not that I don't mind a little witch blood myself from time to time.  We always crave the illicit, don't we?  I just didn't think my straitlaced, uptight brother would indulge in such inclinations.'" (Christian also has a twin, and Lucian is one arrogant, power hungry piece of ew)


7 comments:

  1. What a great review! I am now very intersting in reading this book!

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  2. Linds, I have been desperately wanting a new paranormal-urban fantasy read and this sounds perfect. And I love the quotes especially the kissing one (you know me I am romantic fool). Awesome review :)

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  3. This is seriously an awesome review. I've seen some others that had me interested in trying it, but you now have me sold on it!

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  4. Awwwwwwww! I remember that feeling from my first kiss. Life starts and stops with it. Yup, that is some HAWT sensual writing.

    Seems like the author did a good job finding a balance between the whole "I want you, but I'm too dangerous for you," syndrome without adding alarm with a much needed restraining order. LOL

    Awesome review. I'm convinced I need to read this one.

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  5. @Savy - I think you'll enjoy it, Savy, knowing what you tend towards :)

    @Nic - Glad you liked it - The very beginning was slow going, and the end needs to be shortened and tightened, but I really enjoyed the majority of the book.

    @Allison - Glad to have helped! Hope you enjoy it!

    @Missie - I KNOW!!!! I read that, I was like, "Damn!" That's pretty steamy for a kiss! I think you'll pick up on the same things I did, but overall I think you'll like it.

    -Linds

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  6. You've convinced me. Plus, adding that quote was a nice touch. ;)

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  7. This is one I've been wanting to read. That you liked it means I want to read it even more. Great review! I love that you add the quotes.

    Heather

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