I’d just like to say, when Juliet Marillier is good, she’s really good, and I’ve been having a nice run with her books lately. After recently reading Heir to Sevenwaters, I jumped into a reread of Heart‘s Blood, in part so that I could try to actually notice sooner this time that it’s a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling… It took me far too long to figure that out on the first go-around.
The heroine of the story is Caitrin, who flees an abusive situation and, in desperation, seeks refuge and work as a scribe at Whistling Tor. There are strange rumors about monstrous spectres in the woods around the Tor, and about Anluan, the chieftain. Anluan proves to be bad-tempered and unfriendly; he was stricken by illness as a child and it left him semi-paralyzed on his right side. He nearly runs Caitrin off at once, but instead she stays, becoming part of his very unusual household and delving into the myserious curse afflicting the Tor.
You probably already see some “Beauty and the Beast” parallels, and there are also enchanted mirrors scattered throughout. It’s really only “Beauty and the Beast” in the broad strokes, though, and most of the story focuses on deducing the origin of the curse, as well as on an outside threat from foreign invasion.
I was also struck by Jane Eyre parallels, particularly in the second half of the book, so I don’t want to get into details too much. Even at the beginning, though: a talented young woman sets off from a difficult situation, and finds work with a gruff employer at a big house on a misty moor (or Tor…) He’s unfriendly but secretly attracted to her, while she comes to see the value behind his unattractive exterior. (Although no, there’s no first wife locked in a tower.)
This was an interesting one to read right after Heir to Sevenwaters, because it was once again two of my favorite archetype characters: a heroine who has to find her own strength and worth, and a dark hero with a heart of gold. That’s not to say, however, that Caitrin and Anluan are the same characters as Clodagh and Cathal. They have their own unique characteristics and paths to walk.
Caitrin has a particularly difficult journey, overcoming abuse in her past. Marillier focuses less on the bruises and more on the psychological damage, which is deeper and far more complex. I ultimately found Caitrin’s path to be immensely satisfying. Anluan has different internal demons to overcome, and though we get less of his internal thoughts (Caitrin narrates, but we do get into Anluan’s journal) his development is intriguing too.
The magic is spooky at times, creepy at others, and delves into questions of good and evil and the hazard of judging too quickly whether someone is one or the other. There’s a nice balance of character growth with unraveling mysteries and, as is usual for Marillier, the last hundred pages are breathless and hard to put down.
Highly recommended. 🙂
Author’s Site: http://www.julietmarillier.com/
Buy it here: Heart’s Blood