May 16, 2012

Review: Blood Magic

By: Tessa Gratton
Published: May 2011 by Random House
Format: Hardcover, 405 pages
First Reviewed: June 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

It starts off simply. Draw a a dead leaf in the center...sprinkle some salt...recite a little Latin...add a drop of blood...

This page-turning debut novel will entice fans who like their paranormal romances dark and disturbing. It's a natural next-read for fans of Stephanie Meyer, Carrie Jones, and Becca Fitzpatrick. But instead of mythical creatures, blood magic has everything to do with primal human desires like power, wealth, and immortality. Everywhere Silla Kennicott turns she sees blood. She can't stop thinking about her parents alleged murder-suicide. She is consumed by a book filled with spells that arrives mysteriously in the mail. The spells share one common ingredient: blood, and Silla is more than willing to cast a few. What's a little spilled blood if she can uncover the truth? And then there's Nick—the new guy at school who makes her pulse race. He has a few secrets of his own and is all too familiar with the lure of blood magic. Drawn together by a combination of fate and chemistry, Silla and Nick must find out who else in their small Missouri town knows their secret and will do anything to take the book and magic from Silla.

Rating: 3/5

This is going to sound completely ridiculous, but it's the truth: I hate going to book signings. And this is exactly why. I'll love the author--not to mention Gratton is from KC! Whoo!--and automatically want to support all books that he/she writes. And while I will still support Gratton and look forward to seeing her grow, this book didn't live up to my expectations.

Kudos to Gratton for pulling off a successful dual narrative. That's one thing I'm always weary of when I find out a book as multiple first-person narratives, but in this case, I thought it was pulled off extremely well. Both Nick and Silla had distinct voices and narrations and tones, so I never got confused. Even when I forgot to look at the name at the beginning of sections, I could easily tap into whose perspective I was in.

What I also enjoyed about Gratton's writing was her ability to make me read. She had nice prose and description, and she even managed to creep me out a bit with some of the detailing. But I did see a lot of room for growth, which is both a good thing and a not-so-great thing. Good, because it makes me look forward to seeing the difference between books (which I will be getting the sequel and all Gratton's future books because she's just that awesome, no matter how I liked this work). And not-so-great because I could feel the new writing. The places that could have been tightened up, the unrealistic dialogue that feel too narrative-y at times, and some of the unnecessary descriptions (although the necessary ones were done fantastically). So I'm very interested in seeing Gratton grow. She showed a lot of promise.

If the characters we were introduced to in the beginning of this stayed that way throughout, my thoughts on this book overall would be different. I loved the characters at the start. They were different from not only each other, but from other MC's as well, but then as soon as they fell all sappy for one another (very, very early on...-_-), I began to dislike them. I just couldn't stand that part of them. They became almost weak in my eyes. The kinds of characters that let attraction and "love" get in the way. For me, those types of characters always drive me nuts. Instead of focusing development on the traits that made them unique and stand out, the focus was on the over-the-top romantic thoughts. There was fantastic characterization hidden beneath that, and I wish I couldn't have seen more of that.

Also, I would have loved to see the minor characters a bit stronger. Some were great, but others fell just a bit short and either too one-dimensional or not one-dimensional enough, meaning I couldn't really understand how their character was supposed to be. However, I will say that I did enjoy several of the developed major-minor characters. The "evil person" (zips lips) was quite the creepy one, which I loved, and I also really enjoyed the family dynamics Gratton gave.

When I sit here and tell you how much I loved the "meat" of the story, it'll probably confuse you to how this is rated three stars, and not at least four. So, I'll start with the negatives first, then jump into what I really liked.

It's easy, you know, to probably guess, but: The romance. For crying out loud. Gratton, why'd you do it to me?! Or publisher/agent/editors, why didn't you just say to tone it down? The romance could have worked--even better, in my opinion--if they didn't fall in love within three seconds. Literally, they'd known either for about a week, and only had seen each other a few times...then they were all over each other. They even had the nicknames like "babe" right off the bat, it seemed. I literally scowled, set down the book, and turned to my mom (who was reading a book next to me) and said, "Why? Why'd she do this to me?" My ma had no idea what I was talking about, obviously, but I had to say it to someone. And from then on, I rolled my eyes every time they kissed, which was way too often, or even had any romantic thoughts what-so-ever. It completely took away from the story. Also, while I do appreciate that Gratton made the new student/new school thing work away from cliches, it still made me mad that she had to use it. And I think that people may have taken to the magic just a bit too quickly. Not too much so, because it worked pretty well, but overall the characters just seem to all fall into the truth of it with the snap of a finger. Maybe the magic was magic. :o

Anyway, now, on to what I really liked and what I hope will only be even better in the sequel: The creepy, bloody magic! That was pretty awesome, not gonna lie. It was done in a unique way, methinks, and I was very, very intrigued by that along with the diary entries and mystery element, even though I figured out quite a few of the twists early on; I still haven't figured out if I'm just an amazing mystery-solver or if the foreshadow's just too obvious. I like to think the former. :) Anyway, there were some fresh elements that I haven't read before, and I'm interested to see where Gratton takes them.

Other random thoughts: What in the world is it with the word "hissed" lately? This is the second book in a row where the author has used that word over and over. Is it coming back in style? Also, there is some language in this book, so for those who don't like that sort of thing, be warned. It didn't bother me because it felt natural to the characters and it wasn't the overly terrible ones either. And I did really like the sibling relationship that was shown between Silla and Reese, something we don't get much of in books anymore. Though, I did wonder why it's always the boyfriend who--spoiler, sorry. I won't say. Haha!

Oh, and Gratton wrote in my book that she hopes I like her monsters. Yes, I did like her monsters. A lot. Favorite part, by far.

I had to put bias aside when I read this, which only made me sad when I finished since I didn't care for it as much as I wanted. The romance element just ruined it for me, to be frank. With so much potential with the premise, I didn't want to be let down. However, I was thoroughly engrossed and when I look past the romance, it was a rather enjoyable read. I will still support Gratton for as long as she writes, and I will be checking out the sequel. Now that there's no turning back the romance thing between Silla and Nick, hopefully the development of their relationship will become more natural and the awesome creepiness will take the lead.

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