Thursday, 8 November 2012

Review: Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Okay so it's been an absolute age since I posted anything, my bad. I've been either too ill to do anything, or too busy to post. But enough about me. I indulged myself by spending ages in Waterstones the other day, and even allowed myself to buy a book! I get most of my books online these days, and I'd forgotten what absolute bliss it is to lose myself in a bookshop and leave with a piece of literary magic, jittering with impatience as I can't wait to start reading.

I'm really into YA fiction at the moment - I've always had a bit of a penchant for it, but since reading Harry Potter and Twilight I decided to throw off the pretence and just give in to my urge to lose myself in a world of teen romance and action. The problem is, as a 34 year old woman, a story has to be pretty special to capture me. Not for me the million vapid Twilight wannabes out there. Alright, so vampires are sexy and werewolves are cool, but there needs to be more inentive to read than that. That's why I absolutely love the Morganville Vampires, but can't get on with the Vampire Diaries. I want characters with... well, with character! Romance is good, but action is essential, and it has to be infused with atmosphere and dark enough to make me feel a little wild.

So after reading the backs of a ton of books and discounting them, I felt something inside me leap when I came across Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton. Not a vampire in sight, no werewolves or were-anythings, and thankfully no faeries (you need to be really careful if you're going to go down the faery route). What it does have is buckets of blood, magic that could be real, and an atmosphere so thick and dark that I found myself completely drawn in.

So many teen books leave me following the story from the sidelines, interested but deteched, but Tessa Gratton drew me right into her world. With her poetic descriptions and lyrical dialogue, Gratton pulls the reader along with a thread of magic. I was right there in the forest, spilling my blood and shivering with the thrill of the magic.

Gratton is a friend of Maggie Stiefvater, and you can see the Shiver author's influence in the depth of detail and fearless realism intertwined with Grimm-esque fairytale elements. This is a book for book lovers, a story for everyone who fell in love with books at a young age and still hasn't got over it. I only hope that Gratton won't be as hit-and-miss as Stiefvater is with her writing.

Unusually these days, Blood Magic stands alone as a story. It is the start of a series, but it doesn't leave the tale half-finished with the reader tearing their hair out for the next year until the next installment is released. I usually like the chunky promise of a good trilogy - more to get my teeth into - but I found the completion of this story refreshing. The ending is left just open enough that you wonder if you'll be reading more about Silla and Nick in the future, but happy to leave them to their fictional lives if not. It's long enough that I wasn't left feeling unfulfilled or short-changed, and the rewarding feeling from finishing a book and finishing the story at the same time was a welcome change from the slight depression that always affects me when I have to leave a set of characters in the middle of their lives and wait for the follow-up.

So many teen books are all about the romance, which is fine if you're a dewey-eyed teenage girl dreaming about her first love. Silla and Nick's relationship is an integral part of the story, but it doesn't take over everything else - Gratton has found a great balance between Silla's relationships with her family and friends. She doesn't come across as a green young thing who's never been kissed, which can get a little boring, and you know that at seventeen she's old enough to know what she's doing when it comes to boys. In spite of this, we're not teased with the whole will they/won't they scenario - it's more like her relationship with Nick progresses at a healthy pace for a young couple, and just like any relationship in real life it has its ups and downs. Romance has to take a back seat to the dark and dangerous magical events going on, and our couple are aware of this and a little frustrated by it. As a reader, there was just enough intimacy to make my old romantic heart flutter, but it stays well behind the lines of saccharine-sweet,  lovey-dovey, make-you-puke lurve.

Moving away from romance and on to a word of warning - this book is not for the feint-hearted. It seems a prerequisite for good YA fiction to include some element of death and destruction, and Blood Magic is no different. Where it does differ though, is that Blood Magic is a step closer to reality than the usual supernatural yarns. It would be all too easy for a young, impressionable teen to take this tale to heart and get obsessed with it, believing they have the power in them to do blood magic themselves. I hope that anyone reading this book has the strength of character to know when they are reading fiction, and to let it stay fiction. I think the magic Gratton creates might just be strange and unbelievable enough to save her from an army of damaged fans. Strangely, it is this element of danger that makes the book so readable and captivating for the older reader.

If you want supernatural with a healthy dose of realism, romance that will make your breath catch but not take centre-stage, and a serving of gore to put you off ketchup for a few days, Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton is definitely for you.

Buy Blood Magic on Amazon
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