Saturday, 31 December 2011

Heart's Blood by Gail Dayton

This is a book that I read for the first time about a year ago. Coming back to it now made me realise that my memory is a funny thing. I can easily remember book titles and author names but character names just don’t stick around. Then again, I suppose that is to be expected with so many different characters going through my head.

With Heart’s Blood, I read this book, the second in a series, without having read the first book first. I can’t remember whether or not I was aware of this when I started reading but I have no doubt that it will have impacted my understanding of the story. When I finally decided to get around to reading New Blood, I soon found myself tempted to go and find my copy of Heart’s Blood and reread that one too. After a brief inner struggle (desire to reread vs. desire to read new material), temptation came out tops and I went rummaging in the attic. I had vague memories left of the events of the book, but I was still looking forward to rediscovering it.

Presentation: Mass market paperback. There are 418 pages broken down into 29 chapters. They type is medium-sized but well-spaced.

Story: Someone is killing people with magical intent. Everybody is already up in arms about the return of sorcery – of blood magic – and Grey Cataret, magister of the Conjurers’ guild, has got himself in a bit of a mess.

Pearl Parkin has been living in London’s slums, disguised as a boy, for some time now. Thanks to her magic, she’s managed to keep herself out of trouble but one night she spots Grey stumbling through the streets. Intrigued, she follows him, keeping him safe when he finally stops his advancement.

When he is arrested the next morning on suspicion of murder, she seizes her chance and blackmails him into accepting her as his apprentice in a society that is still prejudiced against female magic workers. Reluctantly, he accepts but it soon becomes obvious that her sorcerous talents are to be of use in his murder investigation, even if her presence complicates his life.

Thoughts and impressions: In the first book, Amanusa’s talents are explored but the other three schools of magic go ignored. In this second book, sorcery is re-examined from a different stand point (Amanusa had Jax - and through Jax, Yvaine – whereas Pearl has to learn from books and her own intuition) but conjury is also explored. The inner workings of this school of magic were very interesting and I liked the ghosts’ personalities – especially Davy, it’s a shame that the various ghosts weren’t expanded on more.

The dead zones have piqued my interest. Essentially they are areas where there’s no magic left and as such living things (both animals and plants) cannot survive there… but weird little machines constructed of all manner of metal items scuttle about the zones. The concept of them, and the origin of the machines, is not really expanded on much in this book, which is a shame as I’d have liked to have learnt more about them. They came in second to the story about someone abusing magic. This is fair enough, but it would have been nice to have had at least some new information about them offered up.

Grey didn’t really come across as the same character as he’s portrayed in the first book. I mentioned in my review of that one that he didn’t sit right with me; this could be because I’d already been inside his head by that point. There are mentions of him having wanted Amanusa but I never got that impression from the interactions in New Blood. But it was also a bit weird when he first realised that Pearl was a female. Despite the fact that she was coated in a couple of years’ worth of East End grime (later it is mentioned that it took multiple baths to get all of this off her skin), he refers to her as a ‘tasty morsel’. I feel it would have been better to wait with that thought until he’d seen her all cleaned up.

I was right when I figured I’d missed things. This time around, more aware of what sorcery magic entails, I was able to pick up on things that would not have stood out to me before. This is interesting as it shows little clues that I would have missed out on, but then I can’t be sure that I would have spotted them all had I not already been aware of just who the culprit turns out to be.

There is an awful lot of inner monologue in this book. Both characters spend a lot of their time questioning themselves and their motives. This goes perhaps beyond what I’m comfortable with and into the realm of me starting to get bored with them.

Added bonus: There’s one character called Fahquaar… all I could think of was the tiny king in Shrek! (even though she’s a female character.)

Style: The author has a tendency to stop her chapters in the middle of a scene. Sometimes this is the middle of a conversation and the first chapter just stops and the next chapter picks up with the next reply. These aren’t cliffhangers, they’re just stops.

Final verdict: Though still good, I felt that with careful editing it could have been better. 4 stars.

Note: I believe that this series was meant to be a trilogy. Tor currently owns the rights to the third book, Heart’s Magic, but has decided against publishing it. Gail Dayton is currently trying to get the rights back so that she can make the third book, Harry and Elinor’s story, available as an ebook for those who want to read it.

Extra notes: Both sex and swearing present.


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