Monday, August 6, 2012

ARC Book Review: The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton

Title: The Blood Keeper
Tessa Gratton
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
On it's own, this cover might have been ok.  The imagery is nice, the colors work well together and the runes invite further examination.  But when compared with the cover for its predecessor, it is less than impressive.  I do not like it when the covers of a series do not fit with each other and this certainly does not fit with the gloriously gothic and unique cover for Blood Magic.

The Gist:
Mab Prowd has been raised to be the Deacon of her family's blood land.  Magic to her is as natural as breathing and she has dedicated her life to the practice.  When she stumbles across Will Sanger and inadvertently allows him a glimpse into this world, Will finds both beauty and terror and Mab finds herself embroiled in the fight of her life.

During the first half of The Blood Keeper I was disinterested but I couldn't quite pin down why.  The characters were ok, the writing was ok, the premise was ok.  As I continued, the fact that I neither loved nor hated ANYTHING got to be more and more annoying.  When I read Blood Magic, I was a little underwhelmed, but I gave points for originality and willingness to be a little more dark and delve into the nitty gritty of sacrifice in exchange for power.  However, with the second book in the series, these things are simply not enough.  This time, I expected strong characters, an exciting plot and some serious magic.  I did not get these things.

The Blood Keeper does not follow the same characters as Blood Magic.  Instead, we meet Mab - a child raised to be keeper of the land and master of magic and Will - a regular kid from a nearby town.  That's right, that is all I have to say about Will.  There is really nothing special about him that I could see and the time spent developing his family drama bored me to tears.  His family is suffering from the loss of their middle son to a car crash and the return of their oldest from Afghanistan.  This is the perfect backdrop for some moving scenes and serious character development.  However, that is not what we get.  Instead we have to suffer through Will's whining about how everyone wants him to join the Marines and his incredibly tame arguments with his parents.  Mab is only slightly more interesting, though she spends an inordinate amount of time discussing her love for the land and mooning over Will.  I did enjoy her quirkiness and lack of concern with how she is viewed by the more mainstream families (and teens) in town.  

While this is not exactly a sequel to Blood Magic, I would have appreciated some re-cap so that I could remember who the other characters were (they appeared as minor characters, popping in and out of the story).  As it was, I actually went back and re-read the last few chapters of Blood Magic and found that that helped me re-orient myself.  The narration switches between Mab, Will and Evelyn.  Evelyn's story is told through letters to Arthur, the former Deacon, and the change in narration style is a little jarring.  For their part, Will and Mab blended a little too well.  If I was away from the book for a time, it was difficult to tell who was speaking without going back to the beginning of the narration change.

The plot seemed to be split between three problems 1) The repercussions from Will's encounter with Mab's spell 2) Will's issues regarding his parent's desire for him to join the marines and 3) Lucas' curse from his father.  Both 1 and 2 seem to be resolved by the end of the book but 3 simply got a band-aid solution.  It bothered me that there wasn't further momentum on this issue, but perhaps it will be further explored in a third book?  I also felt that the plot seemed to get bogged down in ridiculously long magical preparation, from planning, to gathering ingredients, to prepping the area - only to culminate in a lackluster spell with very little in the way of excitement.

By the end of this book, I found myself skimming the pages.  I cared enough about the characters that I wanted to see what happened to them, but not nearly enough to put up with pages and pages of Gratton's flowery prose.  The Blood Keeper did not provide the emotional or entertainment pay-off that I was expecting and I do not think I will hang in there for a third in the series.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Bloodletting, Knifeplay, Poisoning, Violence towards animals
Inappropriate Language: Dick, FUBAR, Bullshit, Bitch, Douchebag, Shit
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking


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