Silla Kennicott's life hasn't been the same since that night -- the night her parents died, and she found them lying in a pool of their own blood. The local police blame the murder-suicide on her father, but everything in Silla's blood rebels against the damning accusation. Unfortunately, the truth may be even more horrific than the lies. When an ancient book arrives on her doorstep, calling for blood and magic, she's got nothing to lose -- but when the spells actually work, Silla quickly finds herself tangled in a web of obsession, murder and blood that spans a century.
In Blood Magic, Tessa Gratton weaves together fantasy and sorcery to create an utterly original story -- a mythology of magic and sacrifice, betrayal and death. One of the most bewitching aspects of the novel was its lore, the history and the mysteries of blood magic, the double-edged sword of sacrifice and the seduction and destruction of power. Just when readers think they've got it all figured out, Gratton sweeps them away on a tide of uncertainty. The world Gratton creates isn't black or white, the magic neither good nor evil. There's darkness inside them all -- be it sadness or madness -- and the intoxicating allure of the magic has the potential to go horribly awry, but ultimately it's all about choice. There's a beautiful symmetry to this world, a terrible price for power.
Silla is an unusual heroine, a faded, bereaved version of someone once bursting with life. In the wake of the terrible tragedy that cost both her parents' lives, Silla lives behind masks and roles, slipping into another skin on stage to escape her own tattered life. It's a relief to see a heroine with a passion (theatre), and more to her life than a boyfriend. Silla doesn't obsess over Nick when he's gone -- in fact, he seems to be the more enamored one.
Unlike many orphaned heroines, Silla's pain feels raw and authentic, coloring her whole world. Fortunately, she has family to lean on. Her brother Reese seems solid even on paper, stoic in the face of pain. It is clear that he loves his sister, even if he takes the big brother attitude a little too far at times. Their sibling bond is portrayed with strength and subtlety, an anchoring presence at the heart of the novel. Then there's fluttering Aunt Judy, who took on two troubled teens in their time of need. Though she flits in and out of the house like a social butterfly, she's an important fountain of advice for her niece, who's still trying to find her way back from the brink.
The only character who isn't entirely winning is Nick. From the outside he seems self-satisfied and entitled, almost a melodrama hero with all his slick suavity. He is more sympathetic once the reader gets inside his head, revealing the scars that made him who he is. His snarkiness is even amusing when he's not cruelly lashing out. Yet, his hypocrisy makes him rather unsavory at times -- I was outraged when he attacked Silla for behavior identical to his own. Nick has a lot of maturing to do, but his chemistry with Silla is undeniable. Their attraction is sexy and sweet, if lightning fast. Gratton knows how to write a kiss -- instead of seeming like hormone-driven lust, their unabashed awe of one another strikes a romantic chord.
The alternating perspectives, both past and present, give this novel a rich, layered texture. Gratton carefully controls the flow of information, tantalizing the reader without giving the game away. The author slips effortlessly between the widely diverse narrative voices, from Silla and Nick to Josephine -- the third perspective, portrayed through old diary entries. Josephine is a testament to the dangers of blood magic's siren call, yet her mania is perversely entrancing and her passages are some of the most striking in the novel.
This is a dark tale, full of mystery and horror and heart-pounding danger that will sweep readers off their feet and straight into its rich Gothic atmosphere. Blood Magic will keep readers guessing until its grisly end.