Saturday, June 11, 2016

Early Critique: "Spells of Blood and Kin" by Claire Humphrey

Disclaimer: I was given a free advance ecopy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinion remains as forthright as ever.

Expected Publication: June 14th

What this book suffers the most from is comparison. Unfortunately, someone decided to name drop some of my favorite authors in the blurb on NetGalley (Alice Hoffman and Anne Bishop, among others), which led to high expectations on my part. At this point, I'm unsure if my expectations were so high I didn't enjoy it as much as I suspected I would, but at the same time, something about this book didn't quite satiate my requirements for urban fantasy, magical realism, or dark fantasy (as it's labeled).

This book doesn't suffer from any pacing issues, which is a recommendation in itself. I often struggle to get into books, even those I truly enjoy, due to poor pacing and unnecessary blocks of description and worldbuilding. All of the text that was in this book seemed to be relevant to it, which makes it a quicker read. However, I didn't have any sections of text I highlighted to return to because (for one reason or another) they stuck out to me as indicative of the author's writing style.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'In her extraordinary debut, Spells of Blood and Kin, Claire Humphrey deftly weaves her paranormal world with vivid emotional depth and gritty violence. Bringing together themes of death, addiction, and grief, Claire takes readers on a human journey that goes beyond fantasy.
'When her beloved grandmother dies suddenly, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky is left with no choice but to take over her grandmother's magical position in their small folk community. That includes honoring a debt owed to the dangerous stranger who appears at Lissa's door.
'Maksim Volkov needs magic to keep his brutal nature leashed, but he's already lost control once: his blood-borne lust for violence infects Nick Kaisaris, a charming slacker out celebrating the end of finals. Now Nick is somewhere else in Toronto, going slowly mad, and Maksim must find him before he hurts more people.
'Lissa must uncover forbidden secrets and mend family rifts in order to prevent Maksim from hurting more people, including himself. If she fails, Maksim will have no choice but to destroy both himself and Nick.'

You'd think being the heroine-lover that I am, the female characters in this book would be some of my favored ones. Instead, Maksim was really the only character of true interest to me in this book. All the other characters seemed almost unfinished or unrelatable, while Maksim stood out as different. Despite the potential for a large amount of action in this book, not much of it happened- a lot of it was centered in Maksim's past. Claire, who I thought I'd relate to as a fellow live-in granddaughter, seemed so static it was almost painful- though her stepsister tried to break her out of her shell, she changed only minutely through the course of the book. Though Claire's attitude and actions may have something to do with her grandmother's death, there was nothing interesting I found about her, other than the fact that she could do magic.

The magic in this book seemed more realistic than most of the magic you'd see elsewhere- in other words, don't expect lightning to shoot out of Claire's eyes. Her magic is performed with eggs during certain phases of the moon. I was deeply unsatisfied with some of the worldbuilding in this book- although it reeks of magical realism, usually in magical realism there's a more dynamic plot with regards to characters' relationships. I was left a lot miffed that there wasn't more to Spells of Blood and Kin, because it had pacing worthy of a more interesting book.

Spells of Blood and Kin is an excellently paced novel with a lukewarm plot. I'm not sure how the author did it, but I was hooked from the beginning to the end, regardless of my feelings toward the characters and world they inhabited. Although I was left disappointed there wasn't more to it, this is still a solidly good book that held my interest while I read it- I just doubt I'll recall much about it in a year.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good horror-tinged fantasy that didn't quite meet my expectations.

Content: Ages 18+ for adultish themes including gore, violence, swearing, and sexual mentions.

Page Count: 320 pages


  1. I have this one to read. I try not to let comparisons to other authors influence me, but it can be hard to do. Especially when it's an author I really like. It's too bad the plot wasn't stronger. I'll be curious to know what I think of it when I get to it. I'll try to keep my expectations reasonable.

    1. I try not to let comparisons influence me either, but you tend to internally compare once the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. I kept trying to flip the page at the end of the book to get more from the story, but my Kindle wouldn't let me. I hope you get more out of it than I did.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Wendy!
      ~Litha Nelle

  2. What Alice Hoffmnan books have you read? I have only read her Middle Grade book. I borrowed Practical Magic from the library last year but it had to go back before I read it. I think I bought one of her books on ebook special, but I don't remember which one.

    1. I think I've read most of her catalogue, though I do have a couple to read yet. My favorites have been The Dovekeepers and Turtle Moon, though something about At Risk (which I believe is more contemporary- set during the AIDS crisis) stuck with me as well.
      Thanks for stopping by and showing interest in Alice Hoffman, La La! ;)
      ~Litha Nelle


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