The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication Date: August 28th 2012My rating: 4 Stars
Paranormal romance fans who are looking to up the ante will be drawn to this tale of horror, fantasy, and romance. For Mab Prowd, the practice of blood magic is as natural as breathing. It's all she's ever known. Growing up on an isolated farm in Kansas with other practitioners may have kept her from making friends her own age, but it has also given her a sense of purpose—she's connected to the land and protective of the magic. And she is able to practice it proudly and happily out in the open with only the crows as her companions. Mab will do anything to keep the ancient practice alive and guard its secrets. But one morning while she is working out a particularly tricky spell she encounters Will, a local boy who is trying to exorcise some mundane personal demons. He experiences Mab's magic in a way his mind cannot comprehend and is all too happy to end their chance meeting. But secrets that were kept from Mab by the earlier generations of blood magicians have come home to roost. And she and Will are drawn back together, time again by this dangerous force looking to break free from the earth and reclaim its own dark power.
The Blood Keeper is a dark magical story that takes time and patience to get into, but is well worth the effort. It’s a companion novel to Blood Magic with previous characters showing up, but focused on a whole new cast.
In this story, there are two POVs in the present, Mab and Will, and one from the past, Evie.
Mab is the new Deacon, a leader and guide of the blood witches, after Arthur the previous Deacon passed away. Arthur, Grandma Lyn, Donna and a hodge-podge group living at The Pink House are more of a family to Mab than her own mother, Josephine. Her mother dropped her off there when she was two years-old, only visiting and staying occasionally. We know from Blood Magic, Josephine was busy tracking down and stalking her love, or more accurately, her obsession, Philip. This ended tragically for Josephine, Philip, and his wife. Thankfully, Mab is nothing like her mother, and it really was a blessing in disguise that Arthur and Granny Lyn raised her. Arthur’s final request before he died was for Mab to “destroy those roses,” yet everything Mab tries, fails. Finally, to get to the bottom of this mystery, Mab fashions a “doll” (not really what you’d call a doll, more of a mud-monster) with the spirit of the roses and the curse that dwells in them. Little does she know what evil she’s about to unleash.
There had been a secret planted under my bedroom window all my life. I knew I should have spent my creating a spell to burn the curse away, to turn the roses into ash and spread the pieces on the wind and on the river. It’s what Arthur told me to do. But that isn’t what I chose.
Will knows what he doesn’t want. He doesn’t want to follow in his father’s and brother’s footsteps into a military career. His family is still reeling from his brother, Aaron’s death. An event that shook Will up and made him realize he didn’t want to follow. Will and Mab’s life collide when her “doll” gets loose and plows into Will, touching him with the evil curse and marking him with it, unbeknownst to him or Mab. Will is intrigued with the strange and beautiful Mab, not knowing exactly how important she’s about to become in his life.
We’re introduced to Evie when she joins a much younger Arthur and his friend Gabriel at the Pink House. She is a blood witch but only uses magic as a tool when needed. It doesn’t dominate her life. Her POV is a letter to Arthur recounting the events of the past. You get a glimpse of Josephine too, who even back then was an enigmatic figure with little or no morals. You witness Evie falling in love, but at the same time you feel something bad is coming. You realize her letter is not just recounting a love story, but a tragedy as well.
As I said in the beginning, I had a hard time getting into this story. It wasn’t until I was about 30% in that I finally started clicking with it. While the prose was beautiful, I felt like it could’ve been pared down. The explanations and detailing of many rituals throughout the book had my eyes glazing over in a few parts. I’m not a huge fan of detailed writing, so these points of complaint could just be me. I did finally engage in the story, and from then on I was anxious to find out what was going to happen next. The story truly became riveting, and I was rushing to piece together the mystery of the past to the events in the present. I’m so glad I pushed through because The Blood Keeper was worth it! It was a strange, romantic, and enthralling tale.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Children’s Books for allowing me to read this.