Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blood Keeper, by Tessa Gratton- Review

From Goodreads:
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.

Last sumer I read Tessa Grattons debut novel, Blood Magic (the companion to The Blood Keeper), and promptly fell in love with her writing.  She takes YA somewhere strange and different, she introduces characters who don't fit the stereotypes and she has a lot of fun while doing it.  If you haven't read Blood Magic yet, then I'm telling you, you're missing out. I especially love that these two books, while both part of the Blood Journals, are stand alone novels each telling a separate story that twines into a history of Blood Magic and it's practitioners.

Blood Keeper has a very different ambience then Blood Magic.  Where BM is mired in dark revelations and sinister characters, BK shows a very different look at blood magic and it's workings.  In many ways Mab and her family are everything good in blood magic, and even the journal entries sprinkled throughout the narrative seem to be more of a love story then the dark, and somewhat creepy journal entries of Josephine's from BM.  But towards the end of the story, things take a definite dark twist, and just like that Gratton takes the reader back to the goose bump inducing atmosphere of the unexpected and truly dark parts of her blood magic.

The way BK ties into BM is fantastic, subtle but holding serious significance, all while playing out it's own story.  Mab is the daughter of Josephine, and Nick's mother Donna lives with her.  But most importantly, so does Reese.  If I was to write a one line review of this story it would be that it started and ended with my anguished cry of Reese! Nick and Silla make small appearances that were both totally cathartic (oh how I missed them!), but not so much that they took over a story that belonged to new and intriguing characters.

Which, speaking of them, I adored Will and Mab, every bit as much as I loved Silla an Nick the first time around.  They are both delightfully a-typical teens, Mab is a raging blood magic hippie who eschews both shoes and bras, and Will is a football playing, crew cut sporting, military brat.  But they're both teeming with surprises, Mab is full of brass, and Will is gentle and kind-hearted, but most unanticipated is how perfect they are together.  Like Nick and Silla, Will and Mab seem to beautifully compliment each other.  Their strange relationship is both charming and compelling and I especially love how Will frequently admits Mab is extremely odd, as if that's a delightful attribute instead of negative.
This was definitely the most wild, embarrassing conversation I'd ever had.  But Mab turned everything a little wild, even this old clunker of a car...Instead of moving to get out, I stared at her.  I'd never admired somebody my own age before, but Mab, she wasn't just gorgeous and weird, she was confident.  And knew herself.  I wanted that.
The way Evie's journal entries are interspersed with Mab and Will's story is as effective as Josephine's was in BM.  The convention works especially well, since Gratton is giving such brief bits of Evies story in comparison to Will and Mab's.  Although Evie's journal is not as obviously dark as Josephine's was, you know it's leading you to some kind of revelation, and the way it's dragged out of her kept me on the edge of my seat.  One liner's like:
But it was not merely tea. It was poison.
were especially torturous.

Finally, I have to say I LOVE the new look they've created for the series.  I'm tempted to replace my copy of BM just so I can have this fabulous matched set.  BM is the dark version of BK which mirrors the stories, but I also adore the fact there are no people on the covers!  Such an unusual thing these days, but so refreshing.  Also, under Blood Keepers paper jacket is an exquisite maroon cover with leaf green binding, so pretty.

A great set of books, I can't recommend highly enough, but don't take just my word for it, Maggie Stiefvater also loves them:
"Love buried in cemeteries, horror hidden behind masks, and whispered language of blood.  I adore this book" (for Blood Magic)
as if you need anymore convincing.  
Blood Keeper, by Tessa Gratton
Published by Random House, August 28th, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher

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