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Spells of Blood and Kin is a dark and beautiful journey
June 2, 2016
Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey St. Martin's Press Thomas Dunne Books
Sci Fi & Fantasy Pub Date: June 14, 2016
Spells of Blood and Kin reminds the reader that magic is not without cost, and spells do not mean a happy ending. Claire Humphrey adroitly weaves Russian history and folklore through a tale of loss, violence, desperation, and ultimately hope.
Upon her grandmother's death, Lissa takes over her role as the village witch, both feared and respected. She knows nothing of the kin or the spell her grandmother cast that allowed Maksim to control the monstrous side of his nature. Without the spell, Maksim cannot control his urge for violence and destruction. In a moment of weakness, he infects a young man with the curse, something that happened only once before. His fellow kin, Gus, despises his reliance on the witch's magic, preferring the momentary respite of alcohol and drugs. Yet both agree the young man must be found before he becomes mad with rage and power.
Part of what fascinates me about Spells of Blood and Kin is the integral role played by Russian folklore and Claire Humphrey's portrayal of the kin. They are not angsty glittering beings of beauty, rather they are individuals tormented by their long lives and history of madness and violence. The only people they can fully express their rage and violent urges to are other kin who heal rapidly and are unlikely to die. It is easy to feel both fear and pity for Maksim in equal measure.
Family also plays an important role. Lissa remains able to converse with her grandmother on the full moon and ask three questions, thanks to a spelled doll created before her death. Her half-sister Stella has come from England and shows every sign of staying. Reluctant at first, Lissa slowly accepts that her life is changing.
I was left with one question. Why did fulfilling her grandmother's debt to Maksim result in that particular nightmare?
Spells of Blood and Kin is not a fantasy that will appeal to everyone. It doesn't have a discernible "villain", nor does it have action sequences where there are heroes who overcome vast odds. None of the characters can even be considered heroes. Rather it is a tale of loss and transformation. It is not an adventure and it doesn't have a happy ending or a complete resolution. In the end, the living endure. Nevertheless Spells of Blood and Kin is a unique and memorable novel.
Spells of Blood and Kin is available for preorder and will be released June 14, 2016.
I received a copy of Spells of Blood and Kin from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
Description 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.
Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Lev Grossman, Deborah Harkness, Naomi Novik, and Anne Bishop!