Do you ever read a book that has a lot of potential and doesn’t really fail but doesn’t really succeed, either? This is how I feel about The Blood Spell by C. J. Redwing. I’m not sure if this book tried to do too much at one time or if it was simply not executed as well as it could have been. And yet, I did genuinely enjoy reading it.
The Blood Spell is a Cinderella retelling with quite the twist, telling the story of a young girl called Blue who works as an apothecary while simultaneously hiding her magic from the world. Magic, in fact, is illegal after the actions of an evil witch. When street children begin disappearing, Blue investigates the situation with the help of the crown Prince, Kellan, whom she has “hated” her entire life. When her father dies, however, she is thrown into turmoil when her guardianship shifts to a rather cruel woman who is determined to use Blue’s alchemic abilities to force her to make gold in order to resolve her recent financial ruin.
There’s a lot to the plot of this book that makes it exceedingly unique. Were it not for the well developed and interesting plot, I don’t imagine I would have enjoyed this book as much as I did. In fact, it is the mystery and the truth of the villains that made this book so worth reading. Readers find themselves immersed in the events of the story, questioning and making predictions about what happened in the past and what is currently happening with the wraith whose been locked away to prevent it from wreaking havoc upon the kingdom as it once did. The characters, unfortunately, are just okay.
Despite the fact that I utterly abhorred her name, I liked Blue the best. She was the only character who had a POV that actually felt reasonably well written. Prince Kellan was difficult to read, his portrayal feeling vaguely unrealistic at times. Unfortunate Blue’s guardian, Dinah, was a believable villain but I felt that the way she was written took a lot away from the cruelty that she was supposed to embody.
This is one of those instances in which the author gives far too much insight into the villain. I’m not sure if Redwing was trying to build sympathy for the stepmother or if she was merely trying to build the reader’s hatred. Either way, I feel that the story would have been much better had Dinah’s point of view been left out of it. There was no mystery to Dinah, no question about what she was doing, and while the ultimate plot twist was unique and exciting, it was somewhat predictable as a result of reading her portion of the story.
I think, ultimately, while I did really enjoy this novel, the writing was subpar. The ideas themselves were fantastic, leaving me with a story that I found true joy in reading. The characters showed great development through the course of the novel, which I loved and appreciated. But the in the moment writing of the story made the characters feel very unreal in their actions and words, the romance feel quite cheesy, and Redwing had moments of laying ideas and comments on so thickly that they quickly got annoying.
And then there was the characters of Hansel and Grettle who were majorly random and didn’t add anything even though they misled the reader into feeling as though they would soon be exceptionally important. It’s a small spoiler, I guess, because they played absolutely no part in the story at all. Even know I have no clue what the point of their inclusion was. It wasn’t painfully long, but it felt like such a waste of a chapter.
So, at the end, I’m left unsure how to feel about The Blood Spell. I certainly enjoyed it a lot and it’s not a bad book by any means. But various pieces of the writing really annoyed and frustrated me. Kellan never really felt like a real person not because he didn’t have a well thought out personality but because the author didn’t seem to know how to write it, the book was too predictable at times, and there were far too many moments when I found myself rolling my eyes at the writing. Also, I’m still a little annoyed that I didn’t get to know the little girl who worked for Blue because it made everything surrounding her less emotional than it should have been.
This is a hard book for me, since I feel so conflicted. For anyone who reads it, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.
I was provided a free copy of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.