Review: Bloodstone

Posted: April 14, 2014 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Gillian Philip, Fantasy

In FIREBRAND (EBR Review) we met the Sithe brothers Seth and Conal. They were exiled beyond the Veil to the world where full-mortals live, as part of a promise to their queen that they would find the bloodstone. By the time BLOODSTONE (Amazon) begins, four hundred years have passed, and Leonna, Conal’s mother, is coming to the conclusion that they will never find what they’re looking for, that it doesn’t exist.

After FIREBRAND’s exciting introduction to the series, BLOODSTONE had a lot to live up to. While not as good as the first book, this continuation of the story isn’t afraid to take us where the hard decisions have led Seth and Conal on their quest to be free of Kate NicNiven’s control.

The great thing so far about this series is its forward momentum and fascinating characters. In FIREBRAND it was Seth’s PoV, but here the narration has broadened to Finn (Conal’s niece) and Jed (mortal; Finn’s friend and son to Seth’s lover). At first I found it annoying because I like Seth’s narration and it took the majority of the book to understand why the extra PoVs–and teenagers at that–were necessary for the storytelling. Still, Seth is the one whose PoV carries the story: how he views people, his sense of loyalty to his brother, and his often poor decision-making skills. And the strange thing is that even though I hate some of his choices, I still completely understand why he makes them. He is a fascinating person who wavers between bad-boy and sentimental loyalist. Finn and Jed’s stories aren’t as crucial as Seth’s, but they’re still interesting. Jed is a bit of a wild card since he’s full mortal, and even though he’s tied to important characters, ultimately he’s powerless. His character arc is the biggest in the novel, but it was painful to watch him flail about in a situation he had no control over.

There’s an unfortunate four-hundred year gap between books, which hinders a fleshed-out setting in favor of a fast-paced story, and as a result we don’t learn more about the Sithe world, magic, and the Veil. Not that these tidbits aren’t important to the story. The Veil makes the Sithe forgettable to mortals and this makes Finn’s high school existence miserable. Adding to her teenage angst is the death of her father, a grieving mother who leaves her to be raised by secretive uncles (who are forbidden by their mother to tell her about the Sithe world), and her witch of a grandmother whose search for the bloodstone occupies her time (because if she doesn’t focus her attention she’ll want to kill herself to follow her dead husband).

A complicated and twisty story in a way that is thoroughly engulfing. Minimal world-building, but lots of surprises to make up for it.

However, the surprises in store do make up for what we miss in the world-building–Phillips takes the story in an unexpected direction. We start out in the mortal world, but most of the action takes place in the otherworld, where Conal teams up with his old comrades-in-arms, Kate NicNiven (the Sithe queen) continues to manipulate events to her advantage, and everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Seth, Finn, and Jed all come to discover that even when they try to make the right decisions, there’s no guarantee the results will be what they expect. Phillips weaves these shadowy characters into a complicated and twisty story in a way that is thoroughly engulfing, leaving us with the question of: What will happen next? Because by the end you will want to know.

  • Recommended Age: 15+
  • Language: A couple handfuls
  • Violence: Fairly frequent; gory details sometimes glossed over
  • Sex: Referenced

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