I've spent a bit of time in bookshops recently, and couldn't resist purchasing Heart's Blood, by Juliet Marillier. It's a stand-alone novel, inspired (says the cover) by the story of Beauty and the Beast. The cover also declares it to be filled with passion . . . so of course faced with the prospect of some time off, I decided this sounded like some good summer reading.
I hadn't read any of Marillier's other novels before, so was also interested to see what her books are like. After all, if I like this one, she has several others in the Sevenwaters series for me to plough through! Finding a new author is always terribly exciting. So I embarked with high hopes.
I certainly enjoyed it a lot. In truth, the story is not recognisable for Beauty and the Beast, although one can identify the seed of that story -- which was no doubt the author's intention. It's the story of a young woman, running from her past, who finds herself in a rather odd and secluded (and cursed) household where she finds acceptance and purpose (to help lift the curse), not to mention love. The characters are well drawn and interesting, and the writing is great. It's not a fast-moving or complicated story, however, relying largely on atmosphere and character to keep the reader interested. Interestingly, the romance angle -- although integral to the plot -- is not all that heavy. (Often I find that the love thread is the one that keeps me reading until all hours, but in this book it was not the case.)
Having said all that, I didn't love it. There is nothing I can put my finger on, but for me Heart's Blood lacked that X-factor that books like The Lions of Al-Rassan or The Liveship Traders have. It was lovely to read, and I certainly wanted to pick it up each night, but I can't see me forcing it on others to read, screaming at them that they won't have lived until they read this book. But definitely not sorry that I have.