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Heart's Blood

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Whistling Tor is a place of secrets, a mysterious, wooded hill housing the crumbling fortress of a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan's family and his people; those woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.

For young scribe Caitrin it is a safe haven. This place where nobody else is prepared to go seems exactly what she needs, for Caitrin is fleeing her own demons. As Caitrin comes to know Anluan and his home in more depth she realizes that it is only through her love and determination that the curse can be broken and Anluan and his people set free.

405 pages, Hardcover

First published October 2, 2009

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About the author

Juliet Marillier

92 books10.9k followers
Juliet Marillier was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and grew up surrounded by Celtic music and stories. Her own Celtic-Gaelic roots inspired her to write her first series, the Sevenwaters Trilogy. Juliet was educated at the University of Otago, where she majored in music and languages, graduating BA and Bachelor of Music (Hons). Her lifelong interest in history, folklore and mythology has had a major influence on her writing.

Juliet is the author of twenty-one historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults, as well as a book of short fiction. Juliet's novels and short stories have won many awards.

Juliet lives in a 110 year old cottage in a riverside suburb of Perth, Western Australia. When not writing, she tends to her small pack of rescue dogs. She also has four adult children and eight grandchildren. Juliet is a member of the druid order OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,683 reviews
April 5, 2017
It is a well-known fact that I adore Beauty and the Beast retellings, so it's about damn time I reviewed this. It is not only the best retelling I have ever read, it is among my top five favorite books of all time. I can't even tell you how beautiful, fantastic, magical this story is. It truly has everything. It is a long story; don't be afraid of the length. It will fly by as you're immersed in it, and I, for one, wish it were longer. Also, the "Beast" is a long red-haired Irish dude with half his face kinda paralyzed and so in my mind I'm imagining the other half to look like this.


I don't have to summarize Beauty and the Beast to you. This book is about a lovely girl, named Caitrin. An orphan. I know, an orphan. It sounds cliché; i assure you it is not. It is about pain, suffering; mental and physical abuse. A girl whose beauty is used to shame and abuse her into submission.
Ita spoke in my head, her voice a derisory whisper: See the way men look at you? You’re made to be a whore, Caitrin. Be thankful Cillian wants to wed you.Without him you’d be headed down a path to ruin.
There is no explicit violence in this book, but rest assured that its ghost is very much alive in our protagonist's mind and defines who she is.
The bruises on my skin—blue, black, yellow, an angry patchwork—would fade. There were other hurts, deeper ones, that would be harder to lose. You did it, Caitrin, I reminded myself. You got up and walked out.
Her escape is where our book begins. We are in a time long ago and far away, when the Norman conquests were taking place in Ireland. Caitrin is a girl on the run, terrified of being found. Penniless, with only the clothes on her back and the tool she carries with her; she has been well-trained by her father as a scribe. It is how she hopes to earn a living and escape her would-be captors.

She wanders into a strange place called Whistling Tors. A place whose nearby villagers regard with fear and superstition. A place with a fearful and cursed chieftain, whose neglect of his duties and cursed appearance makes him a reviled personage to his people. Caitrin hears that he might need a scribe. It may be the last place in the world she wants to be, but it may also be safe refuge, and really, she has no choice.

The rumors about Whistling Tors are not false. If anything, they were grossly underexaggerated. The woods is filled with ghostly spectres who haunt your every step.
“Oh God, oh God!” someone screamed, as behind the rider a swirling mass flowed out from under the trees around the courtyard, not mist, not smoke, but something full of gaping mouths and clutching hands, something with a hundred shrieking, moaning voices and a hundred creeping, pattering feet.
The Beast is a young chieftain named Anluan, who is tortured by his fate, something through no fault of his. The romance is such a slow burn, and it is a joy to watch friendship and love blossom between them. Romance is there, but I assure you it is subtle and believable.
“I hardly know what to say.” Anluan spoke with some awkwardness, as if he thought his words might offend me. “Your kinsman was right when he called me a cripple. I cannot ride, I cannot run, I cannot lead an army into battle. Not an army made up of earthly warriors of Magnus’s kind, anyway. But this force I can command. On Whistling Tor, the host is obedient to my will. While you stay here, I can keep you safe. I hope you will stay, Caitrin, now that you know the truth. We want you here. We need you.”
Love and lust are written beautifully.

There is a great mystery to be solved, a mystery that holds the key to freedom for Anluan and his living retainers, as well as the spectral ones, who are not merely malevolent spirits.
When Anluan had brought them rushing to my aid they had screamed, wailed, assaulted the ears. Now they were utterly silent. Not creatures of ancient legend; not devils or demons. All the same, my skin prickled as I looked at them: here a woman carrying an injured child, there an old man with a heavy bag over his shoulder, his back bent, his limbs shaking; under an oak, a younger man whose fingers clutched feverishly onto an amulet strung around his neck. There were warriors and priests here, little girls and old women. The more I gazed at them, turning to look on all sides, the more of them appeared, until the forest was full of them. Ghosts? Spirits?
There are no magical wardrobes and candlesticks here. There is, however, a giant ghostly hound, a spectral monk, creatures from beyond time, and more dark magic than you can shake a stick at. This book has everything, and I truly come to love every single character in the book, living or dead.

The elements of Beauty and the Beast are there; the rose, in this case a rare flower called Heart's Blood, and the magic mirror, in this instance much more sinister than the original. They are interwoven into the tale so well that it hardly feels like a retelling at all; there is nothing forced about it. The characterization and development is amazing, and the real-world conflicts are interspersed with the magical, making this such a spectacular read. It is a story of hope. This is quite likely the best retelling of all time and I beg you to read it.

Read more reviews at The Alliterates
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.2k followers
September 13, 2012
Marquis de Sade is a rather famous figure. Mostly for a lot of kinky sex acts because all of his sex fantasies included violence, criminality and blasphemy. That and he really liked buttsecks!

Okay, so history remembers Marquis de Sade for the crazy, deviant man that he was. But I think we're all forgetting the real point to the story of Marquis de Sade... and that is love. Love that conquors all. Love that supports and love that understands and accepts. After all, the Marquis de Sade had a very lovely religious wife, Renee-Pelagie de Montreuil who was always there to organize his orgies, hustle is prostitutes, bitch slap the hired help who tried to complain of the sexual and physical abuse being wrought out against them and also to break him out of jail.

All of this while completely understanding that it was IMPORTANT for him to bone her sister on the side.

That, my friends, is love!

I've heard people complain that there isn't a strong romance in this book and I actually can't understand why. I found the romance in this book to be powerful, beautiful and touching. I truly felt that Anluan and Caitrin were perfect for each other. Just like Marquis de Sade and Renee-Pelagie de Montreuil were perfect for each other(no, I'm just jokin' y'all. Caitrin and Anluan made a beautiful couple!)

The creepy atmosphere of this story was so well executed, the castle and its occupants so seemingly alive that I felt true remorse when the story came to an end.

Though the mystery was painfully obvious right from the get-go, I never actually felt the sense that Caitrin was particularly slow on the uptake - just that she was a trusting, good person with a lot on her mind and a lot of distractions.

As a retake on the Beauty and the Beast tale, this one was both beautifully done and very, very PC.

Caitrin is not kidnapped and is not a victim, nor is Anluan an actual beast though his short temper and deformity are quite realistic.

This is the second book by Juliet Marillier that I have ever read and she's been consistently thoughtful and conscience about her prose, her message and her characterization.

I honestly look forward to reading more books by her.

I also honestly look forward to surpassing her in the 'Most Followed' category for Australia! Suck it, Marillier! I'll get you one day!

Profile Image for Anne.
3,922 reviews69.3k followers
January 17, 2022
This is the best Beauty & the Beast retelling I've ever read.


And believe me I get it if you're worn out with authors doing this fairytale to death. However, this is incredibly well-reimagined, to the point that you really don't even have to be into fairytale retellings to enjoy this one. I'd honestly recommend this one to anyone looking for a great fantasy story.
But for those of you who are into retellings, you'll be able to easily pick out the undertones of B&B.


Our Beauty is Caitrin, a lovely girl who has been trained as a scribe by her father. She's on the run from her abusive cousin and his hateful mother, both of whom are intent on her marrying him so they can take her deceased father's property. She's willing to risk anything to escape, even staying in the dangerously haunted Whistling Tor with its frightening chieftain.


Which brings us to our Beast, Anluan. A young man cursed by frightening a family legacy he didn't ask for, and physically disabled by a childhood illness that left his body twisted.
Cut off from the world by the curse left to him by an evil ancestor, his only friends are the terrifying spirits that haunt the Tor and the loyal soldier that raised him.


I'm going to try not to spoil anything, but here are some of the things I really loved about this one.
First, the curse didn't make him an actual beast, it made it so that he couldn't really leave his home without endangering others, which meant his social skills were solely lacking. As far as his appearance, he would have been traditionally handsome if the illness hadn't twisted his body. And there wasn't some magical fix for any of it. To overcome the physical disabilities that he had, it took work, patience, creativity, and love. The end.
Second, I thought it was wonderful to watch Caitrin overcome her own issues after the gaslighting and abuse she suffered at the hands of her relatives. She was so strong and intelligent but she was also so fragile and insecure.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are layers upon layers to this tale and I loved all of them.
The dark sorcery and fae creatures gave the story an enchanted vibe, but the way the characters truly grew and changed in organic ways really made this what was worth reading.
And the ending?


Ruth Urquhart was just an excellent narrator, so if you're a fan of audiobooks, check this one out.

Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
June 9, 2021
I think Juliet Marillier's most successful books are the ones that follow traditional fairy tales the closest. Heart's Blood and Daughter of the Forest are the best of hers I've read so far.

And as far as fairy tale retelling goes, nobody does it as well as Juliet Marillier does. She has that special ability to take a centuries-old tale and fill it with interesting new characters, historical details, original and always very atmospheric setting - and voila, a great story that doesn't feel like an old tired rip-off at all.

Heart's Blood is a fresh take on Beauty and the Beast and probably the most successful reinvisioning of this story I've come across. The plot is familiar - a pretty girl, a beastly-looking man, a curse, a flower, an enchanted castle. You all know it. But the characters are fresh - Caitrin is a scribe escaping from her abusive relatives, Anluan is a young man suffering from palsy whose family was cursed decades ago. The story is set in Ireland. Whistling Tor is an enchanted, misty place full of sleepless ghosts...

The main challenge of any Beauty and the Beast retelling is to make us believe in a deep connection and love between a pretty girl and a beast-like man. I remember reading Robin McKinley's version and never feeling why and when the two main characters fell in love. Not so in Heart's Blood. The way Caitrin and Anluan's relationship is written makes you truly believe in their love for each other.

There is also this great way these two communicate I found very appealing - they do not try to change each other, but help one another to overcome their weaknesses and hang-ups, to realize how much they have to offer, to become more confident, stronger. Very touching.

My only problem, the usual with all Juliet Marillier's books, is that she tends to be too wordy. Very often I feel like whatever needs to be said could have been said in fewer words. I found myself particularly frustrated in the end of the story, when all exciting stuff started happening and it was slowed down by wordiness. I skim-read a lot at that point to get to the juicy stuff.

I see that Heart's Blood is the first book Whistling Tor series. I wonder what else is there to say about this place. What future books are going to be about? Does anyone know?
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
841 reviews3,774 followers
February 15, 2021

Actual rating : 3.5 stars

Trust me, I wanted to love this book so, so much. But if Heart's Blood casted a spell on me, captivating me, I encountered the same problems I had with Shadowfell, making it hard to entirely connect with the story, especially in the second half.

Fascinating settings : Think about an ominous forest, a mysterious castle, whose inhabitants have been suffering from a curse for years. What not to love?

If I wasn't completely won by the writing (I'll come back to that), I can't deny that the descriptions were beautifully crafted and so vivid, it felt as if I was there.

An intriguing plot : Beauty and the Beast is (shockingly, lol) one of my favorite fairytales of all times, yet its retellings rarely manage to capture the magical enthrallment I felt the first time I read Beaumont's tale, and I've grown to resent and avoid them, to be honest. The fact is, either they're too close to the original (but boring) or they're so twisted that I can't recognize anything. None of this here. If the story turns let me bewildered (in a good way), Juliet Marillier included several aspects as winks to the fairytale reader and I loved that.

From the underlying darkness threatening every turn, to the longing oozing from every page, I flew through the first half, enchanted.

A well-developed and complex cast of characters :

Caitrin is a wonderful and relatable heroine : after having been abused by her family after her father's death, she finds the courage to flee and is constantly testing her strength. She's by no means our kickass/soul eating warrior, yet she is strong, in her not so flashy way.

Anluan is a crippled, cursed man whose anger issues would have infuriated me if his character wasn't so multi-layered, so complex. Please don't judge him too fast : he can be maddening, but he's not violent and so, so loyal. The despair of this awkward, self-loathing man who hides behind his grumpiness moved me. So burdened and tortured, unable to see that life can be more.

As for the other inhabitants of Whistling Tor, what can I say except that I loved them all? From Magnus the kind soldier to Eirith the crazy monk, they all add something magical to the story and I couldn't help but draw parallels with the Beast hilarious and endearing companions.

✔ The romance is believable, light and straights-on wonderful. They made me squeal. I know! GAH. They gradually learn to trust each others', to overlook the appearances and their fears.

Unfortunately there was a counter spell. Sigh.

✘ Trust me, I don't mind a little predictability... Until I reach the point when it influences (in a bad way) what I think about a MC. Sadly, it was the case here. It took Caitrin so much time before solving the mystery (IN SPITE OF ALL THESE EVIDENCES EVERYWHERE), it drove me nuts. See, I understand that she's willing to trust, but come on. This is too-much. From the moment I figured it all (way too fast) I grew restless, then annoyed, even if I didn't want to be. I was constantly making excuses for her lack of judgment, until the moment I COULDN'T.

✘ While I realize that it's a prevalent trope in fairytales, in my opinion the hope talk grew old pretty fast. Hope will prevail. Because Hope is the key. Don't you believe that? Have you understood how important hope is? Do you? Do you? Are you sure? Because I'm going to repeat it over and over again. Oh. My. GOSH.

✘ As I said earlier, if I appreciated how beautiful the descriptions were, it remains that the writing was often too wordy for me. I'm by no means an action lover, but it was so frustrating sometimes that I had a hard time not to skim. Indeed some parts.... dragged....so much...that I couldn't help but be bored, unfortunately, and yes, I wanted the author to go to the freaking point.

► That's why it sort of lost its magic by the end. Way too long in my opinion, and yet I'll still keep a fond memory of Whistling Tor and its unusual inhabitants.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
August 29, 2017
This is definitely my favorite of Juliet Marillier's books, but to be fair, it's only my second.

That being said, it wasn't a love at first sight, much like the main character in this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It grew on me, much as the Beast grew on Belle.

The later half was quite exciting and full of magic and trying to break the curse and there was plenty of ghosts and ghouls and armies and all the awesome Norman invasion historical stuff to keep me involved in the medieval world this draws from. All the characters became something special for me, too, thanks to the weight of their interactions and involvement with each other.

Unfortunately, it took a while for me to get there. I was kinda bored by the pacing of at least the first half and while it was really focused on the realism angle and strove hard to stick to reality in the retelling, I was only very mildly interested. It was halfway between a historical and a slice-of-life with mild hidden past. It took a while to build up to something cool.

Even so, it ended nicely and it was still charming.
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,945 followers
January 12, 2020
❅Juliet Marillier es una autora cuyos libros disfruto muchísimo gracias a la ambientación y la atmósfera fantástica que recrea siempre en sus historias... Ese halo de cuento de hadas, repleto de leyendas celtas y al mismo tiempo ambientación Histórica medieval.
Aquí la autora vuelve a un cuento de hadas tradicional, como ya hizo en 'La hija del bosque' (Mi preferido de la autora) para narrarnos su versión de 'La bella y la bestia'. Aquí, aunque se separa del original en muchas cosas, tiene al mismo tiempo todos los elementos que componen la famosa leyenda que todos conocemos.
Si algo he amado de esta novela es su inicio.
La primera mitad del libro me pareció M A R A V I L L O S A.
Nuestra protagonista es una escriba que huye de sus propios fantasmas, en busca de un trabajo y un hogar, así llega a este reino encantado, a este castillo decadente repleto de seres fantasmagóricos y de misterios... Allí, transcribiendo del latín la historia de la familia, comienza a comprender la maldición que atrapa a todos los que habitan aquellas tierras.
Me pareció muy acertada, tanto la problemática de la protagonista, sus traumas, así como la forma que tienen de mostrarnos a esa "bestia" y su castillo encantado.
El problema del libro para mi tiene que ver con el desenlace terriblemente previsible, con algún que otro momento anticlimático, y hay que añadir el poco encanto real de los dos protagonistas. Los secundarios eran mucho más interesantes y carismáticos, y así como el romance está bien trabajado, en ningún momento llegó a emocionarme.. Al contrario, me sobraron bastantes momentos al respecto.

Aún así, Juliet Marillier sabe como atraparte con sus historias, y especialmente trasladarte a esos reinos cargados de leyendas y personajes torturados que tarde o temprano lograrán encontrar la paz. Creo que nunca me cansaré de leer a esta fantástica autora :)

>>Desgraciadamente no está traducido al castellano :(
Profile Image for ♛Tash.
223 reviews212 followers
September 24, 2015

Warning: this is a gushy review, so if you don't want to be embarrassed on my behalf, turn away now.

The story opens with Caitrin, our beauty in this BatB retelling, running away from her abusive guardian as far as money can take her. She goes as far as Whistling Tor, more on Whistling Tor later. Desperate, Caitrin takes a summer job as scribe to the reclusive lord of Whistling Tor, despite the discouragement of the local folk. She's determinedly positive (irritatingly so at times) to complete her work and help everyone in the household, despite the scary shit going on.

There are no beastly beasts here, only Anluan. He's physically deformed, he's prickly and given to outbursts, and Anluan is an exceptional character, he is flawed in almost all facets, and in a genre dominated by perfect males who can make love on top of a horse while slaying a dragon, it's refreshing. Besides from the physical deformities and weakness, he is just as naive, or more so,than Caitrin.

The romance, ah the romance! I loved every minute of the awkward flirtation, if you can call it that. Caitrin realizes that she's crushing on Anluan the day after she meets him, so naturally she had to teach him how to do calligraphy because she's got game. She holds his hand the first few strokes, while he writes her name on the parchment over and over. She blushes, he blushes - just adorable!

Best thing about the romance in this book is that it never takes center stage, it is there, but it just doesn't run over more important plot lines.

The rest of the characters in Heart's Blood are brilliantly drawn, I fell in love with all of them, so the ending, although heartbreaking, is apropos and touching.

The setting, Whistling Tor, is just perfect for a BatB retelling. Located high up on the hills of Connacht (that's Western Ireland for us history noobs), Whistling Tor is isolated, eternally misty and surrounded by a dark forest, .It is definitely not included in Connacht's tourism brochure.

Needless to say I loved this BatB retelling, the best among I've read so far. Juliet Marillier's prose is poetic and graceful, and the language fitting.

“He was seated on the bench now. He had his left elbow on his knee, his right arm across his lap, his shoulders hunched, his head bowed. White face, red hair: snow and fire, like something from an old tale. The book I had noticed earlier was on the bench beside him, its covers shut. Around Anluan's feet and in the birdbath, small visitors to the garden hopped and splashed and made the most of the day that was becoming fair and sunny. He did not seem to notice them. As for me, I found it difficult to take my eyes from him. There was an odd beauty in his isolation and his sadness, like that of a forlorn prince ensorcelled by a wicked enchantress, or a traveller lost forever in a world far from home.”

The plot moves gradually without being dragging, the action and the "slow" parts well-proportioned.

TL; DR : Tash adores this book to pieces
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,481 followers
September 25, 2018
This isn’t really a Beauty and the Beast retelling but it reminded me very loosely of one. Again, Juliet Marillier delivers a book that has the distinctive feel of an old school fairytale. There is a curse, a castle, a semi-disfigured man, a strong heroine with nowhere else to turn and mirrors that don’t reflect the world but have other things moving inside of them. It was bound to call out to me just waiting to be read.
There was an odd beauty in his isolation and his sadness, like that of a forlorn prince ensorcelled by a wicked enchantress, or a traveler lost forever in a world far from home.

Caitlin is a scribe in a world where female scribes aren’t accepted. She has worked with her father her entire life and is great at what she does. Her father has passed her work off as his own due to social convention but upon his death she has nowhere to turn and the family that should have protected her has something else in mind. Without barely anything to her name she flees to escape the horrible fate into a land with a curse. You think that would worse not better but Caitlin with take the curse over the people she left behind in a heartbeat.

I loved the Manor house and all of the oddities there. The mirrors were some of my favorite things as they seemed to hold so much magic. Some mirrors reflect you as you could be, or the house at a different time of day or they let you into the mind of someone from the past. Each mirror seemed special. Learning about the curse in the slow way information was given to the reader left me on edge wanting to know more and I was very surprised when the truth came to light.

Caitlin and Anluan seemed like a natural fit and like most fairytales there isn’t much to the buildup of their relationship and I found I didn’t care. As soon as they start spending time on page together you can see where the relationship is going but I liked that Anluan wasn’t really a beast just gruff and marred by a palsy that made one side of his body weak. Caitlin saw the man underneath and strived to help him with the burdens of the Cursed Host he was in charge of and the upcoming threat from an army.

Caitlin is the hero of the story for sure and almost everything is from her PoV. It made me feel like I was making the discoveries with her as the story progressed. I liked that she wasn’t a healer or just someone’s daughter but had an actual skill set to contribute to society.

If you’ve enjoyed Mariller’s other tales this is on par with those in the feel, ton and pacing. I think she is more for the patient reader that likes all the extra details and meandering down the path of the story in no hurry to get to the end.
June 1, 2016

*3.5 stars* I think....

"Your coming here has changed everything, Caitrin. You have opened my mind to possibilities beyond any I had dreamed of. So I fetched the books. I knew you could translate them, but...Caitrin, the idea of any action of mine causing you hurt is...it's unbearable. You are...you're like a beating heart. A glowing lamp. I've never met anyone like you before."

 photo giphy 73_zpsvnwpnxca.gif

This book was beautiful....and the male lead was EVERYTHING I was looking for: Dark. Tortured. Broken...deeply and madly in love with the girl who came out of nowhere and gave him hope.

But I must say that this might not have been the best choice for this long weekend where my own version of the beast was acting just like his namesake. So...yeah. Perhaps another weekend the story itself (and not just Anluan) would have captured my soul, but, as it is, the first 50% had a bit less Anluan than I would have liked, followed by a very, very good second half. I'm always so conflicted on how to rate these.

Mood vs story.
Male lead vs everything else
50/50 win/lose vs (again) my mood

So, yeah. I have no clue. The mystery as to who was a cruel, evil bastard of a villain was easy to spot from a mile away, but it didn't take anything away from the story, so that wasn't the problem. Perhaps her research? I don't know. Can't quite put my finger on it but...eh. Oh well.

For more of my reviews, please visit:

Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books433 followers
February 7, 2022
"But we’re not on our own anymore. We’re all here together, we’re all Lord Anluan’s people, the people of the Tor, and there’s enough strength in us to do the right things and make the right choices."

CW: discussion of physical and emotional abuse

So What's It About?

This is a retelling of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast set in Ireland during the time of the Norman invasions in the 12th century. Still grieving her beloved father's death, Caitrin flees the abuse of her stepmother and stepbrother and finds refuge in the remote, eerie town of Whistling Tor. She can't believe her luck when she is hired as a scribe up at the castle, but as she comes to know the castle's ghostly inhabitants and its mercurial lord Anluan, she becomes drawn into the story of their tragic pasts and finds herself in the middle of their struggle for a better future.

What I Thought

This is, fundamentally, a book about overcoming the darkness of the past to create a more hopeful future by standing together and believing in the possibility of unity and change. Over the course of the book you slowly see hope take root in the lost souls of Whistling Tor, and it's a beautiful thing to behold. I think that is the lovely thing that is at the heart of Beauty and the Beast's magic: one live spark of a soul can infuse new life and joy in even the most desperate of crumbling ruins; even a Beast that has known nothing but despair for ages can come to see that he is capable of becoming more than he already is through the example set by the right Beauty.

Caitrin is steadfast in the face of darkness, and that darkness lingers throughout the whole novel. Heart's Blood is oozing with Gothic sensibilities - chilling mysteries, dark passions, hidden secrets and forbidding ghosts lurking in the misty forest:

“Oh God, oh God!” someone screamed, as behind the rider a swirling mass flowed out from under the trees around the courtyard, not mist, not smoke, but something full of gaping mouths and clutching hands, something with a hundred shrieking, moaning voices and a hundred creeping, pattering feet.

What I think is brilliant is that the horde is revealed to be monstrous only because they have come to believe themselves capable of nothing but monstrosity. Caitrin refuses to see them as anything less than her equals -individuals who are capable of both good and evil, and have control over their fates. She comes to know them individually, and they are delightful - a regretful commander, an unrepentant monk, a lost little girl, a steadfast soldier, all of whom have been trapped in an unending eternity of servitude:

Not creatures of ancient legend; not devils or demons. All the same, my skin prickled as I looked at them: here a woman carrying an injured child, there an old man with a heavy bag over his shoulder, his back bent, his limbs shaking; under an oak, a younger man whose fingers clutched feverishly onto an amulet strung around his neck. There were warriors and priests here, little girls and old women.

Her firm belief in their capacity for goodness ends up being infectious, and they begin to stir out of the despair that has gripped them for centuries. They maintain their sanity when Anluan leaves the grounds of the castle, when in the past they have always rampaged! They unite with the villagers and defeat the Normans! And, finally, they experience the release from their curse that they have been awaiting for centuries, and depart the mortal world.

At the same time that she gets to know the spirits of Whistling Tor, Caitrin begins the delicate process of getting to know the skittish and moody lord of the castle, Anluan. He is disfigured, disabled and mired in a sense of his own uselessness. Their relationship progresses slowly, with fits and starts and a gradual process of overcoming self-doubt and fear on both sides. This kind of hesitant romance between two uncertain lost souls is the type of romance that brings me the greatest joy. What's more, Anluan and Caitrain encourage each other to be braver and stronger people:

“You could practice being brave a little at a time.”
“What do you mean?”
“Choose a small fear, show yourself you can face it. Then a bigger one.”

Isn't that what a good partnership is, when it comes down to it?

Caitrin flees a horribly abusive home at the beginning of the novel, and she is marked by her history throughout the story. She criticizes herself with the same horrible words that were used against her and sometimes succumbs to self-blame and considers herself a coward and weakling for "allowing" herself to be abused and staying in the situation as long as she did:

"...the worst thing wasn’t Cillian’s fists or Ita’s cruel tongue. It was me. It was the way the two of them turned me into a helpless child, full of self-loathing and timidity."

Her story shows the immense difficulty that many women have in leaving abusive homes, and the incredible danger inherent to that process. Her time at Whistling Tor helps her heal, and grow in self-confidence to the extent that she is finally able to face her abusers and reclaim what they stole from her. What I especially appreciated about this confrontation was that Caitrin does not try to face them by herself but is surrounded by people who care about her and have her back when she returns to her old home.

Another thing that I really appreciated about Heart's Blood from a feminist perspective is its refreshing portrayal of lust. Caitrin's desire for Anluan is so forthright and free of shame without seeming forced or over-exaggerated in any way. When they do sleep together, I think Marillier describes the scene with a really mature and touching sense of what sex is actually like for real people, especially given Anluan's sense of self-doubt and insecurity about his disfigurement/disability:

"This had been real: real in its flaws and uncertainties, real in its small triumphs, real in its compromises and understanding."

The book also has some sympathy for its villainess, and I was certainly left with the impression that the ultimate villainy was the way that Muirne had been groomed into her evil ways and then promptly used in the most horrible manner and disposed of by Anluan's great-grandfather. In addition to Muirne's acts of deception and cruelty, Caitrin reflects that ultimately she still has "the voice of a girl just come to womanhood, a voice of longing, yearning, promise: Look at me. See me. Love me."

In the end, Heart's Blood argues that that is what we all deserve.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for new_user.
238 reviews190 followers
November 8, 2010
Are you feeling nostalgic about your Beauty & the Beast days? I mean the Disney movie. Then you should totally read Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier.

Her novels are as elegantly picked out as her pseudonym. Marillier's heroes and heroines are always so classy. They never say, "That bastard is a villain! Let's chop him in three!" They always maintain their humanity, and it isn't because they're too innocent to think of crueler alternatives. They're just above that, dude.

Her heroes and heroines have a purity to them, despite their mistakes, etc. Somehow, you know they always mean well. Is it because they only commit errors once it's well established that they are Good People? I don't think so.

I loved Anluan. He's so brave and resilient. Even after all the bumps and bruises, he's still willing to get up if he sees hope-- which word was repeated much too often, by the way, LOL. Great secondary characters too. Just as endearing as Lumiere and Cogsworth, if less comedic, LOL.

Marillier is so adept at evoking emotion. We truly feel the weariness and loneliness of leadership and the other burdens facing Anluan, where oddly one never sees this depicted except in passing.

I loved the little similarities to B&B, from the lonely cart trip and scary woods to the mirrors. This makes me want to watch the movie all over again.

Of the books written in this theme, Heart's Blood is probably the most evocative of the emotion intended in the original that I've seen: the highs and lows, the terrible villainy/Fate, the beautiful heroics. She writes a fairy tale like nobody else. At the same time, the setting, characters, and plot are considerably different, so if you don't want to read a simple transcription of the movie, don't be worried.

That said, I've seen Marillier plumb the depths of emotion more deeply, and her language and concepts -e.g. ancient lawmen- seemed much more simplistic here than her usual or adapted to a modern audience. I think she wanted to appeal to more readers.

So this is not my favorite work from her but still a fabulous read! Even Marillier's lesser books are exceptional. Recommended for all B&B fans or romance fans! (PG-13, but if I like it, you know it's not kiddy, LOL.)
Profile Image for nastya .
419 reviews257 followers
October 27, 2020
was the villain obvious? yes! do I care? no!
each time you open this book, you are transported into this beautiful magical world.
and also talk about slow burn romance. how about not having insta-lust and take time to know the person, befriend them and slowly fall in love?
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,165 followers
November 25, 2012
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Although Heart's Blood is only my second Juliet Marillier novel, I can already count her amongst my favorite authors...ever. Marillier has a distinct style of writing stories about kind, but fierce, female protagonists and tortured romantic interests, creating beautiful love stories all against a backdrop of fantastical imagination. If that isn't a recipe for success, then I don't know what is. Yet, with Heart's Blood, Marillier has surpassed her previous prowess, writing one of the most remarkable fairy tale re-telling of Beauty and the Beast that I've ever come across. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Heart's Blood has replaced Beauty and the Beast in my heart for I loved it far more than I did the original.

Unlike many authors who allow the constrictions of a fairy tale re-telling to constrain their limits of creativity, Heart's Blood is based only loosely off of Beauty and the Beast. Instead of brave Belle who replaces her father's place in the Beast's tower, we have strong Caitrin who seeks a job as a scribe on Whistling Tor, home to many mysteries. Instead of Beast, a truly horrific character, we have Anluan, a crippled and unhappy man who is oh-so-very-human. Instead of talking candles, clocks, and teapots, we have a motley crew of enigmatic spirits. And, most importantly perhaps, instead of a curse to correct the vanities of a foolish young prince, we have an age-old burden of evil and terror which is a curse like no other. While there are many similarities between the two tales, Marillier's takes on a life of its own quite often and the true linkage between these two fables is their combined theme of hope.

Caitrin is a heroine I love. On the surface, she seems to be perfect: kind, gentle, fierce, and brave. Yet, as the novel progresses, we are able to slowly peel back the many layers to Caitrin's personality, revealing her insecurities, vulnerabilities, and flaws every bit as egregious as Anluan's. When we first meet Anluan - bitter, angry, and stubborn - it's hard to warm up to him, but before long, he becomes a love interest every bit as swoon-worthy as the next. Although Heart's Blood is, at its core, a novel about hope, it is also a romance and the slow, subtle, and skillfull manner in which Marillier brings together these two flawed beings is utter perfection. It will make you sigh with contentment for theirs is an epic tale that will worm its way firmly into your heart.

In all honesty, there isn't very much more to say about Heart's Blood. Its realistic characters came alive for me, its intriguing setting grabbed me in from the first page, and the lore that this book is filled with is every bit as interesting as the fable it's based upon. If there are any faults to be found, they lie with the middle of the novel which became far too cheesy for my liking. Caitrin is the driving force behind Anluan's character change and much of that stems from the hope she gives him, but at times, this could borderline on preachy and become increasingly repetitive. Furthermore, the villain in this novel is rather obvious, but the multiple layers to the villain's evil nature will keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing until the end.

Heart's Blood is, in so many ways, a perfect novel. Wonderfully flawed characters, atmospheric setting, and a romance that will make you crave for something that real yourself, it is a fairytale you won't want to leave. It has made me a die-hard Marillier fan and I will be rushing out to get my hands on all her other novels at once - this type of writing is just too good to wait for. It demands to be read, savored, and cherished like no other.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for A.G. Howard.
Author 19 books8,709 followers
April 4, 2018
Another wonderful fantasy by one of my favorite authors! Loved the Beauty and the Beast elements, however subtle they were. My favorite retellings are the ones where the author makes the story completely and uniquely their own, just adding creative nods to the original here and there. Ms Marillier has perfected this technique. <3
Profile Image for Justine.
1,134 reviews309 followers
August 25, 2017
One of the things I love most about reading a book by Juliet Marillier is that I know going in I'm guaranteed a satisfying experience. Heart's Blood absolutely delivers on that count.

This book is in many ways standard Marillier fare: excellent prose; varied and multilayered characters; familiar yet intriguing magic; an exploration of the themes of friendship, family, and loyalty; and, of course, a slow burn romance. But standard for Marillier is also the mark of excellence, and however many times she brings it to bear, it is never tiresome to read, and never fails to remind me that authors like her are what keep me reading.
Profile Image for Sophia.
2,022 reviews185 followers
October 25, 2021
Firstly, my thanks to Anne for bringing this book to my attention!

Actual rating 4.8 stars.
I love Beauty and the Beast, it was one of my favourite Disney movies growing up.
I also love retellings of fairy tales so when I read her review, I felt like I HAD to read it.

The first chapter is slow. But I was reeled in soon after.

I love how the connections to B&B are subtle (besides the fact the main guy is ‘deformed’) but if you’re looking, they are there.

This book held two firsts for me; 1-listening to an audiobook version of a story I had never read before and 2-reading an Irish narrated book.

I also bought the Kindle version and am very glad that I went with listening to it because I wouldn’t have had a clue as to how to pronounce those Irish names!

I love how real the characters felt and what they’ve gone through.
There was a great balance of supernatural and real world issues.

My favourite part of any book are the relationships and this did not disappoint!
So many diverse friendships and familial bonds that felt natural.

Ruth Urquhart is a fabulous narrator. She had me enthralled from the first few words.
I only wish that there were more pauses within the text. The story could jump a few days or a week within a breath. It wasn’t confusing, I just felt like pauses would make it more pleasant to the ears.
Profile Image for Kaila.
737 reviews13 followers
January 9, 2018
4.5/5 stars

“Even in that time of utter darkness, somewhere deep inside me the memory of love and goodness had stayed alive.”

This was a fantastic book, but I wasn't expecting anything less from this author. Anyone who knows me knows that I love all things Beauty and the Beast related. So, I was beyond excited when I found one of my favourite authors has written a retelling of my favourite gothic tale. This is by far the best Beauty and the Beast retelling as it took this old story and transformed it into something new and unique. This book was full of dark secrets, mystery, romance, hope and friendship. The cast of characters had this amazing chemistry together, and I loved each of them for a different reason. Once again, like with all of Juliet Marillier's books, it was phenomenally written and absolutely captivating. I loved this book, even if it wasn't as good as Daughter of the Forest.

Like always, I am at a loss for words when trying to describe a Juliet Marillier book. It was very complex and unique, unlike any Beauty and the Beast retelling that I've read before. I'm going to try and simplify the synopsis, but just trust me when I say, it is better than anything that I can describe or write about.

Caitrin has been an orphan ever since her father died, and has been forced to live with extended family that have taken advantage of her situation, she has finally gathered the courage to run away and her money seems to take her as far as Whistling Tor. This town is unlike any that Caitrin has visited before, full of whispers, mystery and superstition. The people of the town whisper most about the old fortress above the hill, and the crippled chieftain that lives within it. Anluan, the chieftain, is spoken of horribly throughout Tor, as his family has been cursed for generations. But this crumbling fortress becomes a sort of safe haven for Caitrin, as she works as a scribe for the mysterious chieftain. Despite the warnings that people gave her and the quick temper of Anluan, Caitrin tries her best to think compassionately about this strange place, and the even stranger people who live there.

"You are...you're like a beating heart. A glowing lamp. I've never met anyone like you before."

Juliet Marillier has taken a classic love story and really flipped it on its head. I don't know how many times I can say how unique this book is compared to other retellings, so just believe me already. This story constantly surprised me and took the plot in directions that I never would have imagined. I was in awe by the imaginative beauty of this book and the flawless storytelling that intertwined an original story with one of my favourite classics. No, there is no beast in this book but there is a crippled man who sees himself as a monster. No, the fortress' library is not the most grand you've ever seen, but it is enough for the young scribe Caitrin. No, there are no dancing and singing furniture, but you should definitely beware of the mirrors that seem to tell tales of a different time. As you can see, Heart's Blood uses the original classic as a mere guideline as the author transports you through a breathtaking, whimsical and mysterious tale.


The characters in this book were deeply intriguing. Whistling Tor was a very strange place, and with it came some strange people, but I loved them all. Every character was three-dimensional and complex. Each chapter we learnt more about this cast of characters, as their personalities were slowly revealed to us. This book had a big focus on a person's history and the idea of redemption, which played a part in the intricacies of many of these characters. They were not perfect, and the author acknowledged this. In particular, I adored Caitrin. She was such a strong heroine, but in the less conventional ways. She was hopeful, kind, intelligent and curious. She wasn't perfect though, instead her vulnerabilities and flaws just made her more loveable. She was just such a real heroine and someone that I could strongly connect to.

The setting of this novel was definitely one of my favourite aspects. It was just so atmospheric, and contributed to every part of the story. I was immediately drawn in by the mysterious nature of Whistling Tor, which never fully revealed itself to me. It was this constant source of intrigue in the storyline the setting was dynamic, and seemed to change along with the characters. Marillier wrote the setting to be rich in history, personality and mystery; much like the characters in the story. I especially loved the setting because it brought a very gothic undertone to the story. This gothic nature of the book really ties this retelling to the original story.

“This had been real: real in its flaws and uncertainties, real in its small triumphs, real in its compromises and understanding.”

I think in every review I've written about a Juliet Marillier book, I've gushed about her beautiful writing style. She is definitely one of my favourite authors, and I've only read four of her books so far. She has such a talent for storytelling and poetic, gorgeous writing. Every word she writes is purposeful, and I gobble them up like an addict!

Even though I loved this book, I didn't enjoy it as much as Daughter of the Forest. Part of this may be because I read it on a midnight flight and I was super tired. Other than that, I don't really know what is making me give this a four star rating rather than a five. I do think it was a little slow at the start, but other than that, it's just an overall unexplainable feeling I have. Perhaps it's just because I loved her other books so much that I had unbelievably high expectations for this one.

I also loved the romance in this novel. Of course, it is a retelling of an old romantic tale, of the romance played a large role in the story. Anluan and Caitlin's relationship was a quietly powerful presence in the book. It was not an in-your-face kind of love, but it subtly took root and began to grow and intertwine with the branches of the story. I felt the connection very deeply as their relationship seemed pure, mature and based on a strong friendship. So basically, it's safe to say that I loved the relationship and both of our main characters.

“He was sitting not far away, watching me, and I surprised a smile on his face, the first real smile I had ever seen him give, a smile that curved and softened the tight mouth, and warmed the ice-cool eyes; a smile that brought the blood to my face and made my heart turn over.”
Profile Image for Elena .
53 reviews222 followers
July 13, 2020
DNF at 53%.

A well-intentioned but dreadfully boring story. I suspect Juliet Marillier and I are just not meant to be, which is truly tragic as there aren't that many authors around capable of writing both fascinating fantasy worlds and strong romantic narratives, a type of story I can't get enough of. But her heroines always have the mark of the Beast Mary Sue, and that's one of the biggest bookish turn off for me. Also, while I don't particularly mind lengthy descriptions, the 250+ pages I've read alone are in dire need of a good trimming down, if nothing else because hitting your readers over their heads with fairly simple concepts and info about the worldbuilding isn't particularly flattering and they might suspect, like I did, that the author believes them to be a bunch of idiots.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,330 reviews29 followers
July 4, 2017
3.5 stars. Despite some pacing problems, Marillier spins a captivating yarn in Heart's Blood, set in Ireland in the 12th Century, when Anglo-Normans invaded. Content includes one sex scene (not graphic, this is YA), dark sorcery, mutilation, battery, murder, etc.

Some say this is similar to Beauty and the Beast, but the supposed "Beast" (Lord Anluan) is not all that ugly. Nor is "Beauty" forced to live with him. She arrives voluntarily, seeking a job and safe refuge. The similarity rests in the fact that Whistling Tor is under a curse. Rather nicely done, too, the various manifestations of the dark enchantment.

Heart's Blood is told in first person through Caitrin's POV, an 18-year-old orphan. Like her father, Caitrin is a scribe, able to read and write Latin and Irish. With dear papa now dead, she's on the run from greedy and abusive kinfolk. Her courage has taken a severe beating along with her shapely "whore's body" when that desperate flight from the village of Market Cross culminates at the very threshold of Whistling Tor, a cursed place:
My vow to be brave made me straighten up and face the fortification. Four or five men stood on the other side, their faces uniformly ash-white, their weapons at the ready: a pitchfork, a scythe, an iron bar, a club with spikes. ‘Away with you, scum!’ yelled one, and another added, ‘Go back where you belong, into the pit of hell!’

We go from there, into the fantastical, with magical mirrors, the dark arts, an undead horse, a humongous hound, and hundreds of manifestations -- a "host" of spirits in limbo, forced to serve the Chieftain, Lord Anluan.

Caitrin, kind at heart, takes pity on the restless phantasms and works against the clock to translate old Latin notebooks, seeking a way to break the curse and free the host.

Meanwhile, she gradually falls in love with Anluan, helping this 25-year-old chieftain overcome apathy, even despair. He's not a man of optimism. Since birth, life has been hard, with beloved parents dying in tragic circumstances, childhood palsy weakening his muscles and disfiguring his face, and every day, the constant need to control his vile inheritance: Keeping peace within his army of ghouls is mentally exhausting.

Caitrin -- hands down the main protagonist -- also forms wonderful friendships with his loyal retainers (Mangus, Olcan and Fianchu, Rioghan, Eichri) and some other characters, like Tomas, Orna, Gearrog, Cathair, and the little girl. (I enjoyed these secondary characters).

No spoilers, but some parts are quite gripping. I enjoyed it. I cannot decide if I liked it more than Daughter of the Forest or not. Nah.


1) From the beginning I determined the identity of the villain. It's very obvious, so no suspense, except wondering when our heroine will figure it out. (And no way would it take Caitrin that long to get a clue.)

2) The pacing drags a little at times. I thought about skimming ahead.

3) I did not feel drawn deeply into the relationship between Caitrin and Anluan. They didn't talk all that much.

4) The theme is HOPE. Don't give up hope. Dare to hope. Hope when all seems lost. I repeat myself? So does the author. (It gets tiresome, actually.)

PS. Another theme is COURAGE. Find enough courage to take the next small step. This message is clear, too, but not overdone.
Profile Image for Mimi.
694 reviews191 followers
March 9, 2017
Closer to 4 stars but I'm rounding up because the writing is so lovely and earthy and dreamy, and the atmosphere is just perfect for this time of year when leaves and weather are starting to turn.

Will have to own this one in hardcover. And reread it until winter sets in.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books703 followers
March 12, 2020
Okay, listen. Not everything has to be insta-classic, you know? Even my bitter heart sometimes just wants the nice people to put their faces together until babies pop out (I'm from an abstinence-only county, so I think this is how it works) and this is it. Juliet gets the parts of the romance that are heart-warming, without really focusing overly on the sex, which is nice. After the testosterone-filled book I just finished, the estrogen-filled one is a nice counterpoint.


Things to love:

-It's so sweet. Like the movie "Ghost," but with illuminated script instead of pottery.

-The premise. Ooo a good Irish ghost story!

-Happy ever after. It's not that deep, just let it be happy.

-What a girl wants/needs. What I love most about Juliet's romances is that they're soooo actually unromantic for the most part. It's full of big strong men who dote on the little lady and who tell her she's beautiful even if she's not [insert whatever beauty means in the heroine's eyes] and they just love love love strong women who win their hearts and sway their minds and teach them peace. Yeah! Yeah! Love your strong women, male characters! Be in awe, but also, like, be totally cool to call down fire and brimstone on people who would harm them, because who doesn't like to think about strong arms and sly smiles or whatever?


-The right way to transcribe books. What The Twisted Ones did wrong, this gets right. Horror, magic, despair--just great.

-The end. It's just such a pretty bow!

Things that were not top shelf:

-The mystery. Lol. What do you like about Juliet's books you ask me? Strong heroines. The mythology. Historical fiction. You will notice that absent on that list is her ability to tell a mystery. She just can't do it, gods love her. It's not about the mystery, even if it is a mystery, okay? It's about the hair tumbling from somewhere to someplace else, and the love shining in eyes the color of [some primal thing that everybody admires.]

-It is what it is. This is every "shy girl becomes queen" story. It is what it is. It's not more than that.

-A bit blunt. What I love about her first series is the slow burn, and the believable path to something wonderful. We wipe all that off the table here.

3.5 stars rounded up because the world is a cesspool and I'm glad to find some magic in it, even if it's smoochy magic.

Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,626 reviews127 followers
September 28, 2019
This was a rich, complex reading experience. If reading were a fabric, this would have been yards and yards of soft velvet, all colours, folded and scrunched, smooth ans sleek.

On the run from a nightmarish family situation Caitrin is desperately hoping to find a place where she can make her way as a scribe, her father trained her up to be one of the best and it is all she knows. It is a precarious chance though, because women scribes are not acknowledged in this patriarchal society of.... Ah yes, what exactly is this society? The social structure seems to be that of Ireland, 9th century-ish, to my untutored eyes, but the Normans are invading, so that would be more 13th? Anyway, it is a romatiscised historical Ireland, only with magic, curses and wraiths added in to the mix. Lovely world building, done with a gentle yet deft touch, we don't need to know too much about it for the story to work and we are given no more than we need.

In her head long flight from her past, (no spoilers, the slow reveal within the pages is perfect) Caitrin has just reached the end of her funds. The cart she was traveling on put her down on a deserted, darkening road and she has few choices as to where to look for shelter. The isolated village of Whistling Tor takes her in for the night, the next day she finds that the chieftain on the hill needs a scribe and against all warnings goes for it.

The household is irregular and eerie, the job fascinating and overwhelming, the Lord, Anluan occupies more and more of Caitrin's attention as through her reading and transcribing she learns more and more about the curse that lies of his household, and the wraiths which swarm the hill.

This book absolutely exceeded expectation, and I had pretty high expectations. The writing is beautiful, one feels like time is suspended while you are reading it, so successfully does it pull you into the story, the outside world receding while you read. Caitlin is a part of that, but while she is the central character and the main focus of the story, a believable, likable, well written young woman she does not need to carry the story alone. The actual plot is subtle with hidden depths, it unravels slowly and as it undulates its way through the 400 odd pages, charming you as you go.

While this book is described as being 'inspired' by beauty and the beast, I am not sure I would have picked up on that if the cover had not told me. There are many elements that fit, of course; the characters, plot, world building, these all are very much 'fairy tale' motifs. Lorn Anluan, under a strange curse, with irregular house staff and a library full of secrets... yes, I can see that similarity. The magical reading experience with its lush feel, even in the bleak bits - that is very much what one expects from a fairy tale.

However, I think it is much more a 'modern' fairy tale than a re-telling of beauty on the beast because all the distinct plot elements that are present in that fairy tail are modified and more complicated in Heart;s Blood. A fair tail has to be basic, almost to a instinctive level and this novel is too rich to be stereotypical. The lord does not take Caitrin captive, he offers her a paid contract. He never did anything to be cursed for and his physical appearance is due to a childhood incident. Caitrin solves the curse, but not by anything a wimpy as a kiss, rather through research, guts, perseverance and intelligence.

There was a lot to enjoy about the book while reading it, because while it was a slow reveal with lots of small events leading toward the conclusion, there was a lot to think over while one was not reading. Thoroughly recommend reading this lovely story.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,264 reviews222 followers
August 26, 2017
Caitrin, a young woman who trained with her father as a scribe, has come to Whistling Tor fleeing kinsman who have abused her. The Tor is a supernatural place peopled by uncanny forces and their strange chieftain Anluan. But Caitrin is far less scared of revenants, gigantic dogs and walking scarecrows than she is of who pursues her, so the Tor becomes a much needed home. Anluan is in need of a scribe for the summer so the arrangement works for both parties, but Caitrin quickly becomes fascinated by the people of Whistling Tor, its mysteries and its lord.

I've seen this referred to as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and there's certainly an element of that, but most of the key markers of that tale are absent here. Caitrin has come to the Tor looking for a refuge and a position; she wants to be there and at no point in the story does she want to leave. Anluan's "beastly" elements are a result of illness and depression: there's no physical transformation here. There is however a curse affecting the Tor and its people so that element does come through, and Caitrin's nature is that of a transforming beauty as well.

In other respects, I found this is very similar to this author's Blackthorn and Grimm books with a supernatural mystery in an almost-historical ancient Ireland with an absolute loving attention to detail and atmosphere. Maybe not quite as polished as the later books, but still excellent.
Profile Image for Elena.
124 reviews990 followers
January 3, 2020

Otra de las autoras que nunca suele defraudarme es Juliet Marillier. La pausada prosa, con deliciosas descripciones y personajes cuidados y reposados siempre me evoca al tipo de lectura para leer en una cabaña rodeada de bosque con el fuego encendido y crepitando y una bebida caliente. Son historias reconfortantes, donde muchas veces no hay grandes dosis de acción pero se nos enseña que no se necesita esgrimir una espada para mostrar fortaleza.
Esta historia es un retelling de la Bella y la Bestia, aunque Marillier se lo lleva al 100% a su terreno. El lore de las hierbas, seres fantásticos de la mitología pagana, la convivencia con el cristianismo en la Irlanda medieval que ya vimos en Sieteaguas vuelve a estar presente aquí.
Tengo que decir que en esta ocasión me han encandilado muchísimo más los personajes secundarios que los protagonistas. No hay mucho que se pueda decir sin destripar la historia, aunque si concéis la historia de la Bella y la Bestia más o menos ya sabéis qué podéis encontrar: maldiciones, personajes atormentados y una joven que llega para cambiarlo todo.
Como siempre, una delicia que además es autoconclusiva, por lo que si estáis indecisos para empezar con la autora, este podría ser un buen punto de partida.
Profile Image for Kay.
197 reviews363 followers
August 22, 2012
This was a lovely book. Juliet Marillier, how do you do it? How do you write about such beautifully scarred individuals learning to find courage, play my heart strings like a harp, and create such a unique, sincere rendition without unnecessary melodrama and violence?

This is quite possibly one of the best renditions of Beauty and the Beast I've read or seen (though the Disney version holds a special place in my heart, yes, even with the talking silverware).

I think the core element of Beauty and the Beast is about love between two individuals, a love that overcomes emotional differences and physical appearance. It's about trust, sacrifice, and devotion. Heart's Blood has this in spades, and more. What I loved about this rendition is that Anluan [the Beast] was not the only one who was terribly scarred--Caitrin [the Beauty] was as well. I really enjoyed reading about how the two overcame their fears by borrowing courage from one another, and coming to terms with the horrors of their past.

The atmospheric quality of this novel was very unique to other Marillier books I've read. Set in a crumbling castle haunted by ghosts and a suspcious housekeeper that reminded me of Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca, the book has a decidedly gothic feel, in all its creepiness and black-veiled romance. All of the elements of the original fairy tale were also there, from the flowers, the curse, the enchanted mirrors--though with a decidedly Marillieresque twist.

The only issue I had that prevented the fifth star was that the antagonist was immediately apparent, and at times it frustrated me that no one else saw this coming from a mile away.

But still, the point of this novel wasn't to find the culprit (well, maybe just a little). This novel is worth reading for its beautiful romance and its lightening messages of finding hope through courage.

Profile Image for Karith Amel.
560 reviews22 followers
March 23, 2022
There are things I enjoyed about this book. The general idea was intriguing, and with deft treatment could have been powerful. However, Marillier shows none of her old inclination to apply herself to the painstaking creation of subtle characters, eloquent dialogue, or moments heavy with meaning. Where did the magic of Daughter of the Forest go, where each word sung of stories beyond itself, and every silence was heavy with things unsaid?

The chemistry between the two main characters was non-existent; their love a thing of hasty craftsmanship, that we must accept because we're told it's true, rather than seeing and feeling it for ourselves. The dialogue, besides being preachy and empty, was often completely disconnected and impossible to follow. Whatever the thought process of the characters that led them to such disconnected statements, they were not communicated to the reader. I begin to wonder if one of the reasons Daughter of the Forest is so profound is that Sorcha speaks so little. She watches, and she listens, and the silence must speak for her.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,712 reviews404 followers
December 8, 2016
3.5 stars for this fairly good Beauty and the Beast historical fantasy retelling.

I'd like to link to Alienor's review instead of writing mine, because we're surprisingly so in agreement over the positive and negative points of this novel that it feels like I'd just be merely repeating her words.
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews181 followers
March 24, 2019
Meh. This was, for the most part, fine, but I did have a lot of problems with it. It started out well, being very readable and engaging and even a little spooky, with a Classic Fantasy vibe, but I think the issues I had with this overshadowed what was good about it.

I'll start with what this book does well, and that is, it's one of the better Beauty and the Beast retellings I've come across. It takes the essential elements of the story, puts them in medieval Ireland, and works in a pretty intriguing curse intertwined with a fascinating family history. It also does a really great job portraying domestic abuse and disability, two things that I rarely read about. The heroine, Caitrin, escapes an abusive relationship, and the hero, the Beast character, isn't magically healed of his disability (which has nothing to do with the curse anyway), but rather learns that he can live a full life with it. All this was great.

What I had issues with: pacing, plot, characterization, and dialogue.

Pacing & Plot: This book is SLOW. I think that's Marillier's trademark? The story wasn't always boring but it certainly dragged at many parts, and it was far, far too long for the minimal amount of plot included. There's way too much pointless musing and repetition and just...spending way too many pages on something that could have been explained in a sentence. Plus I was, frankly, way more interested in the flashbacks than the actual present plotline.

Characterization: These characters felt like cardboard cutouts. And they were all so painfully simplistic and naive. I just never felt that these were real, adult people. The good characters were all Good and the bad characters were Evil. It's a shame, because the curse is really interesting and had there been a more nuanced portrayal of characters it might have been great. But these characters felt like they belonged in a middle grade book.

Dialogue: The dialogue is so stiff and unrealistic! Nobody says the contrived things these characters say! And there's so much praising of the heroine for being kind, loving, a ray of hope, beautiful, etc, and it's so unnaturally inserted into dialogue that it made me cringe. And, this isn't about dialogue but if falls within the scope of writing: there's so much telling the reader what is going on and what to feel. I don't even usually mind a bit of telling instead of showing, so long as they're balanced, but this book really hits you over the head with the telling.

As for the romance, which is the crux of the book, I guess it was fine? Caitrin is just such a bland character. Like, she seemed like a perfectly boring person to me but everyone was making her out to be the second coming of Christ for some reason, but she was just...a blank slate. The Beast character was interesting at first, portrayed as awkward, temperamental, and self-loathing, but all of that went away with the magical power of Caitrin's love for him. And at some point I just didn't really care about these characters or what was going to happen to them; the stakes never felt high to begin with.

So basically there was nothing egregiously wrong with this, but I definitely don't get why it's so highly rated. Even for its time (2009, which is way more recent than I thought! It reads like a 90s book!), it's passable at best.
Profile Image for Erotic Horizon.
1,740 reviews
December 16, 2009
Every now and again I read a book that is simply perfection – Juliet Marillier – HEART’S BLOOD is one of those books for me. Prior to the release I remember seeing the cover and thought this book will knock my socks off and so said, so done.

The book starts of with Caitrin a young scribe making her way to parts unknown, running away from a greater evil. With only the bare minimum plus the tools of her trade as comfort, she is dropped off late in the evening in the woods near to what is known as Whistling Tor.

Not only is Caitrin cold and frightened but she is determined to move on because what is behind her is far worse than what is in front of her – that is until she comes upon strangers going her way plus a barrier with villagers hurling stones at them.

Caitrin is desperate and holds her own and request lodgings for the night. The villagers are not savages and they offer Caitrin what help they can, but they also warn her of the curse of the Tor and gives her some dire warnings about what goes on in the house up on the hill - the home of the chieftain of the Tor itself.

Within twenty-four hours Caitrin is under the crumbling roof of the house on the hill and there is more there than the villagers feared in residence, and even more than she herself would have imagine even possible.

This crumbling fortress is home to Anluan – the last of his line and the only one who has any control of the malevolent army that is the curse of the Tor. Anluan is the guardian of this curse, a century old and he needs someone to help him sort out what remains of his family history, Caitrin is capable and ready – but Anluan was just not prepared for Caitrin.

As days and night passes and the curse draws it shroud around the Tor, Anluan and Caitrin finds that they need each other – Anluan for the courage that only Caitrin can give him and Caitrin finds everything in Anluan that she admires about a man plus she is determined to do all she can for the century old residents of the Tor. Their life is fated to disaster even before they have had a chance, because no matter how much Caitrin wishes for Anluan to be the man she wishes him to be Anluan has had his entire life and the voices to become set in one mode – defeat; Anluan would rather push Caitrin away before he allows the curse of his family to befall her.

HEART’S BLOOD is everything that I expect a good fantasy to be – the setting is dark, the characters are such that they saw into me and I just can’t look away. The storylines are numerous and many and they all roll and tip over each other vying for dominance, but as all good story tellers does – Ms Marillier reigns then in with descriptive words lengthy scenes and enough mystery to keep me going.

The story revolves around a century old curse that has not only crippled a village but an entire family has fallen foul of its evil arms.

Caitrin comes along searching for her own path to self confidence but finds herself taking an even braver step that not only give to Anluan the one thing he had lost – Hope, but she gives an entire set of people the first ray of sunshine they have ever experience in a century.

Then there is Anluan, the broken man – literally and figuratively. Without even knowing him, I was intrigued by him – he acted like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and in some ways he did. As with men reared in that time – Anluan have high expectation of himself and finds himself wanting, it was a pleasure to watch him see himself through someone else’s eyes and it was like a flower opening - the end product was a force to be reckoned with.

There is most definitely shades of Beauty and the Beast here – but Caitrin’s and Anluan romance is not one that rushes up on them and it was not expected to be so – their love was a calling and it feeds off the changing seasons, the sighing of their hearts, the wish for best and the hope that each will be the best of themselves.

The setting of HEART’S BLOOD is 12th century Ireland and I love everything about that period – the savagery of it, the superstitious-ness of the people, the way they love with their entire being and the fact that life and death are but a whisper and it’s literally survival of the fitness and the craftiest. Marillier describes the period beautifully – I was there, I saw, I felt and I did not want to leave.

This book is a character driven book, with not only the main protags capturing my heart, but life long friends making the journey worthwhile. Then there was the cursed people wanting just the pleasure of sleep and villagers who aptly knew the meaning of sticking with the devil you know than the one who wants to overrun the Tor boundaries.

The storylines were suited to the time, there was no big drama – it was treachery, unfair play, power play and some neat scenes of rolling back the years to give me a look at the past, to see how it stacked up against the present and made me dig deep down for that hope for the future.

If you like books that will stand the test of time, about characters that refuse to die, gothic in it’s feel – dark and malevolent in it’s evil but with a pace that suits the time, creeping, crawling and then in the clear light of day you can’t look away – this is the book for you.

I totally enjoyed this journey and I am hoping this is not the last visit that Ms. Marillier takes me on to Whistling Tor.
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