Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht
Published: Night Shade Books 2011
Series: Book 1 of the Fey and the Fallen

The Book:

“Liam is a child born out of wedlock, whose mother never spoke of his biological father’s identity.  Even aside from the mysteries of his parentage, he has plenty to deal with as a boy growing up in Northern Ireland during the period of The Troubles.  As he grows into a man, he senses something strange deep inside himself—something dark and dangerous. 

What he doesn’t know is that his father is one of the fey, and that his people are locked in a long war that is raging in Ireland alongside the religious and political strife.  The enemies of the fey are also the enemies of a secret branch of the Catholic Church, but that does not necessarily make them allies. Liam’s life and loved ones are endangered by both the natural and the supernatural turmoil that fills his world. ~Allie

Of Blood and Honey, which is up for the Campbell Best New Writer award this year, is my 6th review of the WoGF challenge at World’s Without End (I missed a month. I’ll catch up!).  It’s Stina Leicht’s debut novel, an urban fantasy that takes on the difficult setting of 1970s Northern Ireland.

My Thoughts:

Since Of Blood and Honey features a very recent historical period, it seems especially important that the setting be portrayed respectfully and accurately.  For the most part, I feel like Leicht intended to be respectful of the time period she portrayed, but I don’t have the experience or knowledge to comment on the accuracy. A description by Stina Leicht of the research that went into building the setting of Of Blood and Honey can be found here, as well as a discussion of the subjectivity of personal experiences and how that affects historical accounts, here. A response to the book from the perspective of one Irish man can be found here (beware of series spoilers). 

In terms of the story, Of Blood and Honey moved quickly and was very engaging. Liam’s life seemed to have little breathing space, as it bounced from one catastrophe to the next.  I enjoyed the combination of religious supernatural evil (“the fallen”) and the traditional supernatural elements (the fey) in the story. I enjoyed how Liam’s his fey heritage was incorporated in his character, and how it played a part in shaping who he grew to become. Of course, the non-fey violence of the time also played a large role in his life, and I should warn that this is a book with a fair amount of physical and sexual violence, though I did not think the prose was especially graphic.   

While the story was entertaining, there were a few plot devices that irked me along the way.  For instance, the plot was complicated by the insistence of many characters on not communicating with one another.  As one example, Liam would have had much less pent up anger and confusion if anyone he knew had bothered to let him in on the secret of his heritage.  The aversion to communicating also crept into other situations, such as Liam’s relationship problems with Mary Kate, and Liam’s father’s decision not to keep his family in the loop about potential supernatural dangers. I think the story could have worked just as well without all of this unnecessary evasiveness, and it would have been a sight less frustrating from my point of view as a reader.

Most of the other devices come late in the novel, as the plot begins to verge more towards a traditional kind of superhero story.  Dramatic changes in Liam’s story are motivated by the death and suffering of women he loves, and there is the usual kind of talk about justice and vengeance.  The main villain is not very clearly or convincingly developed, and is seems to be just meant to be “crazy” and evil.  The villain even takes time out to monologue near the end.  I was a little disappointed that a novel with such an interesting premise and beginning moved towards such a familiar conclusion. 

My Rating: 3/5

Of Blood and Honey is an urban fantasy that incorporates supernatural elements of religious evil and the traditional fey in the period of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.  The story is fast-paced and exciting, and Liam and the other characters are engaging.  I felt like the story was more out of the ordinary in the beginning, and I was a bit disappointed that it moved more towards a traditional hero vs. villain story towards the end. The story was still entertaining through the end, even if that end was not as innovative as I might have hoped.

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