Rawblood - Catriona Ward

Genre: Gothic Horror
Synopsis: In 1910, eleven year old Iris Villarca lives with her father at Rawblood, a lonely house on Dartmoor. Iris and her father are the last of their name. The Villarcas always die young, bloodily. Iris knows it’s because of a congenital disease which means she must be strictly isolated. Papa told her so. Forbidden to speak to other children or the servants, denied her one friend, Iris grows up in solitude. But she reads books. And one sunlit autumn day, beside her mother’s grave, she forces the truth from her father. The disease is biologically impossible. A lie, to cover a darker secret. The Villarcas are haunted, through the generations, by her. She is white, skeletal, covered with scars. Her origins are a mystery but her purpose is clear. When a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child – she comes and death follows.


Review:  I really wanted to love this book. I did, for about two thirds of it - it was a four, teetering on a five depending on the ending, and I was all set to rave about a fantastic Victorian/Gothic ghost story. I wasn't crazy about Iris as a character, but I did like her friend, her father, and her father's friend. I can't remember their names, I'm so sorry. Once it started jumping approx. 20 years into the past, to the medical experimentation of Iris's father and friend CHARLES that's it, I was absolutely riveted. The writing - as in the actual use of words, not the pacing - is genuinely great, despite the issues you'll read below.

Unfortunately, even though I wasn't at all crazy about the ending, the pacing of the final third just became tedious. The original synopsis on Goodreads, shortened above by me, exemplifies the convolution of the novel. The writing remained good, but I found myself flicking ahead to see how long each section was. Around that point, characters mentioned earlier are finally explored in detail, and one new character was added in towards the end simply for perspective. While those characters weren't uninteresting, it was all just too unwieldy to be satisfactory. I think my mood about the book had been tainted somewhat, so I wasn't as ready to accept the unusual ending as I might otherwise have been. Originally, I really didn't like it at all, though in retrospect I guess it was pretty okay.

I feel like this book might actually work better on re-read, knowing what to expect and knowing the pacing in advance. I may read it again sometime, and it may go up to four stars then. But for now, I just liked it. Fabulous writing though, really.

Rating: 3/5

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