Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Of Blood and Honey

Of Blood and Honey is one of those books that made the rounds on various blogs and got plenty of high praise.  When so many trusted sources say so many nice things, I'd be a fool not to put it on my radar as a must read.

Of Blood and Honey is an urban fantasy set in Ireland during The Troubles, (I had to google it), and follows Liam Kelly, a young man who has grown up during tough times not knowing who his father was.  Since his mother wont speak of the man, Liam has always assumed himself to be the bastard son of a long-dead Protestant.  However as tensions in this ethno-political conflict heat up, Liam is unwillingly and unwittingly pulled into greater, supernatural struggles that seem to mirror the ethnic-political divisions.

This supernatural struggle is one that is centuries old, and pits a secret order of the Catholic Church against the Fallen, powerful beings cast out from heaven. Liam finds himself stuck in the middle of both struggles, all while trying to figure out his past, protect his family, and live his life.

Of Blood and Honey is an impressive debut novel.  Leicht was able to draw me in with interesting characters and hints at mysteries and plot elements that I wanted to read on to discover more about.  Though  there are plenty of supernatural and horror elements to be found in this book, everything from faeries, to shapeshifters, and some Celtic Mythology,  I found that those seem to take on a secondary role in the narrative. The characters, particularly Liam, and the political events of the story take the lead.

There's no doubt that this is a character driven tale, and thankfully, the characters are well written and interesting to read about.  Liam is an engaging lead character from the get-go.  I found that I could relate to him, and could sympathize with his personal beliefs, his anger that simmered just below the surface, and his desire to make a good life for his loved ones.  The odds in life have been stacked pretty high against him, but Liam is one of those people who has chosen to work hard as hell as a means of evening out the odds.  Any time an author can get me to fret over a character's decisions, and actions like I did in Of Blood and Honey, I know they have successfully created a solid character. That is certainly what Leicht has done here.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are some seemingly cool supernatural elements included in this book, but I wasn't totally in love with how they all played into the story.  I think the fantastical elements added an interesting layer to the story, but the execution in how they played a part wasn't the best.  There was little to no explanation as to how these powers work, what each side is striving for, or what Liam's role in the whole ordeal is.

Now, considering that this is a fantasy novel, that might seem like a pretty big short coming, but truthfully, in the end, it didn't bother me too much.  Leicht has woven plenty of drama into this story, and such interesting character developments that the lack of execution on the fantasy front wasn't a total deal breaker. Not even close.  Of Blood and Honey is one of the more compelling novels I read in some time and though the execution of fantasy elements wasn't great, the makings for a tale that weaves real life political drama and intriguing fantasy elements is there.  Leicht already has another novel, And Blue Skies From Pain, set in this world, so my hopes are that these kinks get ironed out as the tale progresses.

Overall, I was quite pleased with Of Blood and Honey.  I loved that it was set during such a dynamic time period and that real life events played into the fantastical events of the novel.  Leicht has many strengths as a writer, but her ability to create compelling characters engage me, and that messed with my emotions is a skill that should provide her with a long and hopefully lucrative career in writing.  I'm often wary of beginning new series by debut authors, but I'm eager to move onward with Leicht's The Fey and the Fallen series.

In a genre that too often feels like it is filled with stale ideas, Leicht has provided a novel that is fresh and full of cool ideas, which I am thankful for.  This one isn't completely without flaws, but what debut novel is? However, I was still quite impressed.  If you can't tell by now, I recommend this one.

Grade: B

No comments: