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Book Review: Blood Magic by Matthew Cook

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Blood Magic is Matthew Cook’s debut and I have to admit that for a first book I am more than a little impressed. Once I started reading I found myself unable to put the book down as Kirin’s past and present rushed toward each other in a story that simply demands to be read. Not only does Cook tell a strong story, he gives us a strong convincing female protagonist, something not all male writers can pull off.

Blood Magic is divided into two parts, the chapters alternating between Kirin’s present and past. From her childhood and young adult life ruled by her twin sister to the years she spent as a necromancer and then a scout, her tale is full of pain and suffering. Made strong through the choices she was forced to make she becomes something that even she does not fully understand.

When Kirin’s twin is savagely murdered, Kirin avenges her death. In the process she transforms herself from a green-eyed beauty to a black eyed necromancer with powerful blood magic. Kirin runs from the small town she had called home and lives for years in the wilderness before becoming a scout for the Imperial Army. When the Mor, an army of creatures that have lived for generations under the earth, start to attack human settlements, once again Kirin joins the fight against them.

Along the way Kirin meets Lia Cho, a sorceress able to call lightening from the sky. Lia has left her school in the mountains and is headed for her father in the capital city, knowing that he needs her help. A priest by the name of Ato travels with Lia and knows Kirin for what she is by her black eyes. He tries to warn Lia away, but Lia and Kirin are drawn together. One light and one dark, the characters play off each other perfectly.

While Kirin does come to find love in the form of Lia, this is not your traditional romance. This is the story of Kirin – witch, necromancer, user of dark blood magic and the people who have come into her life, Lia being one of them. Cook also puts a nice spin on the idea of necromancy. Kirin can call souls back to their bodies, but the bodies do not rise whole; instead, what Kirin calls her ‘sweetlings’ are birthed from the cocoon of flesh. Short and made of exposed muscle and tendon, they are lethal warriors she uses to defend herself.

The world is pure fantasy, a medieval-feeling place that lacks all modern technology. There are odd six-legged beasts but other than that it feels like a long lost Earth. I would have liked to know more about the deadly Mor — why are they attacking the humans after so many years? But since Blood Magic is the first in a trilogy (the second book has a working title of Nights of Sin and a release date is set for July of 2008), I’m sure that all will be revealed in time. The characters are solid, Kirin exceptional, and the story is perfectly balanced between the past and the present

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About Katie T. Buglet