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Bloodspell starts out with a girl in a school, being bullied; not all that different from a lot of these YA Paranormals aimed at teenaged girls. But then it gets strange, when Victoria beats off some bullies by accidentally squishing all their blood out. She goes to another school and starts over, but the strangeness follows her, and she finds out she’s a witch from one of the oldest lines, that her ancestress was one of the most powerful forces for death in a long old war with other supernatural beings, and that a leader of a vampire house has taken notice of her. I’ll admit, when I found out this was another vampire book, my heart fell a little, but I’ll also say that it’s not like Twilight. Tori has a mind of her own, whether that’s good for her or not, and she has her own power in both her relationship and in the plot, and it saves her from being just another damsel in distress who exists only to be rescued by the vampire.

The rest of the book manages to walk a line where it’s enough of Stephanie Meyer to catch the attention of the fans, but enough new to be something other than just another clone. There are segments that veer off almost into Anne Rice territory, where few go any more. There are scenes that are reminiscent of Discovery of Witches, which came out last year and has a fantastic depth of history. There are sections that have an anime feel to them. There is a new and strange take on the whole idea of blood, which is particularly interesting when juxtaposed with the usual vampire opinion of it. And there’s room for expansion. Could there be more books to follow?

Bloodspell isn’t a perfect book. It’s sometimes strangely episodic, and it seems every chapter opens with some variation on ‘two weeks later…’. There are some overused words that jump out after you notice them. And there are a few important conversations and plot points that happen off-screen between chapters and make it a little hard to keep up on occasion, so that the book sometimes feels like it’s a semi-monthly peek into this girl’s life, rather than a constant experience through her, which seems a strange choice. But these are literary offences, and they’re all minor. YA rarely feels the need to be strictly literary. The story itself is compelling and interesting, the descriptions of the locales are beautiful, the teen melodrama mostly manages to stay at the level of actual drama, and the ideas are fresher and newer than most in the genre. Plus, it has a beautiful cover.

As a first book, this is a good start, and as the foundation of a new world that could be explored and expanded upon, it’s a great start. If the witches and vampires are different than the norm, how different are the other supernatural beings? And how much does the history of this world affect the present, when several of the beings can live for centuries? I, for one, am interested in finding out. If you’ve been looking for a YA Paranormal Romance where the romance part knows that it alone can’t carry a story, this one is a good chance to see how it can be when the characters have lives and opinions of their own, despite being in love.

Bloodspell (2011)
Amelie Howard
Langdon Street Press (400 pages)

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