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Spells of Blood and Kin: A Dark Fantasy by…
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Spells of Blood and Kin: A Dark Fantasy

by Claire Humphrey

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493362,749 (3.46)None
"In her extraordinary debut, Spells of Blood and Kin, Claire Humphrey deftly weaves her paranormal world with vivid emotional depth and gritty violence. Bringing together themes of death, addiction, and grief, Claire takes readers on a human journey that goes beyond fantasy. When her beloved grandmother dies suddenly, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky is left with no choice but to take over her grandmother's magical position in their small folk community. That includes honoring a debt owed to the dangerous stranger who appears at Lissa's door. Maksim Volkov needs magic to keep his brutal nature leashed, but he's already lost control once: his blood-borne lust for violence infects Nick Kaisaris, a charming slacker out celebrating the end of finals. Now Nick is somewhere else in Toronto, going slowly mad, and Maksim must find him before he hurts more people. Lissa must uncover forbidden secrets and mend family rifts in order to prevent Maksim from hurting more people, including himself. If she fails, Maksim will have no choice but to destroy both himself and Nick"--… (more)

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Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2016/06/14/review-spells-of-blood-and-kin-by-clai...


Spells of Blood and Kin presents a fresh and interesting twist on the paranormal. This is not as dark or gritty as a horror novel, but it is darker and more violent than I expected. It is also not a paranormal book that romanticizes the violent creatures of the world and for me, that honestly was a positive. I found it overall rather unexpected and definitely could not predict the way things would go. Also a positive.

Lissa is a witch whose grandmother (and mentor in all things witch related) just died. She comes across as quite sheltered, having really had little interaction with anyone but her grandmother. I found her character to be a bit naive in some respects, also sweet, kind and found myself interested in her story. She is faced with having to replace her grandmother’s role and services in the community. Most the the magic she performs is based on placing spells on eggs, the recipients use the eggs when they want to release the spell. There is a time constraint on how long the eggs/spells are good and all of them are temporary (tied to the life of the egg they were cast on). But in the course of taking over for her grandmother she also learns about things she never knew about. Particularly related to one Maksim Volkov.

The reader (and Lissa) quickly realize Maksim, who refers to himself as kin, is not typical and that kin does not mean that he is related to her. She knows her grandmother had helped him keep his violent nature under control but does not fully understand what that nature is or what her grandmother may have done to help him. From Maksim’s perspective we get a clearer idea of how he suffers. Honestly, I can’t tell you exactly what Maksim is, but I will say he suffers from an incredible need for violence, even when the rational part of his brain does not want violence. He has one companion like him, and they drink heavily and fight harder. They have the ability to “infect” others, and one more character in the book has his life take a very unpredictable and dark turn after a run in with Maksim. Sort of think of Maksim’s kind as a paranormal berserker Fight Club. With lots of booze and at times little self restraint. But the problem is that Maksim does not want to be like this. He wants to remain in control of himself and is haunted by his past. As bad as Maksim could be, we learn enough about him and his past to really want better for him as well. I could not help but hope he could find some relief in life from this constant battle with his nature.

This book can be unexpectedly dark at times and everything has a cost. This is not a happy, romantic romp in the world of the paranormal, but rather one that highlights the cost and the pains associated with the unnatural. I found the world and magic interesting and the characters intriguing. I will definitely pick up the next installment so I can find out what happens next! Overall, I was certainly impressed with this debut.

( )
  tenaciousreader | Jul 25, 2016 |
Spells of Blood and Kin is a debut novel by Claire Humphrey. Lissa Nevsky just lost her grandmother or Baba (as Lissa called her). Baba was the local koldun’ia (sorcerer) and Lissa is her successor. Lissa has to make the spells (with eggs) for their clients. Maksim knew Baba. Maksim had saved Baba from the Gulag, and, in return, Baba saved him with a spell (one that goes against her teachings/beliefs) which ended when she passed away. Maksim needs Lissa to recreate the spell for him before he gets completely out of control. Maksim has already harmed a person by changing him (he licked Nick Kaisaris). Maksim needs to find Nick before he harms people. Can Lissa find the spell she needs and do it in time to help Maksim? Will Maksim be able to find Nick in time?

This sounded like such a great book, but it turned out to be very boring (I actually started drifting off to sleep a couple of times). You would think with magic it would be an interesting or lively novel. The magic is never fully explained. Why do they need to use eggs for the spells and only during a full moon? What exactly Maksim is (the type of monster as he calls himself) is not fully explained in the novel. We get a little bit, but not a full description. If the author had enlightened the readers (provided details about the characters) it would have improved the story. For the most part the characters are unlikeable. Lissa is just plain boring (and I thought my life was dull). Lissa is uptight, rigid and has no idea how to enjoy life. I thought the writing was awkward/stilted and the pace of the novel was slow. I ended up speed reading through the majority of the book. The ending is just plain odd (makes no sense). The novel is told from the main characters (Lissa, Nick, and Maksim) points-of-view. It goes from one to the next to the next and then starts over. I think it would have helped the story (at least a little bit) if it had just been told in the third person. I’m sorry, but this book was just plain unenjoyable (I dislike saying that about any book, but it is true). I was not taken into this world or engaged in any shape, way, or form. I give Spells of Blood and Kin 1 out of 5 stars. Fair warning that the novel contains violence and alcohol (great quantities of alcohol are consumed by the characters).

I received a complimentary copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review of the novel. I will always provide a forthright evaluation of a book no matter how I obtained a novel. ( )
  Kris_Anderson | Jun 21, 2016 |
Pros: introverted protagonist, man vs himself plot, awkward situational and dry humour, minor romance elements

Cons: I wondered where Maksim got his money

The death of Lissa Nevsky’s grandmother affects her life in numerous ways. She has to take up her duties as a kodun’ia, a Russian witch, and her stepsister, whom she barely knows and who knows nothing of witchcraft, shows up unexpectedly to help out. The death also affects Maksim Volkov, a member of the kin who’s had his violent nature tamed with a spell. When the spell breaks he inadvertently infects a young man with his condition. Now Maksim needs Lissa’s help getting his violent nature back under control. He also needs to find the newly made kin, before he kills someone with his enhanced strength and increasingly violent restlessness.

It’s not common to find books that revolve around people dealing with their own problems, and their consequences - rather than outside physical foes - so I found this book rather refreshing. Similarly, it’s nice to see an urban fantasy novel that doesn’t rely on the female protagonist physically fighting the bad guys. And while there is fighting in the book - it’s mostly mutual, as a way of holding the violence of the kin in check (and done amongst themselves, since they can handle each other’s enhanced abilities).

Lissa is an introvert with minimal social skills. Her stepsister, Stella, is an extrovert who’s more into feminine things. The two clash in a number of ways. I loved Lissa as a character. She has a lot of the same quirks - and therefore problems - that I have. She’s awkward when a guy flirts with her. She’s uncomfortable with attention. She has trouble trusting others and telling them truths she’d rather keep to herself. I found myself laughing out loud a few times, just because I sympathized so much with her situation. Other times I laughed because Stella made pointed observations that were just the right kind of dry for my sense of humour.

Maksim’s got some issues, which makes him interesting, though he doesn’t do much in the book beyond trying to hold his demons at bay. Gus, another kin, has an interesting past and I found her snark fun to read. Nick was a little annoying, but he’s got the excuse that his body is changing without his knowledge, making him edgy and violent and kind of a jerk.

I liked that the kin are portrayed as the truth behind myths of vampires and werewolves. There’s just enough Russian mythology mentioned to whet the appetite, but not enough to quench it. Similarly the magic Lissa performs is interesting to read about, but sounds kind of tedious to perform.

There’s a hint of romance, but it’s a minor point and not between the character’s you’d expect.

I did find myself wondering how Maksim has so much money. Yes, he owns a gym and trains fighters, but he always seems to have ready cash to hand out to Gus. And while I’m sure being a soldier paid something, I’m not sure it accounts for the amount of cash he has in flashback scenes. It’s possible he saves well and his poor living conditions imply that he doesn’t spend much on food, housing or clothing, so maybe it’s a matter of priorities and good budgeting.

Along the same lines, while Lissa works at a printing shop, it’s only mentioned a few times and she seems to have no problem staying up until 3 am and/or sleeping in late a lot. Though, she is in her early 20s, which might account for her ability to go without proper sleep, I was starting to wonder if she was missing shifts.

If you’re looking for an urban fantasy that does some new and interesting things, this is a quick, fun read. ( )
  Strider66 | Jun 7, 2016 |
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