Friday 18 September 2015

Rawblood by Catriona Ward

Book Review by Greenacre Writer, Carol Sampson

Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC and now lives in London working for a human rights foundation. Rawblood is her first novel and is released on 24th September 2015.

Rawblood is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Iris Villarca is eleven years old and, against her father’s instructions, has one friend – Tom Gilmore. It is 1910 and Iris lives alone with her father at Rawblood, a magnificent mansion on Dartmoor. They are the only two remaining in the Villarca line. Iris is told that a congenital disease, Horror autotoxicus, runs in the family and she is forbidden to have friends of any sort in order to avoid courting the disease. This is just one of the rules laid down by her father.  It is only when Iris grows older and realises her father has lied that she dares to fall in love and the full force of the Villarca curse becomes apparent.

Through the halls of Rawblood she walks. A malevolent and sinister spirit with a disturbing agenda. She will not rest until she has achieved her purpose but what does she want from the Villarcas? Why does she torment all those who get close?

This chilling novel, full of terror and menace, is also infused with all the human emotions of love and devotion, betrayal and hate. It is grim and at the same time poignant. Harrowing yet engaging. The language is poetically descriptive.

“The Villarca blood is dark and strong. The Villarca temper is furious, sublime; full of poetry and madness. We seek the light, ever…but we never find it.”

This Gothic novel, with its supernatural theme, is told from the viewpoint of multiple characters and the past is thread into the nine years through which Iris’ story spans. It moves through various time periods in irregular order, which does require a degree of concentration to follow the timeline.  The voice of each character is unique and Catriona has captured the period and the disposition of each personality through well written narrative.

Although occasionally paragraphs can be difficult to comprehend, the details are beautifully scripted and never over described. The dark themes which are weaved into the story, although sometimes disturbing, serve only to enhance empathy with the characters rather than to shock.

At the beginning of the story, Rawblood is interpreted from the old language to mean “The house by the bridge over flowing water.”- a nice gentle name. It is apparent over time however that the name has a more sinister connotation.

Rawblood is a well plotted ghost story with a twist. Sometimes a challenging read but one worth embracing. It requires full attention to appreciate the intricacies of the plot and anyone who likes a story of the supernatural kind will love this book. Unlike many ghost stories the ending to Rawblood is convincing and does not disappoint.

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