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Literature / Heart's Blood

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Medieval Ireland meets "Beauty and the Beast"

Written by Juliet Marillier.

A young woman runs away from her abusive relatives and finds herself in Whistling Tor, a shadowy place filled with secrets and spirits. Caitrin is offered a position as a scribe in the court of the chieftain, Anluan. She quickly discovers that a curse blankets the entire household and that it has brought despair to their leader. Caitrin takes it upon herself to bring hope back into the hearts of the people, and maybe discover a way to break the Tor’s ancient curse. In response, she is challenged by Anluan to face her own fears while helping him with his own.

Even with light finally returning to the household, a voice continues to sow hopelessness among human and spectral alike. To free all who are chained, Caitrin must face her destiny and unravel the curse of Whistling Tor before it claims Anluan, or herself.


This book contains examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: Magnus, mostly for Anluan, although the others look up to him a great deal as well.
  • Beast and Beauty: Anluan’s not exactly hideous looking, but his deformity doesn’t help his self esteem.
    • Caitrin frequently comments on his good looks. The only time she really talks about his deformity is to say that his face is uneven (and the rest of him seems lopsided). She never says that he’s ugly.
  • Because You Can Cope: Irial dies shortly after his wife does, leading Anluan to feel like he was abandoned and Magnus to feel like he could have prevented it.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Anluan sends Caitrin away after she discovers that he cares deeply for her. She later realizes that he’s trying to protect her from the upcoming battle against the Normans.
  • Came Back Wrong: Nechtan's army didn't quite materialize the way he wanted it to.
  • Character Filibuster: Caitrin's speeches about hope.
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  • Cunning Linguist: Caitrin is initially hired because she can read and write. Then she becomes the translator for Anluan and the Normans because Latin is their common language. Later, she uses this same Latin knowledge to translate the counter spell needed to free Anluan’s army.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Anluan’s family history, all the way back to his great-grandfather Nechtan.
    • Caitrin’s isn’t exactly bright and cheery either. Her father’s dead, her sister married and left her, and a distant relative took over the house and allowed her son to beat Caitrin when he felt like it.
    • The members of the host are all souls from Purgatory. Some of them seem to have particularly violent pasts.
  • Domestic Abuse: Cillian likes his women covered in bruises.
  • Doomed Defeatist: Anluan. His response to every threat is to throw his hands in the air and admit defeat.
  • Evil Orphan: Bad things seem to happen every time the ghost girl is left alone.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Nechtan, Anluan’s great-grandfather, was responsible for summoning the spirit army.
  • Find the Cure!: After Anluan is poisoned, she must find the antidote and brew it without knowing what kind of poison it is or where the antidote is written, all in less than an hour.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Muirne/Aislinn went from aide to apprentice to antagonist in a very short span of time. Her greatest achievement was pulling the latter off without anyone knowing it.
  • Good Flaws, Bad Flaws: Anluan’s temper scares Caitrin at first. As she gets to know him, she sees his temper as proof that he’s not only qualified to lead people, but that he also genuinely cares about them and is afraid of failing in their eyes.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Not really one book, but Aislinn’s book and Irial’s botanical collection together include all the information relevant to the plot.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It doesn’t take much to set Anluan off.
  • Impossible Task: Anluan must get rid of the host, conjured by a spell he can’t find, with a counter spell that was seemingly never discovered.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Muirne. She’s rude and cold to everyone in the house. When she does choose to help out, it’s either because her bond to Anluan mandates it or she has a devious agenda.
  • Last of His Kind: Olcan.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Pretty much every major death in Whistling Tor is made to look like an accident by Muirne. She would have gotten away with it if she hadn't tried to fire trick twice.
  • Magic Mirror: Whistling Tor is filled with them. Some of them talk, some show the history of events on the Tor, and one even shows the viewer what the past might have looked like. Caitrin discovers one that, if she holds a document in one hand, shows the contents of the parchment with images.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: The majority of Caitrin’s helpers are from the host.
  • Odd Friendship: Rioghan and Eichri, councilor and priest, are constantly insulting each other and betting against each other. They fail at concealing their ghostly Heterosexual Life-Partner status.
  • Opposites Attract: Caitrin and Anluan, on the surface anyway.
    • Magnus and Maraid could also fall into this trope.
  • Parental Abandonment: Anluan’s father, Irial, committed suicide when his son was just a child to escape the pain of losing his wife. Caitrin later discovers that Irial was actually poisoned by Muirne when he decided to stop mourning and start raising Anluan.
  • Poisonous Friend: Muirne’s presence doesn’t do much to lift Anluan’s spirits. She later reveals that there’s a reason for that.
  • Prodigal Family: Caitrin runs away from Market Cross to escape her abusive family.
  • Rebellious Rebel: Muirne makes quite a few arguments against defending her home.
  • Summoning Ritual: The cause of all the hoopla on Whistling Tor in the first place.
  • Talking to the Dead: Since quite a few of Whistling Tor's inhabitants are spectral, it's kind of hard to avoid this.
  • The Nothing After Death: How the host describes the afterlife. Eichri even says that he fears boredom on this plane more than the fires of Hell.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Anluan, to Caitrin anyway.
  • Withholding the Cure: Muirne/Aislinn hides both the counter spell and the cure for Anluan’s poison in the workroom just to spite the household.
    • Well, Aislinn did curse everyone after Nechtan used her. It was probably more of a precaution to make sure the curse was carried out.
    • She could have avoided any trouble by not writing everything down. People can’t find it if it’s not there.


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