From an early age, Zeraphina has always known she’s different, the most visible differences being her dark hair and light colored eyes that contrast sharply with the fair coloring of her mother and sister. But even more disconcerting is her craving for blood and the strange visions of a land she’s never visited, both of which fill her with longing and cause her physical pain. She struggles to hide her horrifying urges, suffering her terrifying, painful secret alone.
Their kingdom on the brink of financial ruin, Zeraphina’s mother, Queen Renata of Amentia, promises Zeraphina’s elder sister, Lilith, in marriage to Prince Amis of Pergamia — the kingdom to the north that borders the sea. Expected to accompany her sister northward for the finalization of the agreements and the resulting marriage ceremony, Zeraphina finds that the monstrous, unidentifiable side of her is thrilled at the prospect of journeying north. In the hope of finding answers to the strange affliction that plagues her, she decides to do some research of her own before they depart for the wedding. Locating an old map in her family’s library, she is surprised to discover that there is indeed a country even further north than Pergamia — a country across the sea called Lharmell — of which she finds no other record save for the map and a vague, off-hand statement that claims Pergamia is at war with the Lharmellins. Driven by a force she doesn’t understand, Zeraphina determines she must find out more about this mysterious Lharmell in the one place that must be well-informed on the subject – Prince Amis’s court.
However upon arriving in the northern kingdom, she finds that information on Lharmell is hard to come by, people are reticent to talk about it, and her inquiries only succeed in arousing the suspicions of the king’s advisor, the handsome Rodden Lothskorn — a man whom Zeraphina suspects knows more about her condition than he’s willing to reveal. As the blood lust and the compulsions grow stronger and as her sister’s wedding nears, Zeraphina knows she must find her answers and soon.
Zeraphina as the heroine and narrator is fantastic. She is a very real character with very real faults, but one who also has many redeeming qualities. In her search for the truth behind who – and possibly what – she is, Zeraphina is prone to rash, impulsive, insatiably curious behavior. She also tends to make some questionable decisions in the heat of the moment and often displays a quick temper, particularly around Rodden. And I love her for those character traits. They make her interesting and genuine. She’s also extremely brave, thick-skinned, intelligent with a will of iron. Though she does have a good sense of discretion and decorum, she calls things as she sees them. As a narrator, she has a wonderful dry, slightly sarcastic tone that’s just delightful.
It’s interesting to watch Zeraphina come to grips with certain truths about herself throughout the book. She is understandably confused by the things in herself that she doesn’t understand. She is frightened by who and what she might become, and so when it becomes clear to her that Rodden may know something about why she is the way she is, she relentlessly pursues the answers she so desperately needs. However, whether she acts through subterfuge or directly, she finds Rodden, refusing to give any ground in their contest of wills, blocking her way to the truth time and time again. Which of course provides for some interesting relationship development between the two of them.
Rodden. I love Rodden. Though much can be ascertained about his character and integrity through his words, actions and manner, Rodden himself is a mysterious character. Little is known of his back story and personal history, and yet I found that these details – while really wanting to know them – ultimately don’t matter as much as knowing the kind of person he is. Where Zeraphina can be impulsive and a bit reckless, Rodden is more of the calculating, cunning, three-steps-ahead type. He’s pragmatic, suspicious, doesn’t grant trust easily and perhaps is a bit cynical. However, he can also be unexpectedly kind, humorous, and oddly thoughtful which throws Zeraphina for a loop now and again.
If apart they are wonderful characters, then together they are fantastic. As Zeraphina and Rodden repeatedly clash, these encounters – Zeraphina trying to gain ground and Rodden being her ever-present roadblock – quickly became my favorite parts of the book. At twenty-two, Rodden has a bit more life experience and maturity on Zeraphina’s sixteen years, but despite a few missteps Zeraphina displays a determination and presence of mind that gives Rodden a run for his money. They are both pretty equally matched sparring partners and I loved watching their strange relationship grow and evolve throughout the story.
Zeraphina’s world fits well into the realm of the fantastic. While Hart doesn’t go into a lot of extreme detail in the world building of land of Brivora and all its kingdoms, she gives the reader enough information that it feels like a complete universe, and one I hope will be expanded in the next book. I was particularly impressed by the originality and creativity behind Lharmell and its inhabitants. I’m not going to go into detail as it’s more fun for you to discover these things on your own, Dear Reader, but I love what Hart did with the subject of Zeraphina’s investigations and the revelations behind the mystery.
Overall, from the highly addictive tension that Hart weaves between Zeraphina and Rodden to the wonderful originality behind the world and the mystery, Blood Song is a captivating and deliciously dark mix of romance and fantasy.