"Written in the Blood" Book Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Published by Mullholland Books
Written by Stephen Lloyd Jones
2015, 496 pages, Fiction
Released on July 1st, 2015
Written in the Blood is the sequel to Stephen Lloyd Jones’ debut novel The String Diaries, and follows a Leah, now all grown up, on her attempt to save her people from extinction. The hozzu eletek can’t make children easily and in a few decades there won’t be enough to sustain a population, so Leah takes it upon herself to find the cast-out criminals of their society to find volunteers. Obviously, the ruling body of the hozzu eletek aren’t thrilled about that idea. They decide to try and stop Leah at any cost. Unfortunately for them, and for Leah, a parasitic race of spirits is also seeking new, young lives, and they know about the forbidden hozzu eletek children too. Leah must race the clock and the world to protect the ten children from death – or worse.
As in The String Diaries, the ideas and the energy behind Written in the Blood is great. And as in String, it’s the execution that leaves the reader disappointed. While the action should read as breakneck and breathless, the writing is saturated with sentimental language and character self-introspection and self-pity that weigh the pace down to a crawl. As Leah flees a growing house fire, she thinks of how she’s letting her mother down after Hannah helped created those ten children. No one is more boring than someone who plays the victim, and Leah makes herself a victim of her own devices. For as much as she is written as feisty and headstrong, she’s not very interesting.
It is true that nothing about the plot is predictable; Jones does keep you guessing what’s going to happen next. The introduction of the soul-sucking tolvajak is a nice twist to keep the world of String and Written fresh and how the storylines eventually combine is excellent. I just wanted more from the intervening chapters.
This book, like its predecessor, reads more like a romance novel than a horror story; and that’s what [still] frustrates me. It would be an excellent romance novel, names like Thibault, Luca, and Agostin would feature well on a cover with an embracing couple in a sunset in open pirate-y type shirts. But it’s too tense and gory for a love story; it doesn’t really fit anywhere.
The overly-explained-emotions problem from String comes back in this novel. Everyone’s stomach turns to a ball of ice, everyone’s blood is chilled, everyone’s throat “tightens with emotion”. If I saw a friend of mine naked in the snow, smashing her head against a glass plate window, you wouldn’t have to tell me how to feel. But the flowery, melodramatic passages drag on and on and I wanted to skip pages until I got to something that was actually happening in the world and not in a character’s stomach.
It’s a good idea presented inelegantly, but a good idea nonetheless. Perhaps we need a new categorization: Romantic Horror? It could be a sign of things to come.