C.J. Redwine continues her riveting Ravenspire fantasy series for YA readers with a fourth installment, The Blood Spell. The novel opens with a chilling description of the witch, Marielle, who is now a wraith—a creature stripped of her freedom and most of her magic: “The wraith dug its fingers into the closest tree trunk, gathered its magic, and shrieked, a long, razor-tipped wail that shivered through the air, sending birds screaming for the skies,” Redwine writes. “The iron bells that hung along the road to warn people when a fae monster was near clanged wildly. The wraith lifted its face as their discordant, chaotic melody reached its ears, and smiled.”
Redwine sets each Ravenspire story in a different kingdom within the same world, and each novel enriches and advances the plot of the entire narrative. This time the action takes place in the capital city of the kingdom of Balavata, a vaguely French-infused land that’s home to tiny but fierce Blue de la Cour, who is seventeen, and her beloved father and grandmother. An alchemist who brews natural remedies for her customers, Blue has inherited a touch of magic from her late mother—not enough to alert the authorities, now that the use of magic is punishable by death, but enough to give her work unique power and strength.
The crown prince of Balavata, Prince Kellan, has recently finished school and returned home, where the law requires him to choose a wife and settle down to the work of ruling the kingdom. He and Blue are old friends. He calls her a meddlesome know-it-all and the bane of his existence. She points out his countless flaws, declaring herself immune to his charms. Three guesses where this relationship is headed, but Redwine takes an overused romantic trope and makes the sparks fly in an entertaining way. She creates believable characters through both humor and pathos as the couple’s banter ultimately leads them to a deeper connection based on honesty and trust.
But it will soon be time for Kellan to announce his betrothal. Blue, as a commoner, is not a contender, but numerous aristocratic families go to great lengths to land Kellan for their daughters. Dinah Chauveau, a secret practitioner of magic and head of one of the richest families in the kingdom, will do absolutely anything to join her bloodline to the royals. Dinah has a few tricks up her sleeve, including lying, cheating, stealing, murder—and maybe something worse: “You could take a girl away from her cauldron, but you could never really take the witchcraft out of her heart.” (Whether or not she actually has a heart is open to debate as the story unfolds.)
Always lurking at the edge of the action is Marielle. “Sometimes [Blue] went months without hearing the bells,” Redwine writes. “Sometimes they rang every day. The sound didn’t carry through the entire city, but those who lived on the western fringes, like Blue, heard it often enough. It was a stark reminder that even though the wraith Marielle was locked away, no one had figured out how to kill her, and no one felt truly safe.”
“Hiding from our ghosts only gives them the power to keep haunting us,” Blue’s grandmother attests, nicely summing up the theme of The Blood Spell. This delightful twist on the classic story of Cinderella includes the full-on magical flourishes that readers have come to expect from Redwine’s fascinating world. With many more kingdoms left, all presumably with secrets to reveal, fans have much to look forward to.
A graduate of Auburn University, Tina Chambers has worked as a technical editor at an engineering firm and as an editorial assistant at Peachtree Publishers, where she worked on books by Erskine Caldwell, Will Campbell, and Ferrol Sams, to name a few. She lives in Chattanooga.