The trouble with teenage paranormal fiction is that, all too often, it mutates into different territory: that of romance. You could argue that this is inevitable, and is indeed true of any teenage fiction. Hormones dictate that romance should be there. However, it is also true that often the romance becomes the primary genre of the book, instead of the paranormal. Stephanie Meyer herself admits to this.
I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised by Tessa Gratton's 'Blood Magic'. Of course there's romance. They're teenagers. But it's secondary to the main subject - that of magic, and the use of blood to make it happen.
This is, of course, not a unique concept, but it remains an interesting one. I have always liked the idea that magic requires a sacrifice. Animal blood will not suffice; it needs to be that of a human - specifically, your own. And it is this that makes the book extremely bloody. This magic is not for the faint hearted. While a simple prick of the finger will create the simpler spells, the more complex the magic, the greater the sacrifice required. The three main characters are, on occasion, steeped in blood. Their friends suspect them of self-harm. It's dangerous, difficult, gory stuff.
Silla is a damaged young woman. Prior to the opening of the book, she had discovered the dead bodies of her parents. Her father had shot her mother, and then himself. But unlike the rest of her small town, she is determined not to see her father as a monster. She needs answers, explanations. Inexplicably, she receives them, in the guise of a spell book sent from a mysterious figure called the Deacon, claiming that her father had written it.
Silla's brother Reese, having come to terms with their family trauma, is sceptical at first. He almost begs Silla to leave well alone. But as they begin to experiment and discover that magic really does exist - along with such things as possession spells - he, too, begins to doubt their father's guilt.
Nicholas is, on the face of it, a typical teenager, but it soon becomes evident that an intentionally moody exterior - towards his father, stepmother and classmates - is a shell to hide his own personal trauma. He has grown up with a mother who also practised blood magic, and this has left him distrustful and full of hate towards the whole thing, for reasons I won't reveal. When he discovers Silla's use of it, therefore, painful memories resurface, and he is forced to remember things which he had been rather successful in hiding.
Silla and Reese persuade him to see otherwise - that magic can be used for good - and eventually he realises that he can't hide from something which is a part of who he is. Meanwhile, as a dangerous enemy is revealed, Silla changes her own mind about its use.
The relationship between Silla and Nicholas is very well written. An initial attraction develops into something more as their investigations reveal their two family histories, and the way in which they are entwined. It's actually a very clever plot which kept me guessing. Things are hinted at sufficient to make you think you have the answer, while later are revealed to be something completely different. The Big Bad is also well written - her history and motivations are hinted at throughout before the final conclusion.
In conclusion: I thought this was going to be the story of a young woman who doesn't realise how pretty she is, falling for someone dark and dangerous who actually has a sensitive side. It's not. It's much more than that.
I'm afraid you can't buy it yet, because it's not out yet. You can in July, though. I highly recommend it.