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Spells of Blood and Kin

Spells of Blood and Kin, June 2016
by Claire Humphrey

Thomas Dunne
Featuring: Maksim Volkov; Lissa Nevsky; Nick
320 pages
ISBN: 125007634X
EAN: 9781250076342
Kindle: B018E7HFDA
Hardcover / e-Book
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"A Different Kind of Urban Fantasy"

Fresh Fiction Review

Spells of Blood and Kin
Claire Humphrey

Reviewed by Katherine Petersen
Posted August 24, 2016

Thriller Paranormal - Supernatural | Fantasy

When most people think of urban fantasy, authors like Faith Hunter, Seanan McGuire and Patricia Briggs come to mind. Claire Humphrey's debut novel, SPELLS OF BLOOD AND KIN, most closely associates with urban fantasy but doesn't resemble the aforementioned authors. Magic, witches and paranormal creatures make appearances in Humphrey's tale but not in a traditional manner, and the story moves at a slower pace.

Lissa Nevsky's grandmother, or Baba as she's known, has died of a sudden heart attack, elevating Lissa to the position of koldun'ia or sorcerer, to her local Russian neighborhood in Toronto. In this story, spells are cast by creating a mixture and painting it onto the shells of raw eggs. The spells take effect when consumed raw, ideally in a milkshake.

Lissa runs into a bigger problem when Maksim Volkov seeks her help. Lissa learns from a conversation with her dead grandmother—that gets explained—that Maksim is kin and should be assisted. Lissa misunderstands kin to mean family rather than an immortal paranormal creature who has a need for violence that is difficult to keep leashed. The closest association I can come up with from past reading is a berserker.

Maksim accidentally infects a college student, Nick, by licking a wound on his forehead. He asks Lissa to help him better contain his rage and track down Nick to prevent him from hurting someone.

This likely sounds complicated and confusing. And it is...a bit. The story is told from all three perspectives. Humphrey is a talented writer and her descriptions are lively, but it takes too long for things to happen, and her characters never really grabbed my attention. Also, I don't mind violence in stories at all, but some of the ways the kin relieve their rages is to beat up on each other, which doesn't do anything for me. I'm a huge sports fan, but boxing doesn't appeal.

I wish Humphrey had given some context for how the kin came into being or at least given them some kind of context. Much of the book focuses on the relationships among the characters: between Maksim and Lissa; Lissa and her grandmother; Maksim and Augusta, a woman he infected more than 100 years ago. Lissa starts out as a shy and very unlikeable character, but she learns to build better relationships with people once out from under her grandmother's tutelage. Often times I pick books by their titles, and this one had such promise, but I can't say that it lived up to the interesting premise.

Learn more about Spells of Blood and Kin


Where we love, we ruin…

Some families hand down wealth through generations; some hand down wisdom. Some families, whether they want to or not, hand down the secret burdens they carry and the dangerous debts they owe.

Lissa Nevsky's grandmother leaves her a big, empty house, and a legacy of magic: folk magic, old magic, brought with Baba when she fled the Gulag. In the wake of her passing, the Russian community of Toronto will depend on Lissa now, to give them their remedies and be their koldun'ia. But Lissa hasn't had time to learn everything Baba wanted to teach her—let alone the things Baba kept hidden.

Maksim Volkov's birth family is long dead, anything they bestowed on him long turned to dust. What Maksim carries now is a legacy of violence, and he does not have to die to pass it on. When Maksim feels his protective spell fail, he returns to the witch he rescued from the Gulag, only to find his spell has died along with the one who cast it. Without the spell, it is only a matter of time before Maksim's violent nature slips its leash and he infects someone else—if he hasn't done so already.

Nick Kaisaris is just a normal dude who likes to party. He doesn't worry about family drama. He doesn't have any secrets. All he wants is for things to stay like they are right now, tonight: Nick and his best buddy Jonathan, out on the town. Only Nick is on a collision course with Maksim Volkov, and what he takes away from this night is going to crack open Nick's nature until all of his worst self comes to light.

Lissa's legacy of magic might hold the key to Maksim's salvation, if she can unravel it in time. But it's a legacy that comes at a price. And Maksim might not want to be saved…

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