the Little Red Reviewer

Of Blood And Honey by Stina Leicht

Posted on: April 24, 2012

Of Blood and Honey, by Stina Leight

published in Feb/March 2012 by Nightshade Books

where I got it: the library

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Against the backdrop of The Troubles of Northern Ireland in the 1970s, Liam Kelly just wants to live his life.  He’s a teenager at the beginning of the book, and like all teenagers, he finds trouble.  In casual support of the local riots, he’s arrested.  I was addicted to this book on page 2, and less than 30 pages in I was directly invested in Liam Kelly’s future.  In and out of internment camps, and hoping to return to his betrothed, Liam  trust that his Confessor, Father Murray, will help plead his case.

Through little fault of his own, Liam gets a reputation during his time in the camps. His friends at home always knew he was a little off, always knew he had a temper. But now, people who hurt him, people who threaten his safety or the safety of his family are later found dead and mutilated. Liam didn’t hurt them, but somebody did.  And every day, Liam gets closer to turning into that something.

The word that kept coming to mind while I was reading Of Blood and Honey was “sharp”.  Leicht’s prose style is sharp, and I mean in that in the most basic dictionary definition – sharp like a razor. Her words cut and punch and bite at the most vulnerable parts of your body.  And I couldn’t stop reading, I couldn’t stop letting these stabbity little sentences have their way with me.

If only his mother had told him more about his father. If only Father Murray would let Liam in on a few Church secrets.  Liam’s father is a Fey creature, and Father Murray has been led to believe all Fey (and half-Fey) are fallen creatures and should be destroyed.  that wasn’t anything close to a spoiler, by the way.

I know some of you are thinking uughh, another Celtic mythos/urban fantasy? and that overused trope of the religious secret society? Aren’t there already like a thousand of these? Yes. there are. like a thousand of them. But I guarantee there isn’t one anything like Of Blood and Honey.

With spot on pacing, velvety soft subtleties and brilliantly developed characters, Stina Leicht has breathed new life into a story many of us think we know the ending to. Leicht is pulling an interesting trick here, and she’s pulling it off perfectly – she’s telling a story by not telling the story. The narrative give special attention to everything isn’t said. And by overtly not saying things, by allowing Liam to stay naive perhaps a little too long, by bevelling out the negative spaces, the attention of the reader is forced in certain directions.  That’s a really, really good thing, even if my artistic mixed metaphor didn’t make any sense. To continue the artistic metaphors, it reminds a little of a renaissance paintings where if you follow the eyes of everyone in the painting, your eye is drawn towards the corner, where the tiny, glowing gem of the painting waits patiently for you to discover it. the people in the painting are pointing with their eyes to what’s important, even if their arms are reaching towards something else. This book is a little like that, and again, it’s a good thing.

How good was this book? if Robin Hobb and Charles deLint teamed up to write a masterpiece, they’d come up with something like Of Blood and Honey.  It has the realistic feeling urban fantasy elements of a deLint (and he did plenty of Irish and Celtic mythology retellings too), and the painful character deconstruction we’ve seen Fitz Chivalry and Nevarre go through.The closer Liam gets to the truth, the more his loved ones are put in danger.  If he can run from what he is, no one else will have to die. But if he runs from what he is, far more people will die.

A word of warning,even though Liam is a teenager at the beginning of the book, this is most definitely a book for grown ups. There is violence, and scenes that are difficult to read. There is language, and sex, and more violence.  Leicht doesn’t soften any of it, and none of it is there for shock value. It’s there because it needs to be, it’s there because it shouldn’t be softened.  Fear and terror make far better weapons than guns, and in the war that’s brewing between The Fey, The Fallen, and a secret religious group, guns will be of no help. It doesn’t matter what kind of war you are fighting, fear and terror will always destroy in a far more insidious fashion.

In closing, where has Stina Leicht been all my life? I don’t believe there is anything I can say to do this book  justice except to strongly recommend that you find it, read it, and then read anything by Stina Leicht that you can get your hands on.  The sequel to Of Blood and Honey, entitled Of Blue Skies and Pain, is available now, and she also has a flash fiction piece in the Vandermeer edited anthology Last Drink Bird Head.

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28 Responses to "Of Blood And Honey by Stina Leicht"

I was merrily addicted a handful of pages in, and devoured both Blood and Honey and Blue Skies and Pain.

And I agree- her prose is sharp. And it is perfect.

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I just ordered a copy of Blue Skies and Pain. I want to read it right now, of course, but I just got back from the bookstore so I have like a zillion things I want to read “right now!”

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At the beginning of your review, I thought it was just normal fiction (didn’t see the Fey coming into the story).
Now I’m very interested to read this (I’m a huge fan of Robin Hobb).

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me, read normal fiction? well, it doesn’t happen often, but it *does* happen, just not this time. the book does start out all perfectly historical fiction. . . and then turns wonderfully urban fantasy.

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Stabbity little sentences – kinda makes me want to read it. I don’t want to know what that says about me. :) Actually, it’s the Irish and Celtic mythology that really appeals, over used or not, I almost always like it.

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it says all sorts of good things about you! and I can’t get enough of the Celtic mythology stuff either. actually, I can’t get enough of any kind of mythology anything.

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Yet another new to me author to add to my Kindle. You haven’t steered me wrong yet so looking forward to this one!

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yikes, now the pressure is really on! but you are a fan of Robin Hobb, and I know you’ve liked some other urban fantasy stuff, so I hope this one is a winner for you as well.

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A combination of de Lint and Robin Hobb? That’s some high praise. I think you just gave me the excuse to quit reading The Blade Itself since I wasn’t enjoying it very much anyway.

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I pulled you away from The Blade Itself?? one of the best epic fantasy novels ever written? shit, now I feel kinda bad. Promise me you’ll pick that up again some time and give it another try? and Yes, Of Blood and Honey really is that good.

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Everybody keeps telling me that The Blade Itself is super-duper awesome, but I’m just not seeing it. I’m almost halfway through the book and I don’t have a bit of empathy for any of the characters. I’m only still reading it because I hope they’ll all die.

(I’m as surprised buy my dislike of this book as anybody. Especially since I enjoyed Best Served Cold quite a bit.)

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I’m as surprised BY my dislike, even. Stupid auto-correction. I need to quit replying to blog posts from my phone. Ha.

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ha! gotta love auto-coWRECK! ;)

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[…] The word that kept coming to mind while I was reading Of Blood and Honey was “sharp”.  Leicht’s prose style is sharp, and I mean in that in the most basic dictionary definition – sharp like a razor. Her words cut and punch and bite at the most vulnerable parts of your body.  And I couldn’t stop reading, I couldn’t stop letting these stabbity little sentences have their way with me.” Read the full review at The Little Red Reviewer. […]

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Okay, I really want to read this…

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let me know what you think when you get to it!

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The cover looks wonderful, very high-fantasy, so I was surprised when you started of talking about Ireland in the 70s, but I was proven correct :)

I’m not one for urban fantasy, but this one seems to press all the right buttons – into the wish-list it goes!

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i hear you on the urban fantasy thing, I usually worry it’s going to be sparkly vampires and that kind of shit. but this is the good kind of urban fantasy!

the cover strikes you as high fantasy? really? i wasn’t sure what to make of the cover art, don’t tell anyone, but I find the cover art kind of boring.

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I have this on my list. Will have to have a closer look into it now. Looks excellent.

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I hope you enjoy it! :D

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[…] The Blade Itself and not really enjoying myself when I came across Redhead’s review of Of Blood and Honey wherein she compared the book to what might happen if Robin Hobb and Charles […]

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The title of this book is vaguely familiar but don’t think I’ve read a review of it before. Sounds very intriguing. Would have to be in the mood for this one though I can be quite a wimp when it comes to violence.

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it’s not pages upon pages of violence, but there is quite a bit at the beginning, so you might want to wait until you’re in the mood for that type of thing.

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So, just after I said to myself ‘I WILL NOT PUT ANY MORE BOOKS ON MY WANTED LIST’ (and I did shout it which is why the caps lock is on! I went and read your review. And immediately buckled under the pressure – only because I know that I will love it!
Thanks (and groans)
Lynn :D

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that’ll teach you to never again say you won’t put more stuff on your wanted list. ;) and yes, I do really think you will like this one too!

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[…] Blue Skies from Pain is the sequel to Of Blood and Honey (reviewed here), and thus this review will involve some spoilers of the first book.  You’ve been […]

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[…] Blue Skies from Pain is the sequel to Of Blood and Honey (reviewed here), and thus this review will involve some spoilers of the first book.  You’ve been […]

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[…] I came across Redhead’s review of Of Blood and Honey wherein she compared the book to what might happen if Robin Hobb and […]

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