Book Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of Soulwood
Publisher: Roc (August 2, 2016)
Length: 358 pages
I have a feeling I’m going to be the sole voice of dissent on this one. It’s not that thought Blood of the Earth was a bad book, but quite honestly I was expecting a lot more. However, it should be made known that this was the first time I’ve ever read Faith Hunter; I’ve never read any of the books in the Jane Yellowrock series, and maybe that was part of the problem. A spinoff can be a tricky beast, and though this can be read separately from the main series, I’m guessing that not having the benefit of a previous connection to this world likely had an impact on my overall enjoyment—or lack thereof.
The story stars Nell Nicholson Ingram, who was, as I discovered later, a character first introduced in a Jane Yellowrock short story called “Off the Grid”. She grew up in a cult called the God’s Cloud of Glory Church, and was only a young girl when she was made to marry one of its other members, a much older man named John Ingram. For all his faults though, John had wanted to do right by Nell. So, when she turned eighteen, he also married her legally in the eyes of Tennessee law, which is why when he passed away, ownership of his entire estate was rightfully transferred to her. This, however, did not sit right with the Church. Even after Nell left the cult, its members still kept coming, harassing her about her property, which they considered as theirs no matter what the law says.
The attacks have made Nell nervous, which is why when a group of agents from PsyLED show up at her door one day, she isn’t sure whether or not she can trust them. Turns out though, Jane Yellowrock had referred Nell to the paranormal investigation agency after finding out about Nell’s earth magic and special connection to nature, so now Agent Rick LaFleur and his team of were-cat operatives are here hoping she can help out on a case. There has been a string of disappearances involving young women lately, and one of the missing victims is a member of a very important vampire house. PsyLED suspects Nell’s old cult might have something to do with it, and they believe access to her past and property could be a very useful resource.
As I mentioned previously, I didn’t think this was a bad book. That said, I also found nothing terribly exciting about it. First of all, a “missing girls” story? Urban fantasy isn’t exactly suffering from a dearth of missing-or-kidnapped-kids plots lately, so that ho-hum was one of the bigger disappointments. Second, the first third of the novel with its slow pacing almost did me in. What made it even more frustrating was the constant repetition, what with Nell finding about fifty thousand ways to beat it over the readers’ heads that the God’s Cloud Church wants her land because they didn’t agree with her late husband’s decision, or how some of their men came over and killed her dogs. Yes, Nell, cult goons bad. I got it the first time, and really could have done without the image of the poor dead pups over and over in my mind. The rough pacing continues in the later parts of the book, like when we’re introduced to the vampire family of the missing girl, and for the next hundred or so pages she is barely mentioned again. The story just feels like it’s all over the place.
I also didn’t think there was anything too special about the world. Again, I know I’m at a disadvantage because I haven’t read the Jane Yellowrock series, so I’m probably missing years and years’ worth of relevant world-building which would have helped me gain a better appreciation for it. Still, at this moment I don’t know if I’m jumping up and down to start another series about vampires and shapeshifters, since I’m already following a bunch of them that scratch that itch, though I did find Nell’s nature-based magic fascinating.
The main character’s background is also one of the most intriguing aspects of this book, since a life of growing up in a cult definitely shaped her into a very interesting person. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced of her random Sherlock Holmes moments. The story spends a lot of time painting Nell to be this country bumpkin, but every so often she will get these flashes of genius (all at the most convenient times, I might add) where she will surprise all her PsyLED team members and then proceed to lecture them all about how a lifetime spent hunting and trapping in the woods somehow taught her to become a whiz at deductive reasoning. And then when they all feel bad about judging her, Nell gets to pat herself on the back, all the while ignoring the fact she can be pretty judgmental herself, of course.
So yeah, this one didn’t exactly blow me away me due to a multitude of smaller issues that simply added up, hence the middling, uncertain rating. In spite of this, I haven’t entirely ruled out picking up the next book yet, especially since I still plan on starting the Jane Yellowrock series one of these days. I think there’s potential for Nell and Soulwood to be a lot more, so here’s hoping the sequel will help them grow on me.