Rawblood by Catriona Ward

I’ve been getting the Book and a Brew monthly subscription box for about 6 months now, and I haven’t read any of the books… until now. 
The books always look really interesting and I love the teas (except last month’s Green Tea – bleurgh), but I just haven’t been in the mood to read any of them. 

Last week I had the flu, coupled with quite bad insomnia, and decided I was up for a gothic horror.  

From the blurb:

In 1910, eleven year old Iris Villarca lives with her father at Rawblood, a lonely house on Dartmoor. Iris and her father are the last of their name. The Villarcas always die young, bloodily. Iris knows it’s because of a congenital disease which means she must be strictly isolated. Papa told her so. Forbidden to speak to other children or the servants, denied her one friend, Iris grows up in solitude. But she reads books. And one sunlit autumn day, beside her mother’s grave, she forces the truth from her father. The disease is biologically impossible. A lie, to cover a darker secret.

The Villarcas are haunted, through the generations, by her. She is white, skeletal, covered with scars. Her origins are a mystery but her purpose is clear. When a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child – she comes and death follows.

Iris makes her father a promise: to remain alone all her life. But when she’s fifteen, she breaks it. The consequences of her choice are immediate and horrific.

Iris’s story is interwoven with the past, the voices of the dead – Villarcas, taken by her. Iris’s grandmother sets sail from Dover to Italy with a hired companion, to spend her final years in the sun before consumption takes her. Instead she meets betrayal, and a fate worse than death. Iris’s father, his medical career in ruins, conducts unconscionable experiments, to discover how she travels in the Villarca blood. Iris’s mother, pregnant, walks the halls of Rawblood whispering to her, coaxing her to come. As the narratives converge, Iris seeks her out in a confrontation which shatters her past and her reality, revealing the chasm in Iris’s own, fractured identity. Who is she? What does she desire? The answer is more terrible and stranger than Iris could have imagined.

So… the Goodreads synopsis (above) is a lot more detailed than the synopsis on my book cover. The only info I had to go on was that something was haunting the Villarca’s, so that they all died young, and it struck whenever they fell in love. Iris promises her father never to fall in love, but of course this is a promise she can’t keep.

Ward has written this in the vein of the classic tragic romance novels, such as Wuthering Heights and The Woman in White. The story is told by mostly secondary characters, and their narratives weave into one cohesive story, spanning generations. 

The final answer as to what lies at the root of the Villarca’s misfortune is quite strange. I was personally a bit annoyed at the ending, but that’s more because I’m not a fan of this type of book. 

I will admit that I love Wuthering Heights, but for me the heroine and hero are young Cathy and Hareton. Cathy senior and Heathcliffe are utterly selfish creatures, and I can’t help but feel that they deserved what happened to them. Okay, drifting from the point… sorry. 

If I had to describe this book, I would say it is a gothic horror with a Donnie Darko twist. It was very good, although the sciencey bits at the beginning really dragged. Some of the characters are more engaging than others. If you can get through the first 100 pages it’s worth it. 

Let me know if you’ve read this book in the comments below.


Stephani Xxx


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