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White Blood Kindle Edition
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|Length: 382 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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I almost never give a 5 star rating, but this book deserves it and then some.
The breastfeeding scenes were done well and completely realistic, including the trouble with improper latch and what can result. It didn't feel rushed.
The tragedy at the beginning was very hard to take, but it was handled sensitively and as part of the main character's motivation, not as a source for wallowing angst.
I've honestly been very interested for years in the idea of a blood-based magic system that actually considered how the female body works, and I feel like this was sensitive and creative and thoughtful without going into too much graphicness.
I don't think I would recommend this to a woman who has not had children yet, because I honestly don't think I would have wanted to read it before I had given birth and breastfed a child myself. But to a woman who has had children and experienced it, I would be able to say, "This is an interesting story from an unusual point of view that deals with something very precious very sensitively." I liked that.
My one sole gripe (and this is entirely personal) is that the reference to the main character had allowed her husband to breastfeed during intimacy (before the death of her husband and child). That creeped me out. But that is, of course, entirely personal preference, and it was barely touched upon (certainly nothing graphic described).
One of my gripes with epic fantasy is that I feel it tends to dwell too much on the royalty and treat the common people (unless they are The Prophesied Hero or The Hero's Sidekick) as so much cannon fodder. I appreciated having a book in which the heroine was one of those characters who would normally be overlooked: a humble, gentle, servant woman whose love for a child was her strongest quality. That was very unusual and very appealing.
The details of breastfeeding were done well, and the cultural idea of milk-siblings (which is, indeed, something that exists in our world) was an excellent touch. I also loved that this was a culture that seems to practice child-led weaning (as the main character makes reference to the fact that some children breastfeed until the age of five or six). This is very believable and indeed true in our world. Both of those details were especially appreciated because those are uncommon in modern American culture. Basically, it was nice that the book didn't feel like it had been written from the point of view of a modern American while pretending to be something different (like all too many stories do).
I was impressed by that. The verisimilitude was rich and detailed and beleivable. I was not at all surprised when I discovered (from an author's note at the end of the book) that the author had been involved in La Leche League. The details were so rich and well-done that I had quite suspected it.
Overall, I was very impressed with how refreshing and believable this book was. I appreciate that this book exists. I stayed up all night reading it in one single sitting, and I am glad I did.
The pace is slow initially, and the world-building isn’t anything out of the ordinary, although the magic system, based on blood use, is clever. The physicality of it means that magic can be felt, like a buzzing in the bones, as well as being seen through sweeps of blue light. I liked that different cultures have hedged magic round with all sorts of rituals and superstitions, subtly different from each other, so that it blends seamlessly into religion.
The characters leap from the page, fully formed and totally real. Maryn herself is wonderful, just a lowly-born woman, humble and grateful for her new job, while never forgetting all that she’s lost. The first part of the book, as she adjusts to her changed circumstances, is a wonderful evocation of royal life, as seen by one of its most junior inhabitants. It’s fascinating, and totally believable, that the royals simply don’t see Maryn, so they talk state secrets in front of her, as well as ascribing the baby’s good health and size to his inheritance rather than her plentiful milk! At every point Maryn’s reactions felt exactly right, to me. In fact, all the characters responded in realistic ways to the difficulties facing them. Sometimes things went badly wrong, too, so that it felt as if Maryn was taking three steps forward and one back. But again, this makes it all the more believable.
At about the 40% mark, the plot dives headlong off a cliff, leaving behind the comfortable world of servant life, and thrusting Maryn into a situation that’s life-threatening both for her and for the baby. From then on, the pace is frenetic, and doesn’t let up for an instant, right up to the dramatic confrontation at the end. There were times when I could have done with a respite from the constant tension, just to catch my breath!
The ending is very elegant, and although I anticipated some elements of it (I was actually shouting ‘Use the [X]!’ at my Kindle at one stage), there were one or two twists I didn’t foresee, as well. And then some lovely moments at the end that had me sighing with pleasure.
You can tell I enjoyed this book, a lot. Books are enjoyable for any number of reasons, but just occasionally I come across one that I feel might almost have been written specially for me. This is one of those books that just resonates with me. But a word of warning: there is a lot - a whole lot - of detail about breastfeeding and babies and diapers and cracked nipples in here. I loved it all, but for anyone who’s less than enthralled by such matters, best pass on by. But for me - a perfect five stars.