So today I’m very happy to be doing a review of THE BLOOD LIST by Sarah Naughton. First of all, however, thank you very much to Simon & Schuster UK, the publisher, for allowing me to have the opportunity to read an eARC of this amazing 304-page book, released on the 27th February, 2014. Secondly, if you don’t know what this book is about, just read on!:
Witchcraft, murder, and secrets… A terrifically creepy and claustrophobic thriller from the Costa Book Awards shortlisted author.
The year is 1646, tales of witches, murder, and changelings are rife and a dark era is about to begin…
Barnaby Nightingale is the perfect son; Strong, handsome, daring, everything his father wants him to be, and yet for his mother, Frances, he will never be the son she desires. Frances believes that her real son was taken away from her as a baby by the local village folk who believed him to be a changeling, and Barnaby left in his place. Constantly disappointing his mother, Barnaby is spoiled by his father and despised by his younger brother, Abel.
But when the beautiful and mysterious Naomi catches Barnaby’s attention, his world is thrown into chaos as superstition and dark folklore take hold of the small village and Naomi is accused of being a witch. Fear and suspicion spread and soon Barnaby finds himself on trial too and facing the ultimate penalty… death.
I loved this book. It didn’t take me very long to read at all, as I did not want to put it down. The story was catching from the very first page, right from when we meet a mother and her baby— before she is forced she place him on a dung heap for the changing. Right away, Sarah Naughton, who is also the author of THE HANGED MAN RISES which was published in February 2013, captures the tone of the time era perfectly, and this is one of the appealing aspects of the novel that make you, as a reader, want to read on. You really feel as though Naughton knows this time, and it becomes evident that she has done her research.
At the same time, the setting itself is described very vividly, and it’s not only where the characters are— Naughton makes full use of the senses to make this book as good as it is. From what the setting looks like, the various houses and the village, to the foods and the smells and the tastes, THE BLOOD LIST has it all. Anybody would think that Naughton has truly been back to 1646, lived there for a while, before transporting herself back to the modern day to write the story— that is how convincing it is.
In addition to this, I loved the pacing of the novel. As I said previously, this was a book that I didn’t want to put down, and I think the way that the events of the novel unfold really add to this. Just as you think that things can’t get any worse for the characters, something else happens! Every page has a different surprise on it, all the way up until the very end… which took me completely by surprise but in a brilliant way.
Towards the end of THE BLOOD LIST, it turned out that I was wrong about what was going to happen— I can’t say too much, because it really would give it away, but the fact that the ending has *something* to do with a character that we met earlier on in the novel was not only really clever, but really hit me as a reader: just like Barnaby, the main character, was hit by this shock, we feel it, too. It’s this roller-coaster of emotions that we are taken on that helps to drive this book and make it all the more of an enjoyable read.
Alongside this story, the love he feels for Naomi, the conflict that he has for his brother, the feelings that his mother has towards him, his relationship with his father, as well as with the other characters— such an old lady who’s a beggar— all help to make this book interesting: not only do we have the main storyline, and the subplots, but also all of these extra details and other small stories, too, that really help to make this story leap off the page and into our imaginations— it just goes to show that Simon & Schuster have done a good job in finding a talented author who has amazing stories to tell.
Her attention to detail, her clever plotting, her pacing, her language, the way she continually uses her 1646 setting, as well as her characters, all add up to make this a very good second novel from Naughton.
I know that I will be sure to pick up THE HANGED MAN RISES in the near future, and I’ll be sure to be recommending THE BLOOD LIST to everybody that I come across, as I just know that people will not be disappointed— this book will not only meet your expectations, but it will also exceed them.
I can’t wait to see what will come next from Sarah Naughton.
It’s a five out of five stars from me!
Again, thank you very much to Simon & Schuster UK, the publisher, for allowing me to read this advance copy. Thank you to Sarah Naughton for writing the book. And thank you to you, too, for reading this and being supportive. 🙂 — Joshua
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Naughton was born in 1975 and grew up in Dorset. She escaped to London aged 17 to study English at UCL, and has lived there ever since. She spent 10 years writing ads before giving up to have children. THE HANGED MAN RISES was her first novel, with THE BLOOD LIST being her second. She lives in South London with her husband and her two sons.