Bloodstone by Helen C. Johannes

Bloodstone by Helen C. Johannes
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (426 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Edelweiss

What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?

Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones–petrified dragon’s blood–for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…

Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.

Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man–not a fiend–hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?

A man whose face can kill, a woman bound to him by a promise, and both haunted by mysterious, intimate dreams of each other. Bloodstone’s story is rich and layered, nuanced and engrossing.

The main characters are both engaging. Mirianna is instantly likable as you see the way she looks after and cares for her widowed father. She is resourceful and capable, but most of all passionate. Her choices are intuitive and her feelings strong. I respected and admired her and appreciated how smart and quick-witted she was written.

The Shadow Man is deeply layered and deeply flawed. When he is presented with ethical choices, he often genuinely considers taking the wrong path. He can be brusque and harsh, when he should be kind and gentle. He is deeply conflicted, torn between the man he used to be and what he is now. He is constantly at battle with himself, and you can feel this leaking through his scenes and encompassing his thoughts.

I loved reading these two characters respond to one another. The dreams that have haunted them for years attract them to each other as much as it scares them. Both are powerful characters with strong personalities and the results are scenes which swept me up and gripped me, and kept me eagerly waiting to see what they would do next.

However both characters are not only haunted by their dreams, they both find themselves followed by a mysterious lioness. Other things are afoot, as it’s soon made clear that not everyone is who they claim to be. The story was very well done, with some truly surprising plot twists and revelations I did not see coming, and there was more than one point in the story where my jaw was left hanging open.

The romance in the book was for the most part excellent. Though it did feel a little rushed once or twice, with the motivations and reasons behind their feelings and changing attitudes towards each other, not always being clear to me.

The opening of the book moves a little slowly, taking a significant amount of time to reach the plot described on the back of the book. However the author has a beautiful writing style and a keen eye for detail, and I was never bored or disinterested in what was happening.

Helen C. Johannes has built up a rich fantasy world, with an intriguing and unique history. I loved reading about the world, the things that inhabited it, and the way it worked. She knew exactly how much to dole out and when, in order to keep me informed but eager for more.

The ending is very satisfying, but I suspect there may be a sequel planned, and if there is I will certainly be reading it. The book works well as a breathtaking romance and as a fantasy story of heroes, magic and mystery. If you’re in the mood for either, read it!

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