The Blood List by Sarah Naughton

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The Blood List by Sarah Naughton

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: After a dull start this really picks up in the last third. Worth a look for fans of historical fiction.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: February 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857078667

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In the mid-seventeenth century, the world is filled with tales of witches, murder and changelings. Sixteen-year-old Barnaby is strong and handsome. His father is a wealthy landowner who indulges his desires, and while his mother doesn't love him - believing him to be merely a replacement for her own baby, who the villagers thought was a changeling and who was mysteriously switched - he's popular with everyone else he knows. Until dark happenings start occurring, which will change Barnaby's life - or possibly even end it.

I have several issues with the start of this one, the first being that Barnaby bored the living daylights out of me as a character in the first half or so. He's spoilt, moderately unpleasant, and his best quality is that he's significantly less of an idiot than his brother Abel. Given Abel's a religious maniac, this is hardly a glowing recommendation. It was becoming a slog to get through the book because I couldn't bring myself to care about what happened to him. (To be fair to author Sarah Naughton, a seriously over-descriptive blurb which gave away things that didn't happen until well past the halfway point didn't help here. I felt like I was wading through too many pages just to get to the point where the main, less predictable, part of the story happened. Why do publishers do this?) Similarly the rest of the characters struggle to be fleshed out early on, with Abel a cartoonish villain, their parents rather one-dimensional, and only girls Naomi and Juliet feeling particularly well-rounded.

Having said that, once I finally got to the part which I didn't know about from reading the back of the book, things improved dramatically. As well as it becoming genuinely difficult to guess what would happen, with a stunning, powerful ending which had me changing my mind over what would happen right up until the last chapter or two, Barnaby develops a lot more positive qualities and becomes someone worth cheering for. (It's worth noting that it took me perhaps an hour to read the last 100 pages, after spending five days struggling through the first 180 or so.)

Overall perhaps a mild recommendation on the strength of the last third, especially as Naughton captures her time period and the villagers' beliefs really well. I'll check out her debut The Hanged Man Rises when I get a chance.

I think fans of this one will really enjoy Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton, another mixture of historical fiction and magic.

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