Title: Daughter of Lies & Ruin
Author: Jo Spurrier
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Australia on September 24th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Why do the worst people sometimes make the best family? From the author of Winter Be My Shield and A Curse of Ash & Embers comes the next absorbing Blackbone Witches novel.
‘If they didn’t want to get turned into beasts and used to fuel a ritual, they shouldn’t have attacked a witch. That’s all there is to it.’
There’s something strange brewing in this tinder-dry forest – a girl with a sword and a secret, a troupe of vicious bandits vanished without a trace, beasts that don’t belong and a witch with a macabre plan.
Elodie hasn’t been learning witchcraft for long, but she knows enough to be worried, and the fact that her mentor Aleida wants to pack up and leave in short order isn’t helping to settle her nerves.
Elodie just hopes to get everyone out of this mess unharmed, but it’s looking more unlikely with every passing hour. And when the strange witch’s ire falls on her, Aleida’s wrath sparks a fire that threatens to scorch the earth itself …
This is book 2 in the ‘Tale of the Blackbone Witches‘ series (my review for book 1 is here) and my excitement could not be contained when I got my hands on an early copy of ‘Daughter of Lies & Ruin‘. We find out what comes next for our protagonist, Dee, who is an apprentice to the sardonic, morally grey badass witch Aleida and learning how to wield her own nascent magical abilities.
In the first book, Dee’s arc revolved around discovering her inner strength and struggling to deal with the baggage that comes with an unhappy childhood where she was considered little more than the (unpaid) help, whose only value lay in performing menial household chores and looking after her step-siblings. I appreciate that the emotional scarring which naturally affects anyone raised in that situation isn’t paid lip service and then promptly forgotten – Dee has more self-worth and confidence in her abilities this time round, but she’s still prone to doubting herself and giving in to her insecurities. It’s much more realistic this way, rather than developing magical abilities and instantly being cured of all self-doubt!
What I love best about this series is the bond between Dee and Aleida, who is by no means a warm & fuzzy woman, but her brand of stern unwavering faith in Dee and no-nonsense championing of her apprentice even when Dee doesn’t believe in herself is so heartwarming. Aleida is a fan of the tough love approach, which is hilarious when Dee is looking for a softer form of validation, but you never doubt that she does care for Dee. A female mentor supporting her protege and helping her grow is something I don’t see much in fiction and I adore every bit of it here!
When the story begins, Dee and Aleida have hit the road and are travelling beyond Black Oak Cottage, which was the main setting of the first book. It’s fun getting to see more of this enchanting world as the author expands our horizons with a range of exotic creatures and magical abilities explored in this book. The teacher/student dynamic between Aleida and Dee means that there’s no annoying info-dumping as details are smoothly incorporated into the story with Dee learning alongside the reader. I love the old-school way witchcraft is depicted with wands & crystals and herbs & incense in a manner reminiscent of Wiccan rituals, making it seem more grounded, and then the next moment we find the ladies taking over the minds of birds and soaring through the skies to see the lay of the land! The skillful writing easily immerses the reader into the narrative and while the high stakes in this book involve complicated rituals and interdimensional entities, the action is easy to envisage in your mind’s eye.
While there’s a lot to enjoy here, one flaw I can’t overlook is Dee’s frustrating new habit of questioning Aleida, calling her cold-hearted and undermining her in front of others. The first book was more balanced between Dee’s tender heart and Aleida’s ruthless pragmatism with both presented as equally valid, but in this book, Dee appeared exceptionally naive in expecting Aleida to save every single person and right every wrong, no matter the cost. I waited for the moment where she would finally realize the situation wasn’t that black & white, but it never came. I didn’t understand why she cared so much about violent bandits and a petulant conniving young woman with no respect or loyalty to them rather than the woman who has taken her in and mentored her, but your mileage may vary on this point.
Overall, the complex well-rounded characters, captivating writing and vivid world-building make this a treat for fantasy readers. If you haven’t started this series, I highly recommend you pick up ‘A Curse of Ash & Embers’; if you’re already a fan, then hurray, the wait is over as ‘Daughter of Lies & Ruin’ comes out tomorrow!
Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.
Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.