This is my review of Blessedly Bound by Lucretia Stanhope, the first in the Elemental Witch Trials series. To start with, it’s of an optimal length in my mind as I personally prefer novellas, which I have stated on numerous occasions. With a book that size, you have more than ample room for narrative and characterization, yet things are very direct without a bunch of unnecessary filler; what you want is to illustrate the tale until it can live in the reader’s imagination, without going insane spelling out every single detail or experience that could conceivably occur from the characters’ perspectives. The author’s interests weave their way into the tale in a variety of ways, and as I also have an interest in painting and artists, I found that aspect particularly fascinating; readers can probably learn a thing or two about knitting just by reading this book!
I also enjoyed the beautiful overtones from the classic beauty and the beast narrative, almost like in Edward Scissorhands where one of the male leads has to look but can’t touch or consummate his and the female lead’s emotional investments in a physical tryst. While it incorporates some of the best elements from hit young adult bestsellers such as Vampire Academy, Twilight and Hunger Games, there are just enough dark and rough edges to keep things interesting; so that, when the romantic elements are finally placed at the center stage, it’s never tiresome as there’s always a dark alley to go down a page or two later. There’s also a greater sense of realism than is common in that genre, so that the piece will be entertaining to both adults and teens. The book very much captures that small-town ambience found in some of the best movies, and sets up a nice little microcosm where you can really get a sense of who the characters are, and the qualities of their respective personalities.
There’s also a good sense of history, as the female lead delves into her past and that of her family, seeking justice for its murdered members. Plot-wise, there is a traditional love triangle narrative branch between the protagonist and the male leads, several intertwined murder mysteries, and everything is neatly wound up by the ending and practically tied up with a pretty bow. But the story’s greatest strength in my opinion is its keen sense of magical realism and descriptions of magical ritualism and the main character Gwen’s journey to find out what her true capabilities are as a witch. And while I definitely saw the twist near the end of the book coming, it worked very well plot-wise and is a very cinematic-style wrinkle found in Hollywood blockbuster films. 5/5 stars; highly recommended.