cover image The Girl from Rawblood

The Girl from Rawblood

Catriona Ward. Sourcebooks Landmark, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-4926-3742-4

Born in England in 1899, Iris Villarca, the principal narrator of Ward’s superb debut, grows up without human company, except for Tom Gilmore, a farmer’s son with whom she forms a secret bond, and her father, Alonso, the only other surviving Villarca. She believes that a rare disease necessitates their seclusion at Rawblood, their Dartmoor estate, but as she matures, Alonso reveals the truth: isolation is the only way to save Iris from a ghostly presence that destroys the Villarcas when they fall in love, marry, or have children. As WWI begins, Iris violates her father’s interdictions with horrific repercussions for both of them. A flashback to 1881, related by Charles Danforth, a doctor privy to Alonso’s complex past, reveals other horrors. Later, new viewpoints, spanning the years from 1839 to 1919, focus on the family’s women as each negotiates the powerlessness of her situation and time. Sharply evoked particulars—Devon’s landscape and period medical science emerge with special vividness—help root the spectral phenomena. Ward perfectly balances sensory richness with the chills of the uncanny. Agent: Sam Copeland, Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Mar.)

This review has been corrected. A previous version had a typo in the last sentence.