Author: Jessica Day George
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Synopsis: As debutantes in 1890s New York City, cousins Dacia and Lou knew little about about their mysterious Romanian relatives, the Florescus. Now, upon turning seventeen, the girls must journey to Romania–a journey that seems to be both reward and punishment–to meet their cousins and their tyrant of a grandmother and to learn the secrets of their family. Secrets spoken of in whispers. Dangerous secrets known as the Claw, the Wing, and the Smoke.
But as dangerous as those family secrets might be, even more dangerous is the centuries-old bond between the Florescus and the royal Dracula family, and it seems that it’s time for Dacia and Lou to give up their life in New York society and take their place among the servants of the Draculas. When the devilish heir, Mihai Dracula, sets his sights on Dacia as part of his evil, power-hungry plan, the girls must accept or fight against this cruel inheritance. Do they have the courage to break the shackles of their upbringing and set the course of their own destiny?
I really enjoyed SILVER IN THE BLOOD. We have two cousins who are more like sisters, Dacia and LouLou (sometimes called Lou, real name is Louise). Dacia is the more outspoken and hardheaded of the two, while LouLou is reserve, shy, and almost brittle. I really liked Dacia probably because she wasn’t afraid and she stood up for herself, while I found LouLou to be frustrating, mostly because she seemed so fragile.
The cousins are taken from their home in New York where they were born and raised, and are sent to visit their Florescu family in Romania. We are to understand that Dacia and LouLou are high-society ladies and come from very prominent Romanian and American families. Dacia and LouLou haven’t seen their Romania relations often, and some of them they have never met. I liked some of these relations and I disliked others. Radu is a cousin who pops up now and then, and he can’t seem to figure out where his loyalty lies, same with Aunt Kate, who is a stony presence in the book, but she has no depth, really–aside from her supposed love interest.
The Florescu family is tied up with the Draculas, a family they are supposed to guard. Within the Florescu family, there are different version of these ‘guardians’ I guess you could say–the Wing, the Claw, and the Smoke. These are all derived from powers Dracula could call upon. Dacia and LouLou are brought to their family to discover all of their secrets.
And let me tell you, there are so many secrets.
I didn’t mind how the story unraveled, though sometimes I got tired of reading about how much Dacia and LouLou really needed to talk. There is a point in the book where all the secrets are out on the table and while LouLou rises to the occasion (because she feels ‘light’ all of a sudden…?), Dacia becomes introverted and basically, childish. The two cousins switch rolls. It would have been much more refreshing for them to have both taken responsibility at this point. It was hard for me to imagine the opinionated and hot-headed Dacia suddenly loafing around and crying. I know the justification is that she is traumatized by what she experienced, but really, it came off more as she was just spoiled. In contrast, LouLou’s easy acceptance is very strange and the reasoning is because she suddenly doesn’t feel so heavy–shall we start with what this implies about women and their body image? While LouLou does gain confidence after the secrets are all revealed, she reverts back to, honestly, having little to no role in the actual ending of the book. It was very disappointing.
I will also say that the ending sort of fell apart for me. While a strong one, I could tell the intention was to leave enough room for this book to have a sequel.
Things that I did not like:
First, LouLou had this obsession with her weight. “But Lou, no matter how many sweets she passed up, always felt a little too plump.” “But now that she’d even had Parisian dressmakers compliment her figure, she suddenly felt light as a bird.” “You struggle to be tall and slender like Dacia, but you aren’t, and that doesn’t matter. Everywhere we have gone today, the young men haven’t been able to take their eyes off you.”
These things bothered me, mostly because they suggest that feeling good about yourself is all about compliments from strangers and men. I understand LouLou (and Dacia) are young. I understand these feelings, and I know many young girls who can relate, but I don’t think the addition of ‘well, I felt better about myself because other people think I’m beautiful’ is a helpful or healthy compliment.
Secondly, the phrase ‘whoop like a savage’ was used on two occasions. I understand this is supposed to partly be historical fiction, but this is also a fantasy you wrote in 2015. There are other phrases the author could have used, other words she could have chosen to describe Dacia’s behavior.
Thirdly, there is a point in this novel where a man threatens to rape Dacia and LouLou. This is something he does so he can have power. I really hate this sort of thing, and I didn’t feel like the main character had been this villainous before, so when he decided that this was the card he’d play when they wouldn’t listen to him, I felt both that it was out of character, and also uncomfortable.
It is one thing to tackle these issues and create moral lessons, or demonstrate problems in society, but it’s another thing to use them all as plot devices with no purpose or resolution.
Overall, I will read the next book gladly and hope that some of the characters are more developed, and that both Dacia and LouLou rise to the occasion faster than before. 3 stars.
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