Rosamund is an Earth Master who has grown up in the Schwarzwald after her parents abandoned city life when they realised that city life was poisoning their daughter and making her ill. In their quiet country life Rosa is finally able to breath easily and relax, and with the help of Grossmutter Helga she is learning the basics of her elemental magic - although all the things that are supposed to be easy for an Earth Master seem frustratingly difficult for her to master. When she meets a stranger on the way to visit Grossmutter Helga, all of her instincts warn her that he is not to be trusted - and when she finally reaches Grossmutters house she realises what her instincts were trying to tell her. Taken into the care of the Schwarzwald Lodge, Rosa begins to learn the skills of a Hunter, and learns that her Earth magic is not the magic of healing and growth, but rather than magic of hunting and tracking to clear the land of dark and dangerous beasts.
Years later and Rosa is a Hunt Master in her own right, one of the few women with the physical and magical abilities to hunt and kill the creatures that prey on the innocent. It is on the trail of a vampire that Rosa first encounters a type of werewolf that triggers memories of the past and the creature that attacked her as a child. As a Hunter she always has intense satisfaction when she ends the life of another shifter who has used blood magic to change their form. On the way back to her home she finds herself detoured to the home of the Graf, an old friend of her mentor, and while she is there she learns about a danger that has haunted a quiet part of Transylvania for decades, taking dozens of lives each year. Determined to investigate the problem she finds herself with an unexpected ally - a shifter who changes not by curse or by dark spell, but because the ability to shift is in his blood. To catch the dark creature they must Hunt together, but first Rosa must lose her distrust of shifters.
It is difficult to review a book like Blood red without sounding too shamelessly gushy. I love the work of Mercedes Lackey - her world building, her turn of phrase, and the way she can take familiar stories and make you part of the story, feeling the twists, the turns and the emotions. Of all her series I particularly like the Elemental masters series because it takes the tales we know so well from our childhood and makes them something new and exciting we can rediscover as adults - but also bound by rules and conditions that make them more "realistic". In the case of Blood red I also adored the use of German phrases, as someone who is half Dutch so many of the words seemed familiar and comfortable (even though I am not fluent in Dutch). It was also nice to just take a break from England for a change too, although it is not "officially" part of the series I have always loved the Fire rose, which for me is the first book in this series (the fact it is set in America appears to be the main reason it is not part of the series).
This series will not appeal to everyone, and there are a few books in the series that feel like they have "missed their mark a little", but Blood red is definitely one of the better ones. It was nice to read a story where the mythology is subtly woven into the story, rather than having the story forcibly bent to fit the original idea. Rosa is a well rounded character, and one I hope we get to visit again in the future as she can more than hold her own!
If you like this book then try:
- The Fire rose by Mercedes Lackey
- The serpent's shadow by Mercedes Lackey
- Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey
- Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
- Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
- Deerskin by Robin McKinley
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- Rose daughter by Robin McKinley
- Spindle's end by Robin McKinley
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Brilla