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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

BRB, Moving Into A Gothic Manor: A Review of The Girl From Rawblood by Catriona Ward

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

Shout out to Peru today. It’s so lovely to see you. I’m so glad you joined me to celebrate Spooky Season. Please enjoy your stay.

Happy October, y’all! It’s the best month of the year! And welcome to the first post of the best month. I’ve got a good one for ya today. I've got some glorious gothic literature ready to review today.

Haunted House from Scooby Doo.
Bring forth the bats and ravens, tis time.

Please think back to a few weeks ago, nay, a few months ago, when I published My TBR Pile is Ready for Spooky Season: What’s on My TBR Pile Part 3. I’ve already covered one of the books on that list and now it’s time to cover another. Today’s review kicked off that aforementioned listicle. I said I was waiting for a dark, gloomy night to enjoy this read, but it got the best of me and I enjoyed it during 90 degree heat.

Please welcome to the stage: The Girl From Rawblood by Catriona Ward!

Book cover of The Girl From Rawblood by Catriona Ward.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order. This is your one and only warning. Long time readers know I love the spoil the books I read. I also must issue a content and trigger warning. The Girl From Rawblood deals with topics such as mental health, drug abuse, self-harm, and suicide. There are also scenes involving Victorian era medicine. AKA literal torture cause doctors were fucking around to find out. There are mentions of lobotomies where nothing is ever explicitly stated but the implications are still not fun. Continuing with Victorian medical descriptions, there are scenes involving animal testing but it is definitely animal abuse. Honestly read this book at your own risk if any of those things are triggering for you. With that, let’s get to the synopsis.

Told through multiple generations and POVs, The Girl From Rawblood follows two families: the Villarca’s and the Gilmore’s. Both families have been intertwined for many years. It is the Villarca family who is the main focus of our story though. They own the titular Rawblood where members of their family have lived and died young deaths in it for generations. You see, they’re cursed. They’re cursed to die young, tragic deaths in Rawblood or die slow, painful deaths away from the home. A curse that brings Her. She is white, skeletal, covered with scars. Her origins are a mystery but her purpose is clear. When a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child – she comes and death follows.

Boo ghost.
OOoooohhh, spooky!

This brings us to our heroine Iris. All her life, her father has kept her tucked away in Rawblood away from others. She has one friend whose company she is denied, only her father and one servant by the name of Shakes to talk with, and she’s been told multiple times by her father to not let anyone into her life or fall in love cause they will die. Iris ultimately has to make a deal with her father: remain alone forever. A deal Iris breaks which causes consequences quick and violent.

As Iris’s story continues, it is interwoven with the stories of her ancestors and the one person Iris loves. What unfolds is a story of desperation, deception, and isolation all at the hands of mysterious figure haunting the halls of Rawblood.

The premise is giving.

Oh! Oh does this book have so much promise. This supernatural figure and curse is so intriguing. I really wanted to like this one. The Girl From Rawblood is peak gothic literature and I wanted this to be a ten-out-of-ten; alas it wasn’t. Honestly, it was hard to write the synopsis and you’ll see why.

The main issue is how messy the second half of the book is. As mentioned, this book switches POVs and timelines a lot. Every chapter to be precise. At first it’s fine. It begins with Iris then switches to her uncle Charles POV prior to her birth. The novel switches like this a few times in the beginning. It wasn’t my favorite as Charles’ story bored me and put me to sleep, but it was easy to navigate. Then the book begins switching between characters long since dead and who had never been mentioned.

The multiple POVs and timelines are simply too much. It makes the novel feel disjointed and hard to follow. There were times I had to force myself to keep reading because many chapters lost my attention. Seriously, parts of this novel put me to sleep. Good for my insomnia, not so good for this book’s review.

Homer Simpson trying to read.
If the story wasn't putting me to sleep, it made me into Homer.

Also, all those POVs and timelines don’t help the story at large. Like I said, it was hard for me to write the synopsis cause The Girl From Rawblood doesn’t really have a main plot to follow. Things are so disjointed, especially in the second half when more characters begin popping up. So much could have been omitted. So much could have been streamlined. So many edits could have been made. And they all would have made the book better.

What makes this so sad is the fact I can clearly see the love put into this book. The prose is so lush and atmospheric at times. There’s a scene near the end where Iris is seeing glimpses into the past of her ancestors’ final moments. They’re all so descriptive and vivid that I too could see them. The titular Rawblood is so well described that I could feel it’s cold, looming presence around me. Listen, gothic literature has the best prose. Without fail, it is lush, dark, foreboding, atmospheric and all that good stuff; The Girl From Rawblood is no different. Alas the plot is so disjointed that I could not enjoy the beautiful, poetic prose.

Sadness from Inside Out crying.

Disjointed. Convoluted. Literally put me to sleep. All words I would use to describe this book. I had such high hopes for this read! I wanted some glorious gothic lit! And I didn’t get it!

Emma Stone crying while eating ice cream.

At the end of the day I’m left with one question regarding this book. Is this a massive allegory for mental health? Because this book is so disjointed, and because I have no idea what the plot is supposed to be, I cannot answer this question. I think the answer is yes, but I truly have no idea. Mental health seemingly plays a large role in this book and I get the impression The Girl From Rawblood is supposed to be deep and meaningful to an extent, but any allegory or metaphor or what have you doesn’t work for obvious reasons.

Very rarely do I actively tell readers to buy or stay away from a book. Today I tell the readers to stay away from The Girl From Rawblood. She’s a headache when she’s not putting you to sleep. Beautiful prose can only do so much, and in this case, it cannot save this convoluted story.

With that, I shall bid you all adieu. I will see you again next week with another Spooky Season review!

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye! Stay Spooky!


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