Author: Jordan L. Hawk
Pages/Word Count: 236 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Between his bullying father and dissolute brother, Percival Endicott Whyborne has quite enough problematic family members to deal with. So when his sister returns to Widdershins asking for help solving the mystery of a derelict ship, Whyborne is reluctant to get involved. Until, that is, a brutal murderer strikes, leaving Whyborne and his lover Griffin no choice but to take the case.
The investigation leads them deep into a conspiracy of blackmail, murder, and darkest sorcery. But worst of all are the secrets held within the family itself, one of which will destroy everything Whyborne believed to be true, not only about his family, but about himself.
Review: Fans of Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne and Griffin series are in for a pretty dark treat with Bloodline – with a generous dose of tragedy, at that, but in ways that are a lot more complicated than simply death. As an installment of the series, Bloodline is perhaps the darkest and grimmest so far, but it does end in bittersweet hope that marks a new era, so to speak, for the characters involved.
The stakes in this book are significantly higher because everything becomes personal for Whyborne. We get to see his family’s history, which is intricate and bizarre and is steeped in magic. The seeds for the unraveling conflict in Bloodline have been planted in previous books, and Whyborne gives us a few helpful nudges here and there by briefly recounting details in his past adventures as a sorcerer who’s awakening to his powers. And because of history – both the Whyborne family’s and Widdershins’s – there’s also an element of classic folklore woven throughout in the form of a poem that ends up being a prophecy, which adds to the mythological nature of the entire series. There’s also a fantastic exploration of fraternal twins and the magical and superstitious connections they have with each other. And in this book, Percival Whyborne develops in a way I didn’t expect but was deeply excited about. Our shy, bumbling book nerd steps into a role meant only for him, and what’s even better is the fact that he does so by making so many mistakes whose fallout forces him to not just accept his identity, but embrace it willingly, even at such a heavy cost.
Griffin and Christine take the back seat in this installment; the Whyborne family, including distant cousins from England, take center stage. Along with secrets come unwelcome truths about one’s bloodline – bloodthirsty and power-hungry fanaticism, twisted ambitions begetting twisted ambitions, and fierce, overriding hate in one family member for another. Whyborne himself is not immune to any of these, and he mirrors his family’s twisted nature in one way or another, at times rationalizing his behavior in that naïve way that Whyborne tends to do. Complications also ensue when old magic and the sea come into play.
As with Hawk’s previous books in this series, there are neither guarantees nor light touches. What I’ve always liked about Hawk’s style is the fact that she doesn’t hold back or doesn’t hesitate to kill off a character, no matter how we end up feeling for him or her. Case in point: I’ve yet to recover from a certain side character being killed off in Threshold (Book Two) despite my ambivalence toward him. And the end result of that is an emphatic underscoring of the dangerous randomness of magic and of the supernatural world and how we’re all essentially powerless against them; factor in the vagaries of human nature, and we’re left with a potent mix. In that sense, Griffin is very much justified in his doubts and his fears for his lover. The effects are costly as well, with characters changing accordingly – some more literally than others – which adds to the tragedy of the book because there’s simply no turning back. In Stanford’s case, there’s no lesson learned, but rather than make me loathe him even more, I’m compelled to pity him and even his father. Especially his father, in fact.
It’s a complicated matter. Every character whom we’ve been shown to be reprehensible in one way or another are, deep down, victims in their own way as well. In the Whyborne siblings’ case, through a bloodline they never chose – a classic example of children paying dearly for the sins of their fathers (or mothers). In their parents’ case – particularly their father – through the corrupting effects of wealth and power, something that’s also a defining characteristic of the time period. Whatever dislike I’d originally felt for some of the side characters easily gave way to pity in the end, and that’s what I call damned good and effective writing.
As I’ve noted earlier, the book ends on a bittersweet note, but it does so with some hope. I can only look forward to the healing process among affected characters because perhaps the wounds aren’t as deep as I’ve been led to believe. But all that will have to be shown to us in future installments, and in time, maybe we’ll also be treated to some form of redemption. With a new, dangerous, magical world opening up to Whyborne, we can only imagine what kind of bizarre and amazing adventures lie in wait for him and Griffin.
And, no, this book isn’t the end of the series even though it has the feeling of it. Hawk teases us with a future installment, and I can’t wait.
You can buy Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin: Book Five) here: