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Book Review: Wicked Blood

WICKED BLOOD by Margot de Klerk is a YA paranormal fantasy where a shapeshifter ends up in a deadly feud with the creatures of Berlin. Check out what Andrea Marks-Joseph has to say in her review of this indie fantasy novel.

Book Review: Wicked Blood

Reviewed by Andrea Marks-Joseph

A shapeshifter travels to Berlin in search of her father, where she ends up tangled in a deadly feud with the city’s supernatural creatures.

Eighteen-year-old shapeshifter Cynthia is staying with family friends (and fellow shapeshifters) in Berlin while secretly searching for her father, a dark mage whose identity and whereabouts she is not supposed to know. 

The second in a series, Wicked Blood can comfortably be read as a standalone. Any details from Cynthia’s previous adventures are presented to us where necessary, and it never feels like readers are catching up or a step behind. By the end of Wicked Blood, she has risked her life for lovers and friends and bargained with ancient beings more powerful than she could fully grasp. Everything Cynthia’s come to know as truth has been turned upside down, and readers will feel proud of how she’s grown in her independence.

Author Margot de Klerk writes Cynthia’s experience in a way that truly captures the spirit of solo travel, both wonderful and terrifying: Who can she really trust? Why does it feel like she’s being followed? Should she be making friends with more local people? Which historical site should she visit today? When will her overbearing mother stop worrying about her being away from home? 

Cynthia’s enjoying the sense of freedom and possibility, but there is more to Berlin than what she’s seeing around her. Then her ex-boyfriend, a hunter in employ of the Council in Oxford, asks her to investigate on their behalf.

Once she starts meeting people on her own, Cynthia realizes that she’s an outsider in a city rife with its own tension between supernatural creatures. What at first feels like a novelty, or a result of not visiting the right tourist spots, turns out to be a supernatural crisis: Cynthia hasn’t seen any supernatural beings in Berlin—no vampires, shifters, witches, or hunters—because they have gone into hiding, or worse, may be dying en masse. 

Everyone has their own opinion of who is to blame for recent conflicts and tragedies, and they disagree on whether Cynthia’s enquiring presence in their city is a threat or delicious prize. Her research stumbles onto family secrets and Council missions, learning about vampire curses and mysterious disappearances. She is warned off by some people and lured in as a bargaining tool by others. 

“What a bloodthirsty city.” Berlin is a foreign land to Cynthia, bustling in a language she doesn’t speak, filled with monuments to a mystical past she knows nothing about. But Cynthia has access to old friends and new, all of them in high places. 

Though it’s a dangerous tale filled with death and deception, Wicked Blood is less dark and spooky than it is enthralling and captivating. It feels like getting lost walking the streets of a new city and finding treasures along the way, risking your perceived safety to follow a delicious scent. Raising questions of culpability, loyalty, and family responsibility, de Klerk weaves a story that twists and turns in all the most unexpected places.

De Klerk’s writing is effortlessly descriptive of Cynthia’s quest. The prose is never dense or overwhelming and really makes us feel as though we are wandering the streets of Berlin: riding its trains, noticing its architecture, appreciating its history, encountering its strange and mysterious people carrying worlds of secrets in their skin. 

I particularly enjoyed reading the shapeshifting experience as Cynthia transforms into whichever animal she chooses. De Klerk’s worldbuilding is rich with fresh takes on old magic. The fascinating mechanics of being a shapeshifter are by far my favorite. Shapeshifting is described clear as day, as if you’re watching on screen. The rules of Cynthia’s magic create challenges just as exciting as the opportunities they cause. The supernatural in Wicked Blood is wonderfully accessible and conversational, bringing you into the experience with ease. 

In this tale of abandoned buildings and misplaced trust, Cynthia finds Berlin’s history entangled with ancient magical theories and creatures. Wicked Blood is easy to sink your teeth into and such a sweet thrill to read. Deeper lore is revealed as the story progresses, and the emotional, evocative twists come in thicker (and with more trickery) than Cynthia or the reader could imagine. Just when we get caught up in the city’s conspiracies, we learn of new danger, and even when she wants to escape it, Cynthia remembers that she can’t: “The sensible thing to do would be to get out of town… Come back when it was safe. But then her father might have moved on.” It’s all utterly fantastic.

Wicked Blood is a book I’d read again with pleasure. Like any young adult’s time abroad, the true magic is in the surprises that each day brings and the people you meet along the way—prickly and powerful as they may be here. The genuine connections Cynthia builds are meaningful. The eclectic community is there for Cynthia when she asks for help, and even her enemies show up when she cleverly sweetens a deal. 

More than anything, Wicked Blood is about Cynthia realizing the world is more magnificent, vast, and intricate than she knew and that she has more courage and smarts than she believed before. It’s a delight to watch as she comes to trust and know herself better.

Wicked Blood is a stellar mystery too—part murder investigation, part supernatural feud, all fast-paced Berlin adventure. It’s perfect for fans of the action in the Netflix show First Kill (complete with the star-crossed-love angle, though it’s not the central focus) and reminiscent of the urban magical settings in The Mortal Instruments series. But it would be equally entertaining for readers who simply enjoy a good mystery. Though the novel comes to an action-packed and satisfying conclusion, Wicked Blood ends with an intriguing cliff-hanger that raises new questions. I would pick up the first in this series and any books that come next in a heartbeat.

Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Paranormal

Print Length: 322 pages

ISBN: 978-1919621333

Thank you for reading Andrea Marks-Joseph’s book review of Wicked Blood by Margot de Klerk! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.

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