Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on June 14, 2016
Genres: LGBTQIA+, Paranormal, Witches
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble
Add to: Goodreads

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


In her extraordinary debut, Spells of Blood and Kin, Claire Humphrey deftly weaves her paranormal world with vivid emotional depth and gritty violence. Bringing together themes of death, addiction, and grief, Claire takes readers on a human journey that goes beyond fantasy.
When her beloved grandmother dies suddenly, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky is left with no choice but to take over her grandmother's magical position in their small folk community. That includes honoring a debt owed to the dangerous stranger who appears at Lissa's door.
Maksim Volkov needs magic to keep his brutal nature leashed, but he's already lost control once: his blood-borne lust for violence infects Nick Kaisaris, a charming slacker out celebrating the end of finals. Now Nick is somewhere else in Toronto, going slowly mad, and Maksim must find him before he hurts more people.
Lissa must uncover forbidden secrets and mend family rifts in order to prevent Maksim from hurting more people, including himself. If she fails, Maksim will have no choice but to destroy both himself and Nick.


Baba had been dead for four days by the time Lissa got to speak with her.

This is how Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey begins, and boy is it a great first line! A solid debut novel by Ms. Humphrey, the book features solid character building, and an incredibly interesting take on kitchen witchcraft featuring what seems like eastern European berserkers. However, at points, it does feel like perhaps there may have been chunks edited out as the story seems to jump around or over certain points, leaving it up to the reader to make of it what they will.

Humphrey does a good job depicting the grieving process with Lissa. It doesn’t feel over the top or hysterical, while at the same time manages not portray Lissa as cold or uncaring. It’s a sombre, sober portrayal of grief that fades to the background during the novel, but is still felt; which is appropriate considering Baba and her death is the catalyst for everything in the novel.

Hearing of Baba’s death, Lissa’s somewhat estranged step-sister Stella decides to visit to help see Lissa through such a trying time, or so she says. In actuality, she’s running away from her life in London and looking to start anew in Toronto, while at the same time looking to form an actual relationship with her step-sister. Lissa, unaccustomed to the company, is resistant at first. It seems being a witch’s apprentice left her little to no time to socialize or understand how to be around people. The bonding done between the two was well done and believable. They’re different, and remain different, but understand and appreciate the other. It’s great to see each sister take the other one under their wing.

The undercurrent of romance between Lissa and Stella’s coworker, Rafe, whom I loved was fun! It was definitely just a small background thing that I want more of! I’m not really a fan of romance, but maybe I just really liked Rafe? The perfect mix of approachable, relatable working class man with hints of an upper class upbringing, I just kept thinking I WANT ONE! I think, he might be a big part of why I’d like to see a follow-up to Spells of Blood and Kin.

But, then we get to the flip side where I’m uncertain I’d like to know more about this world and the “kin” section of the story. On the surface, it’s pretty cool and interesting. The kin seem like berserkers, humans that have been tainted with insatiable blood lust where they are always looking for a fight. Constantly drinking and fighting, theirs is a constant internal struggle to retain their humanity. World weary Maksim is forced to deal with the return of his raging frenzy after Baba dies. Tagging along is progeny Augusta who sees the world a bit differently than her maker. Their relationship is interesting and I’d love to see more back story between them. That said, this is where the story clipping I mentioned earlier happens.

There seems to be something going on, unsaid, with the three kin you see in the book. This is getting to mild spoilers right now, so if you want to read the book, TURN AWAY AND STOP HERE. View Spoiler »

I hope that there’s a follow-up simply to see the inclusion of heterosexual kin, which funnily enough is never something I expected to say — that a book needed more straight people. But in this case, I think having a straight person be afflicted as kin would at the very least dissuade me from jumping to conclusions as to what sort of commentary one can jump to. The writing is solid, the relationships are great, the magic simple but believable, Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey is a solid debut novel.


Leave a Reply