Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Spells of Blood and Kin

Rate this book
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.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published June 14, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Claire Humphrey

23 books96 followers
Claire Humphrey's short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story ''Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot'' appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story "The Witch Of Tarup" was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden. Spells of Blood and Kin is her first novel.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
51 (8%)
4 stars
156 (26%)
3 stars
240 (41%)
2 stars
105 (18%)
1 star
26 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 165 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,258 reviews8,706 followers
May 11, 2017
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

To begin, for all of you non-English majors:

Postmodern literature: is a form of literature which is marked, both stylistically and ideologically, by a reliance on such literary conventions as fragmentation, paradox, unreliable narrators, often unrealistic and downright impossible plots, games, parody, paranoia, dark humor and authorial self-reference. Postmodern authors tend to reject outright meanings in their novels, stories and poems, and, instead, highlight and celebrate the possibility of multiple meanings, or a complete lack of meaning, within a single literary work.

Now that you have the convoluted definition, here's mine: depressing crap and trash that is often utterly pointless.

Or I should say, what mine used to be. Before SPELLS OF BLOOD AND KIN by Claire Humphrey.

But that's not entirely true either, b/c I don't think I can label it as 100% postmodern. I'd say it's somewhere between 66 - 75% postmodern, so it would seem that the 25 - 34% of non-depressing crap and trash that isn't utterly pointless is all I needed to make the literary trend redeemable to mine eyes.

It's the dash of hope that keeps life from being meaningless that makes the difference.

SO. From what I can tell, SPELLS OF BLOOD AND KIN isn't doing too well in the advance review ratings department. Based on my experience with the book, I'm going to guess it's for one of the following reasons:

1. It's a relatively short book told from three main POVs.

Lots of people don't like more than one POV, if they aren't reading 600+ page high fantasies. I can't comment on the why of that, b/c I'm not one of those people.

2. It's told in the third person.

I do generally prefer first person narratives, but, if done well, it doesn't take long for me to adapt, and this book is a good example of exactly that.

3. That element of postmodernism I was fussing about earlier.

There are two separate plot threads that make everything building up to their conclusions feel--at a glance--like wasted time, one of them concluding rather abruptly in the last 3%, the other leaving you wondering about what will happen in forty or sixty years when the character finds himself in the same situation as he began this story in.

That's off-putting. No way around it.


I was fully engaged in the story within the first couple turns of POV changes. That's hard to do under normal circumstances, but Humphrey managed it after dropping me head first into the story, no background, no nothing, so . . . *tips hat*

BEHOLD, the first line:

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

Umm . . . say again?

And it doesn't stop there. The first time we meet our three MCs, one wakes groggily in alley after being mugged, one inexplicably goes skinny dipping in Lake Ontario, and the aforementioned Lissa is dealing with the death of her grandmother.

But the way Humphrey slowly doled out information kept me on the hook. She gave just enough to keep me from being frustrated, and consistently threw out things so bizarre or so reprehensible that I had to keep reading to find out why? What was the twist? Surely Maksim didn't just show up at some chick's house, break down the door, and punch her in the face? It can't be that simple? He isn't just some abusive RAGE beast . . . is he . . .?

No. He's not. And Lissa isn't just a hateful bitch.

But if you want to know ALL THE THINGS, you have to stick with it, which isn't a hard task, IMO.

SPELLS OF BLOOD AND KIN by Claire Humphrey isn't your typical urban fantasy. There's no Bad Guy trying to do a Bad Thing who must be stopped by a sassy heroine and her merry band of accomplices. There's no supernatural governing council either keeping the peace with the humans since their existence was revealed or keeping the silence to ensure they aren't discovered. There's a young woman who can work small magics during the full moon, there's a man who's lived several lifetimes, his battle to control his bloodlust getting increasingly more difficult as time passes, and there's a young man whose life was spinning out of control long before he met the other two. But, for a short time, their lives become entangled, and this is that story. I happen to think it's a good one. Highly recommended.

Jessica Signature
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,469 reviews9,632 followers
May 29, 2016
I'm not really sure about this book. I loved it toward the end and the beginning but during a lot of the middle it sort of dragged for me. Maybe I just didn't understand all that was going on.

Lissa's grandmother dies in the beginning of the book. We don't even get to meet her that way because it starts out with her death. She's a very powerful witch that has been around for a long time. She has been teaching Lissa spells and leaves her house and everything to her.

Lissa does spells for the neighborhood people that come for different kinds of potions. It's kind of neat because she does the spell over an egg with whatever ingredients the spell calls for and the person is supposed to drink the egg, preferably in something tasty!

And there these people in the book called kin and I never could figure out what they were. I thought they might be wolves because of the way they talk about running and being outside. They love the taste of blood so they try to keep themselves tired out and drunk so they won't get wild. It stated in the book they are not vampires that they are just an old race with powers. Hmmmm... maybe I got something wrong.

Anyway, so this kin named Maksim always visited Lissa's grandmother and she gave him sleeping eggs and was supposed to find a cure for him. He doesn't want to worry about hurting someone but he has turned someone and he needs to get this done quickly. Only... he finds out that Lissa is the only one left so he asks for her help. There is a way that Lissa can contact her grandmother at certain times and only ask three questions. Lissa had no clue this guy-ish person existed but she finds out about him and agrees to help.

There is also another kin named Gus and she has known Maksim for many years and they try to look out for each other. Gus doesn't like the witches because she is afraid of what they can do but that all works out later on. The guy that Maksim changes is named Nick. They are trying to take care of him too so he doesn't hurt someone. Basically they run a lot and stay drunk a lot. I think I said that already, but I digress.

Oh and Lissa's stepsister Stella comes to live with her. This is a big surprise to Lissa as she doesn't want her there but they form a bond and it's really sweet. I loved that part. It's sad though because Lissa's dad wouldn't come over to visit her so to hell with him.

Like I said, I liked the book good enough I just wish I didn't feel like I was crazy as a loon at times because I wasn't sure what in the hell they were talking about. I also wish I really and truly knew what they are besides kin. I mean I googled it but I didn't get anything from Russian folklore or didn't type it in correctly.

Either way I think a lot of people will enjoy the book a lot and some will like it well enough like me. :-)

*I would like to thank Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honests review.*

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Dana.
440 reviews290 followers
May 8, 2016

I enjoyed this book in general, but the problem is that I didn't start enjoying it till the 60% mark and even then it still had some slow parts. I like the idea of this book, a young witch burdened with the responsibility of her grandmothers promises to a mysterious paranormal man.

I haven't seen this type of “creature” before in a paranormal book so I appreciated that but it was odd, I found the Kin to be interesting and boring at the same time. Perhaps if they didn't act like drunken super sailors I would have enjoyed the characters more.

The “witchy” parts were interesting though, and I thought the idea of conducting spells through eggs was pretty cool. The relationships in the novel were well done, which helped me enjoy the book more, I just wish that there was more that these people did together!

This book had great potential, and overall it's still worthy of a read but I wouldn't spend money on a book that takes so long to get going. 3/5

Buy, Borrow or Bin Verdict: Borrow

Check out more of my reviews here

Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
October 4, 2016
Paranormal fantasy meets women's fiction?

Lissa has led a sheltered life, brought up by her Russian grandmother and taught the old traditions - the VERY old traditions. Lissa's baba was a witch. And now, her clients expect Lissa to take over her practice and provide them with the potions and spells. She's ready to do her best - but she feels underprepared. Luckily, part of her magic is that once a month, she can ask questions of her grandmother's spirit.

Still, grieving is stressful - and when Lissa's far-more-worldly and modern stepsister shows up to 'help,' life gets even more complicated.

And then, there's Maksim. The physically imposing man is clearly capable of great violence, but he is desperate for Lissa's help. The limited information from her grandmother has merely told her that Maksim is 'kin.' Of course, she wants to do what she can for him. But Maksim's problems may stretch the limits of her abilities. The 'kin' are not Lissa's relatives, but a kind of werewolf, and Maksim's entanglement with her grandmother is an old, old debt.

Many thanks to St. Martin's and Netgalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,034 reviews2,605 followers
June 10, 2016
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/06/10/...

When all is said and done, if you’re in the mood for a fresh twist on magic and the paranormal, or simply looking for a story featuring an interesting confluence of relationships and thought-provoking characters, then you’ll definitely want to curl up with Claire Humphrey’s enchanting novel debut, Spells of Blood and Kin. And as an added bonus, the events of this book also take place before a charming and vibrant backdrop, in the heart of a city full of its own cultural magic and diversity. Things might not turn out the way you’d expect them to, but they’re guaranteed to keep you engaged.

The novel is mainly told from the perspectives of three people. First and foremost is Lissa Nevsky, a 22-year-old woman abruptly elevated to the position of koldun’ia—sorceress, or magical practitioner—in her small Russian folk community after the sudden death of her grandmother who previously held the title. Providing healing spells like sleep aids or fertility charms quickly becomes a part of her main routine, until she is completely caught off guard one day when Maksim Volkov shows up on her doorstep, calling himself “kin”. Failing to recognize the true meaning behind the term, Lissa initially mistakes this mysterious stranger for family, but understanding that he and her grandmother may have had a long-standing arrangement for healing services, she sets her mind to providing him the same help.

However, Maksim knows he has already come too late. On the last full moon, he remembers losing control, unwittingly infecting a young man with his savage and untamable nature. The sleep spells from the witch’s granddaughter have helped a bit, but they can never truly quench the desire for violence. Now Maksim feels the burden of responsibility to track down his victim, before the effects of his blood can manifest. The young man turns out to be a college student named Nick Kaisaris, who was out celebrating the end of finals with his friend the night he encountered Maksim in an alley. Ever since then, Nick has been feeling strange; his senses have been enhanced, and his strength has increased, but it hasn’t all been pleasant. Nick doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but something is wrong and he’s slowly losing his grip on his sanity.

This was a strange book, not at all like your typical urban fantasy, even if it does contain some of the usual elements. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this story was about shapeshifters, but it is actually a bit more complicated than that. The kin are not exactly like werewolves or any kind of shifter in that they don’t go through any form of physical transformation, but they are indeed immortal and their behavior also appears to be closely tied to the phases of the moon. To suppress the violence in their veins, Maksim and his fellow kin Augusta have to drown themselves in copious amounts of alcohol or let off steam by beating the crap out of each other. Maksim, being centuries older and susceptible to blinding rages, also needs the help of a witch’s spell to leash his inner animal.

That’s where Lissa comes in. She’s also not your typical witch, young and inexperienced in the eyes of her community. I really liked how the paranormal aspects described in this book had the feel of folk magic and tradition. Following in the footsteps of her grandmother who used eggs to bind and distribute her spells, Lissa has been trying to do the best she can while still dealing with her grief. Through her eyes, we learn the ways of her magic, like how her spells are performed on the few nights around a full moon, and how regular store-bought eggs can be imbued with the power of her special ingredients and incantations. When these eggs are subsequently consumed raw, the subject will experience their effects. I thought this was a very well-portrayed and captivating mode of magic.

There were some weaknesses, though. Chief among them was Lissa’s character. Given how central her role is to the book, I was disappointed to feel the least connected to her out of everyone else in the story. Shy, aloof, and not too savvy when it comes to social situations, Lissa always felt far removed from me, like I was never able to get close enough to see her true personality. Perhaps this perceived distance is by design, in which case the author might have done her job too well, because Lissa often came across cold, two-dimensional and emotionally vacant. I really disliked her in the first half of the book, especially when her stepsister Stella (who ended up being my favorite character) showed up with an offer to help out after her grandmother’s death. The brusque, unwelcoming response from Lissa turned me off even more, though fortunately my opinion of her gradually improved as the story progressed.

As well, the story’s pacing is somewhat inconsistent, with a lot of jumping around between perspectives. Like I said, this is not your average crisis-filled, action-oriented urban fantasy, so be prepared for slow-building momentum because this one does take some time to get really going. We also never get a satisfying explanation for the kin, like where they came from or how they came to be the way there are. It’s not information we need to know to understand the story, but those who crave a bit more world-building and context are going to be left wanting for answers.

However, I did love the setting. Being a former Torontonian, I was touched on a personal and emotional level by the author’s descriptions of the sights, sounds, and culture of the city. I was also a UofT student, so the places featured or mentioned in this book, like the pubs of the Annex or the eateries on College, Victorian-style houses tucked in the neighborhoods off Dundas, crappy TTC streetcar experiences, and convocation week, all of it brought me back to memories of my old haunts and good times. It was really cool to read a story set in my hometown, and Claire Humphrey captured the spirit of Toronto perfectly.

So if Spell of Blood and Kin sounds like a book that would interest you, go ahead and give it a try. The story’s tone and style will take some getting used to, but the ideas are fascinating and the magic is superb. If character development suffers a little, Humphrey makes up for that with her wonderfully expressive writing that brings the world around the characters to life. This was an impressive novel debut, and I’ll be watching to see what she has in store for the future.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,162 reviews1,518 followers
May 31, 2016
When Lissa Nevsky's grandmother passes away rather suddenly from a heart attack Lissa is left on her own trying to learn the family trade, magic. The community is now relying on Lissa to give them their remedies and be their koldun'ia.

Maksim Volkov comes looking for Lissa grandmother, she had helped him deal with being a Kin and controlling his urges. After her passing Maksim finds that the protective spell that she had put on him has failed so now he needs Lissa to help him before his violent nature returns full force.

Spells of Blood and Kin is one of those books that when I was finished reading I wasn't quite sure on how I wanted to rate this one. I really didn't mind reading it at all and was somewhat into the story all throughout but it really lacked in some things. The story changes the point of view with the two major characters being Maksim and Lissa. Lissa is a witch and learning her trade while Maksim is what is known as Kin.

Lissa being left to figure out what her grandmother would have been teaching her had she not passed suddenly is an intriguing idea. The magic involved was fun to read about and follow along. Pretty sure the idea of passing out spells in eggs is a completely new one so that part takes on an angle of it's own.

However, with Maksim being this new thing called a Kin I was left the entire book wishing that there was a better explanation of what exactly that was. In the beginning it sounded a bit like a vampire but the bits and pieces given throughout gives the impression it's different but it's never really fully explained. I think I would have enjoyed this more if only I could understand a major character in the book better along with a few secondary characters.

In the end the story wasn't too bad overall. The pace could get a bit slow for me here and there but I questioned whether if that was due to the lack of explanation of a huge part of the story, the Kin. I felt it would probably grab readers more if they had a better understanding about what they were reading about.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,264 reviews222 followers
December 26, 2016
An entertaining story about family with a take on a common supernatural trope that's clever and tragic and utilizing a mythos you don't see too much in contemporary fantasy.

In modern day Toronto Lissa's grandmother has just passed away unexpectedly leaving Lissa as the koldun'ai for the local Russian community, a sort of village witch/herbalist/wise woman figure. Lissa is a deeply private person who feels utterly alone without her beloved baba. Into her grief comes Maksim, a supernatural creature who Lissa's grandmother had a critical magical bond with which is now broken, and her English step-sister, an unexpected arrival who is suddenly there for Lissa.

Throughout this I wanted to use the word for what anyone reading of Maksim's abilities/curse would logically use, and it's actually a bit frustrating that none of the characters actually use the term. You could literally explain most of everything Maksim and his small family are in one short sentence if you do.

That annoying point aside, I think this book has a lot to say about family, what a family is for, and how it's created and what its limits are. And it does say a lot about that, just not in anything resembling a plot. Fortunately the book is short, and clever ideas, and lots of interesting Russian community and folklore let me forgive that. At the end of it, I was kind of wondering what the point was, but then answered my own question (family). But to manage other people's expectations, just don't expect the book to go anywhere, because it doesn't.

A solid 3 stars for me. I enjoyed it, and would read more from this author, but I just want more to my fiction than beautifully researched background and intricate characters. There's actually got to be a story at some point.
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews537 followers
June 17, 2016
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2016/0...

Spells of Blood and Kin presents a fresh and interesting twist on the paranormal. This is not as dark or gritty as a horror novel, but it is darker and more violent than I expected. It is also not a paranormal book that romanticizes the violent creatures of the world and for me, that honestly was a positive. I found it overall rather unexpected and definitely could not predict the way things would go. Also a positive.

Lissa is a witch whose grandmother (and mentor in all things witch related) just died. She comes across as quite sheltered, having really had little interaction with anyone but her grandmother. I found her character to be a bit naive in some respects, also sweet, kind and found myself interested in her story. She is faced with having to replace her grandmother’s role and services in the community. Most the the magic she performs is based on placing spells on eggs, the recipients use the eggs when they want to release the spell. There is a time constraint on how long the eggs/spells are good and all of them are temporary (tied to the life of the egg they were cast on). But in the course of taking over for her grandmother she also learns about things she never knew about. Particularly related to one Maksim Volkov.

The reader (and Lissa) quickly realize Maksim, who refers to himself as kin, is not typical and that kin does not mean that he is related to her. She knows her grandmother had helped him keep his violent nature under control but does not fully understand what that nature is or what her grandmother may have done to help him. From Maksim’s perspective we get a clearer idea of how he suffers. Honestly, I can’t tell you exactly what Maksim is, but I will say he suffers from an incredible need for violence, even when the rational part of his brain does not want violence. He has one companion like him, and they drink heavily and fight harder. They have the ability to “infect” others, and one more character in the book has his life take a very unpredictable and dark turn after a run in with Maksim. Sort of think of Maksim’s kind as a paranormal berserker Fight Club. With lots of booze and at times little self restraint. But the problem is that Maksim does not want to be like this. He wants to remain in control of himself and is haunted by his past. As bad as Maksim could be, we learn enough about him and his past to really want better for him as well. I could not help but hope he could find some relief in life from this constant battle with his nature.

This book can be unexpectedly dark at times and everything has a cost. This is not a happy, romantic romp in the world of the paranormal, but rather one that highlights the cost and the pains associated with the unnatural. I found the world and magic interesting and the characters intriguing. I will definitely pick up the next installment so I can find out what happens next! Overall, I was certainly impressed with this debut.

Profile Image for Aoife.
1,293 reviews550 followers
June 24, 2016
I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

When Lissa's grandmother dies unexpectantly, she is suddenly thrown into the role of resident witch among the Russian community in her Canadian neighborhood. As a koldun'ia, Lissa makes special eggs every new moon on request - for fertility, for pain, for sleep, etc. When her stepsister shows up, Lissa has to try and hide her other life while also dealing with the arrival of Maksim, a man who is long-living and cursed with a violent nature - and he needs her to help him.

This seemed to have a great premise, not to mention a beautiful cover but ultimately it was a big fat disappointment. The story started off very clunky for me, the writing seemed sharp but not in a good way and I felt like it was trying too hard to be a bit edgy and gritty. Lissa, Maksim and Nick - a human infected by Maksim- all have their own POV's in the book but each one is always very short and I felt like I never got the chance to really feel the character and by the time i was grasping on to them, it had moved on to the next person. I ended up having no connection to any of the characters. Lissa was really boring and uptight and never seemed happy about anything ever!

Nothing actually happened either. A majority of the book was Maksim and Gus hitting each other and Lissa making eggs. The best way to describe the 'kin' who are made up of Maksim, Gus and Nick - are non-green The Incredible Hulks. They just get very angry and seem to want to fight all the time and basically don't live every good lives from the looks of it.

This book just bored me. I kept waiting for something exciting to happen and it just didn't.
Profile Image for Alexa.
619 reviews196 followers
July 24, 2017
Spells of Blood and Kin is a dark urban fantasy novel set in the City of Toronto. We follow Maksim, a kin blessed with a long life and a thirst for violence that will slowly drive him crazy as the years tick by. He can effect people with his blood, as he's done with his kin Gus, and just recently Nick, who was living a pretty normal life up until then.

Entre Lissa, a particular type of Russian witch who's grandmother has recently passed away. It's around this time the Maksim's lust for violence begins to become uncontrollable, and it's up to Lissa to help him solve his problem.

I really liked this book. It's set in Toronto (not too far away from where I live), and the author is Canadian, so I'm already a bit biased to like this book. In addition, it was interesting to watch Maksim's history unfold and read about Lissa coming to terms with her grandmothers death while Nick tried to figure out what to do with his new life.

The writing was straight forward and did a balanced job of telling and showing. Learning about Lissa's witch heritage was very cool too. What kept me from rating this a 5/5 stars was the lack of suspense in the book. These issues were intense and on a tight dead-line, but it never felt like they wouldn't be done, and there was never a doubt in my mind that there would be problems for the MCs.

All in all I'd really only recommend this book if you're looking for a quick dark urban fantasy while supporting a Canadian author in the process.
Profile Image for Allison.
489 reviews186 followers
March 24, 2016
A grittier, less sloggy incarnation of "A Discovery of Witches", infused with Russian folk magic and a really interesting take on shapeshifters. This has a slight urban fantasy feel to it, and should appeal to fans of that, but it rises head and shoulders above what I feel is an overcrowded and repetitive urban fantasy genre. I'd put it up there with Mishell Baker's Borderline and Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch series, two of my "contemporary fantasy" favorites.

Longer review later this month.

Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan for the e-arc.
Profile Image for Brandi.
686 reviews30 followers
May 8, 2016
On one hand, I did enjoy the rather unique aspect of being based on Russian folklore, rather than the same old, mundane paranormal creatures/beings presented in other books. On the other hand, it did start out a bit slow and the dialogue did seem to be a bit choppy at times. Since my copy was an unedited ARC, hopefully some of this is corrected before final publication.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and the novelty of it and would not hesitate to read more of Claire Humphrey's works in the future. I would rate this book about 4.3 stars. My copy was obtained from the Goodreads website and I appreciate the opportunity to read and review this book.
183 reviews
May 19, 2016
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

This was such an interesting book! I decided to wait a couple of days before writing a review because there was a lot I wanted to think about. I’m still umming and ahhing over 4 or 5 stars, but I’m going to plunk for 5. I usually reserve 5 stars for books I know will stick in my head forever, which I’m not sure this will (ask me in a few years?), but I can’t really find many flaws in this book and it was a great read.

First off, the premise is original. This is urban fantasy using Russian folklore. Pretty unusual, so I was fascinated right from the outset by what was going on. The book opens with the death of Baba, Lissa's grandmother. There's clearly something weird going on, especially when she isn't allowed into church but is clearly familiar with the church ladies. When Lissa steals some breast milk from a fridge, I knew magic was afoot.

Magic is central to this book. Lissa's something like a witch, but she can only work spells at the full moon, which means the actual content of the book is mostly not magic boiling in a pot. The instances of magic usage are minimal, and more powerful for it. The regular magic is also startlingly mundane. You cook weird ingredients together, paint it on eggs, say spells over it, and bam! magic eggs. The picture of this young woman buying dozens and dozens of eggs before the full moon every month amuses me enormously. Despite its simplicity, there was a lot of interest in this magic system because Lissa's pretty new at it, she doesn't know everything, and with her Baba gone she can't get her questions readily answered. The reader goes on Lissa's journey, and it's great.
The bigger part of the story is about Maksim and the kin. It's never really explained what the kin are, which would usually drive me insane, but here I'm not even sure the kin know what they are. Instead of learning a list of facts about these not-quite-human people, we see them acting out their lives. I think it's done brilliantly. I was never champing at the bit, desperate for answers that would never come, but I was constantly curious.

Humphrey writes the weird kin excellently. Maksim is hundreds of years old, at least. He's entirely used to his nature, he's experienced the full breadth of what it means to be kin, and he's so done with it. It oozes in the narrative. This man is surprised by nothing, except perhaps his initial entry to the story: he transfers blood to Nick, the victim of a mugging, turning Nick into kin himself.
Nick's story is the transformation from human to kin. We meet him drunk and high with his best mate in an alley right after they've been mugged, and from the start you feel that Nick and Jonathan are two halves of a whole. Watching Nick struggle to maintain that while becoming something not-human ... well it's tough. And it's very well done.

Our final example of kin is Gus, who was changed by Maksim in the 19th century. She's had a while to get used to what she is, and she half revels in it, half drowns in it. You don't get a lot of her POV, but you understand her very well through everyone else's eyes and you never get the feeling she's any less complex than the major characters.

I really think Humphrey did a fantastic job in representing a spectrum of non-humans and making you understand all of them.

The human characters are a bit less interesting. Lissa's a little stiff, which is partly due to her upbringing and partly due to grief, but she still felt a little personality-less to me, a little like a vehicle for the magic. This could be a clever commentary on the fact that she feels that way herself, or it could be a side effect of having such weird perspectives in the other characters, making the fairly normal human seen flat and less in comparison. Still, she's sort of the main character and it was disappointed to feel less connected to her than the others.

We don't meet many other humans, but the one we see the most is Stella, Lissa's stepsister who flies over from England to escape a boyfriend, their dad, and to start a new life in Canada. Stella isn't strictly honest about her intentions when she comes over, and I was momentarily annoyed when she sort of announced she was staying. Yet she still became a great character and a great person. She moves in with Lissa and is considerate and stuff, getting a job, paying bills, staying out of her grieving sister's way. She was all kinds of awesome, especially later when she finally meets the kin. I don't want to spoil, but one of my favourite scenes involves her, Nick, and an egg. It really showed how smart Stella was, and I'm always excited to see smart women in fiction.

The plot! I really enjoyed the plot. It wasn't mind-bendingly amazing or anything, but it was a good story, with surprises, and it all concluded satisfactorily. It's a true standalone book, none of this "series potential" nonsense with a ton of dangling threads left for a potential sequel, which I'm very relieved about.

Some people have complained about the pacing, and I do agree that it was quite slow for the first half. I didn't find it at all boring, however, because Russian folklore! Mysteries! I have a hard time remembering what actually happened in the first half apart from a slow exploration of what the kin were, through viewing their actions, and the occasional flashback with Maksim. I really like books that explore characters in this way, so I'm totally ok with this. If you need constant action, this book may not be for you, but give it a try anyway!

I will definitely be looking out for more of Humphrey's books.
Profile Image for Kara-karina.
1,658 reviews252 followers
July 20, 2016
I think if you enjoyed dark paranormal fantasy like Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill, Trueheart by Mel Sterling and Deathless by Catherynne M Valente, you'll enjoy Spells of Blood and Kin.

Lissa's grandmother suddenly dies leaving her to continue to serve as koldunya (witch) in a small Russian enclave in Toronto. Grieving and shocky, Lissa tries her best to honor her gran who still has a tenuous link to her through a magical doll which will answer Lissa's three questions on a full moon, but there is one major problem - one of her Gran's spells died with her, and now the bearer of a violent curse is in desperate need of her help and he has already infected someone else.
Half of this book is about Lissa and her half-sister Stella trying to deal with the situation in present, but another half delves into Maksim Volkov's very long life while his sanity and self-control unravels. Maksim is Kin, a human cursed by violence (it's like werewolf without an ability to change, but with a very volatile character).
Nick, a human Maksim accidentally infected has his own plot arc, and his transformation from a normal carefree guy to someone creepy, dangerous and unhinged is disturbing to witness. The whole book is very atmospheric and spooky with accents and spell-making and its character-driven plot. It's also not flashy with magic at all. All the characters lead normal lives, everyone has jobs and magic is something very practical and uses things which are available in our society.
The narrator did a stellar job bringing Spells of Blood and Kin to life, and I enjoyed this understated dark fantasy very much. It's unusual and refreshing. Recommended.
* * *
Я думаю, то если вам понравились Сны и Тени С. Роберта Каргилла, Трухарт от Мел Стерлинг и Бессмертный от Катэринн М. Валентэ, то придутся по душе и Заклинания Крови и Рода.
Бабушка Лиссы умирает внезапно и оставляет её служить колдуньей маленького русского анклава в Торонто. В горе и шоке, Лисса продолжает работу бабушки Ядвиги, не подозревая, что одно из самых опасных и сложных заклинаний Ядвиги умерло вместе с ней. Её единственная связь с Ядвигой это волшебная кукла, которая ответит на 3 её вопроса каждое полнолуние, и кукла рассказывает ей о Максиме Волкове, которому необходимо помочь.
Максим живет уже несколько столетий и страдает от проклятия Рода (что-то вроде способностей и характера оборотня но без физических изменений), которое питается вспышками насилия. Ядвига помогла ему спрятать его природу, но с её смертью, он сорвался и успел кого-то заразить.
Теперь от Лиссы зависит спасение Максима, а от Максима и Августы (его родственницы по Роду) - нахождения Ника, которого Максим заразил до того, как проклятье обернётся против его дузей и знакомых.
Книга сосредоточена на Лиссе и её полу-сестре Стелле, Максиме и Августе и их прошлом, и Нике, природа которого постепенно меняется и он становится всё-более токсичным и взрывоопасным. Эта книга атмосферная и тёмная, с очень хорошими акцентами характеров на аудио. Магия здесь тихая и незаметная и состоит из элементов, которые мы легко можем найти в нашем мире. В общем, я была очарована авторским стилем и несомненно буду читать её дальше. Рекомендую.
Profile Image for Helen.
877 reviews2 followers
January 2, 2017
I enjoyed this despite it being a book with no plot. It weaves a tale of Russian witches, with their knowledge passed down through time. Sadly, Lissa is bereaved and not confident in her abilities after losing her Baba. Grandmother.

Then a step-sister shows up with condolences; a violent, distraught guy and we learn about the ties of family. What makes family?

Lissa adapts to her role, sister and helps the 'kin'. I couldn't work this out incidentally.
Profile Image for Petra Willemse.
1,167 reviews16 followers
September 3, 2016
This is a book that you aren't surprised by the events or the ending, but that the journey is enjoyable enough to compel you along. I was more puzzled by some of the character's (lack) of reactions than I was endeared by them, but overall it tips to a positive review.
Profile Image for Tate.
Author 23 books724 followers
August 5, 2017
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book, but the narrative voice(s) pulled me in.
Profile Image for Mariana Nguyen.
96 reviews10 followers
June 10, 2016

book is glee

This book was very...interesting. I know I sounded doubtful, but it was actually more of the surprise side, since I started out expected some old-fashion paranormal/urban legend. But guess what? I fell in LOVE with this unique and UTTERLY FANTASTIC book before I could even realize it. Also, did I mention it was based on Russian folklore? Ohh yesss...

As I mentioned, the paranormal element was absolutely special. The Russian legend aspect did a number of wonderful things on the book, especially when it comes to bringing the into the storyline something more unique and just simply FABULOUS. I did get a bit taken back the first few chapters, but it only takes a couple of turns for it to completely pull me in. It was definitely a strange but refresh experience.


The characters are completely amazing. The multiple POVs trope has not always been my best bud, but this was done just PERFECT. The relationships between all characters are extremely intriguing, especially their developments throughout the book. Their voices are all very distinctive, and the emotions are beautifully depicted. That was an absolutely fine job there.

I just LOVE how personal the book feels. I mean, I definitely didn't relate to anything much in this book, but instead of being your everyday kickass protagonist stopping an evil supernatural force, Spells of Blood & Kin revolves around our main characters dealing with their own conflicts and consequences to their actions. There are battles in this, alright, but it was just a young woman fighting against her doubts, a solder who lived several lives, and a young man finding the way through the mess of his spinning life. Their stories are somewhat filled with confusion for me to get into, but once I did, it was a pleasure.

I found this book very interesting. I mean, jumping into something I've never heard of with no background and lack of information and then fell in love with it? Claire Humphrey, you are one fine author.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way can affect my opinion for the book and its content.
Profile Image for Tracey.
964 reviews7 followers
April 25, 2016
A lot of books classed under the paranormal genre tend to be about a romance between a human and an otherworldly beast. There is nothing wrong with that and displays at the local bookstore indicate there is a continual appetite. In Claire Humphrey’s ‘Spells of Blood and Kin’ she has tried to break the shackles of the genre and endeavoured to present something darker and deeper.
The story centres around Lissa of Russian heritage who is dealing with the death of her Grandmother who is a witch. Lissa having been schooled by her Grandmother reluctantly takes over the duties required of helping women who want to become pregnant or fall in love. It is all mundane magic until Maksim arrives at her door seeking a magic that comes a high cost.
Humphreys has created a world that is believable and are well constructed. The characters are detailed and with plenty of personal baggage attached to them. Lissa is like a rabbit caught in the headlights who is momentarily stunned by all the changes happening around her. She wants to do right but is not sure what that actually is. Maksim is a man with a tattered past who wants to erase his true violent nature and live a more human existence. Around both Lissa and Maksim swirl a group of characters who move seamlessly through the novel.
I found myself easily lost in the story, I was engaged but as I read I just felt like something was missing. It takes some time for all the characters to be introduced, then it takes some time to determine what the story is concluding to. There is no ticking time bomb ending and that is okay. What you have is an opportunity to spend time with the characters as they deal with issues such as loneliness, grief and addiction. When you come to end of journey with characters you part ways amicably knowing some issues are resolved and that new stories for the individuals are about to begin.
Claire Humphrey’s ‘Spells of Blood and Kin’ is an impressive debut novel.
Profile Image for Glennis.
1,166 reviews27 followers
August 17, 2016
Lissa is trying to step into the role of neighborhood witch to the Russian community in Toronto due to her grandmother’s unexpected death. As she is reeling with her loss her stepsister arrives from England to help her cope. She doesn’t have any type of relationship with Stella good or bad so she doesn’t know anything about Lissa’s magical background. Maksim is a kin, a type of long living magical berserker. The spell that Lissa’s grandmother had on him to control his nature has broken on her death and he needs help having it set again. But due to his nature he has infected someone else and they are now dealing with the new found rage and strength coursing through them.

There is no end of the world that needs fixing. There isn’t a love triangle, this isn’t the usual urban fantasy book. This is a quiet book with small magics and lots of character growth. I liked the book because it didn’t fit the normal urban fantasy mold and I think was better for it.

Digital review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley
Profile Image for Nichole.
810 reviews17 followers
March 28, 2016
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Lissa's grandmother Baba has passed away. Now it is up to her to provide their community with the spelled eggs they need. Her grandmother passed a lot down to her, but she's finding out that she also kept things from her. When a man named Maksim tells her that the protection her grandmother spelled him with ended when she died, Lissa has no idea how to help him. But, since he says he is kin, she must find a way. This started out really slow for me, but I kept going and it got better. I think what I enjoyed most was the evolving relationship between Lissa and Stella.
Profile Image for Mon.
612 reviews17 followers
April 11, 2016
I received a copy of this book for free through NetGalley

3.5 stars

This had a whole lot going on and I didn't hate it. The Russian folklore scattered throughout is very confusing albeit interesting and I certainly did love reading about witches since I hardly do so. The characters in this were pretty well developed but I think they needed a little extra boost to give them some more depth. I will say that I found this to be a little slow in the beginning but by time I reached the half way point I was quite engrossed. A pretty good debut if you ask me.
1,065 reviews72 followers
August 5, 2018
I downloaded this book from Netgalley in March. March 2016. I knew I had a few ARCs hanging around from a while back, but I didn't realise I was that bad. So I'd just like to apologise to Claire Humphrey, and also to St Martin's Press / Thomas Dunne Books, because this absolutely did not deserve to languish on my Kindle for over two years before being read. I think part of the problem was that it comes from the era before my current Kindle, and therefore disappeared off the face of the planet until I actively went looking for it, but still. I'm so sorry. I am terrible.

So, in an effort to finally clear out all those neglected ARCs, I picked this one up. I figured there must have been a reason it had taken me this long, and didn't expect to like it, but within a couple of chapters I was hooked, and found myself trying to cook dinner while reading it. Pro tip: cooking and reading really don't combine that well. I put way too much salt in.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable read. It's an adult book, but the characters are fairly young -- mostly in their early twenties, although I don't think a concrete age was given for any of them. This made a nice change for me, as someone who is ageing out of YA but doesn't yet see themselves in the majority of adult fiction. [Just checked the NetGalley description and it says that Lissa, the main character, is 22. So, same age as me. That fits with how it felt.]

I also enjoyed the balance it struck with romance: there was a romantic subplot, but it was a fairly minor part of the book, without seeming meaningless. Much more central to the story is the developing sisterly bond between Lissa and Stella, and I'm a sucker for sibling relationships, so I enjoyed that.

There's a substantial amount of magic in this book, but because it's something Lissa has grown up with, a lot of it isn't explained until a sbustantial way through the book. That suited me just fine, though -- it was easy to follow what was going on, and I quite enjoyed having a character who wasn't entering the supernatural world for the first time, even if some elements of it were beyond her experience. It gave it a very different vibe to a lot of urban fantasy-type books.

It also had a strong Russian cultural element, which I liked, though I can't entirely explained why. This was found in the everyday: Lissa is a member of a Russian church community, even if she's not actually allowed in the church (because she's a witch), but also in the magical, and the various folktales and stories referenced to explain pieces of magic.

I liked Lissa a lot, and the way her competence occasionally conflicted with her inexperienced in the normal world. The other characters were interesting too, including her stepsister Stella, who was a lot tougher than she initially seemed. One character, Nick, was a bit of a jerk, especially when it came to women, but you kind of felt able to overlook that because of everything he was going through, and because he genuinely seemed to regret it when he was being a dick. And, well, no spoilers, but I'd say Nick probably had the hardest time of it in some ways.

As for Maksim and Gus... well, they're not exactly vampires, but they do occasionally drink blood. Maksim is, in some ways, your typical tortured immortal -- trying not to hurt people, wandering around the modern world with speech patterns that are about a hundred years out of date, that kind of thing. Gus is very different, though, and from the glimpses of her past you get the impression she's always been a firecracker, even if she damps it down with alcohol. I like her a lot. I'd have liked to see her youthful adventures, back when she first became 'kin'.

I also enjoyed the writing style, and I felt Humphrey struck a good emotional balance between the more negative emotional moments (e.g. when Lissa and Stella are fighting) and the cheerier ones (e.g. when they're not fighting).

As you can probably tell, then, I liked this book a lot. The ending is... well, it's not what I was expecting, I have to say. But I think that's partly because I'm used to YA, and there's a narrative decision Humphrey makes very close to the end that I'm not sure you'd find in a YA book. For me, it worked. It was bittersweet, but it makes the ending much more powerful. That said, it's probably just as well it's not the final scene, because that would be a bleak way to end. (I'm struggling to describe this without being spoilerish, if you couldn't tell, though the book's been out for two years now sorry so that's not a huge concern...)

I'm annoyed at myself for leaving this book for so long before reading it, because I could have been championing it from the beginning, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye out to see if Humphrey's got any other books out that I could read to make up for my lateness here.
492 reviews1 follower
July 21, 2016
This book was definitely okay! I read through it, and it kinda kept my interest, and it was kinda fun!

It wasn't great... the pacing was weird, for one thing. It just kept chugging along without much variation in excitement level. Any real action was either off screen, in flashbacks, or literally happened just before the story started. There were at least three main characters who we get first person points of view from, as well as a couple of odd moments out from some side characters. The story mainly covers about a month and a half of time, and it generally follows what people do day by day. It really felt as if it was written as a series of blog posts, written daily, and the author just took enough of them to make a book and called it a day.

It was very... even keeled? Even so, the middle was a bit sparse. It read like a slightly fantasy-ish soap opera.


So, I guess the overall main character is Lissa, even though her story is also the most boring. She's a young Canadian woman of Russian heritage who, until just before the book starts, lived with her grandmother, who was an old style Russian witch. The grandmother was evidently quite the witch, but had only trained Lissa enough to be an understudy for her side business of making egg charms for the local Russian ladies and men, then died unexpectedly. Lissa's British stepsister Stella shows up and starts living with her, and they get along even though half the reason she came was to get away from a stalker. In any event, Lissa easily takes over the egg charm business, when a weird guy named Maksim showed up and told her that he'd had an arrangement with her grandmother! He was supernaturally strong and violent, and when the grandmother had died, the spell that she made that let him live a more normal life was broken! So, Lissa made him some sleep potion eggs, then some more, then spoke with her grandmother using a magic doll, and found out what the spell was that her grandmother had cast on Maksim. It turned out that while normal witch magic was done around the full moon, and that was good, this stuff was done around the new moon, and was bad for some reason! She cast it anyway, Maksim, who had been deteriorating (either because he was sad, or because her sleep potions were super powerful), got better, and helped her win the respect of all the old Russian ladies she gave charms to. However, she was saddled with nightly hour long nightmares about an ancient dead baby she'd seen on TV once. Along the way, she got a boyfriend and started teaching her step-sister magic. Her dead grandmother was pleased.

Maksim is a three or so century old crap Russian werewolf. Crap Russian werewolves have no control of their emotions, or their impulses, or their desires, have super strength, immortality, super healing, super scent ability, and make more of themselves by biting others (or licking, or getting their blood on them), but don't turn into wolves for some reason, even though this guy's last name is Russian for wolf. Long ago, when he was more interesting, he fought his way through history. However, modern day life caught up to him, even in battle. At one point, when he was still completely wild but starting to feel bad about it, he turned a Spanish lady called Augusta, and they became fight buddies. Later, after a couple of world wars, he ran into a young woman who would one day be Lissas grandmother while schlepping around Cold War Russia, and saved her from a trip to the Gulags and a short life of forced labor. In return he asked for a spell, if he asked for it, because he was feeling like he was almost but not quite done with fighting all the time. Then, 30 years later, he lost control and killed all of his army buddies! He made it to Canada, and Lissa's grandmother cast her spell on him, making him feel better. Thirty or so years later, the grandmother died, and the spell broke! He went out running, found a couple of young guys who had just been mugged, and licked one of them. It turned the guy into a Crap Werewolf too! As the story begins, he felt bad about his sudden inability to not lick bloody faces, so he went to see the grandmother for help, but found only the grandaughter, Lissa. Luckily, although Lissa had no idea about what Maksim's Crap Werewolf deal was, she was just as powerful as her grandmother, just less knowledgeable, and was easily able to whip up some magic knockout eggs. Maksim spent the next month or so eating eggs, getting beaten up, looking for his new Crap Werewolf scion before he killed his own friends, getting a more powerful batch of eggs, having his condition deteriorate, finding his scion, and having his original spell reinstated by Lissa. Yay!

Nick was a young college student who went out drinking with his friend in a bad part of town, and got mugged, then some crazy guy licked his face. The story begins with him waking up from that, then slowly getting super healthy, yet violent! He got increasingly fed up with his friends, and beat his best friend up... and left him for dead! Eventually, Maksim's friend Augusta finds him, and he learns he's a Crap Werewolf! Sadly, the knowledge of what he is doesn't help him. He focused in on Stella, and went to see her... to abduct her! Luckily Augusta had followed him and saved Stella. Later, despite feeling bad about beating his friend up the first time (he got better), he does it again! Eventually, Augusta and Maksim realize that he might be too violent to live. Augusta gives him one last chance, and they go spend a few weeks doing heavy manual labor up north, but he kept trying to run off, so she Lennied him.


So, a lot of little things happened in the story, and it is interesting, its just that it's not terribly exciting.

Also, I really wanted several things.

First, that Maksim was a werewolf. I mean seriously!

Second, to know what the deal was with the "Laws" of magic. Is new moon magic really evil, or is it just annoying to have nightmares? Why are the witches blocked from church?

Third, it would have been nice to have gotten a few point of view sections from Stella, since we got a few pages from Augusta, and even a brief one from Nick's friend Jonathan!

And Fourth, why does no one know about magic? Especially because the crap werewolves (fine, kin) should be making more of themselves all the time, leading to all sorts of calamities, and also because you'd think magic would be more popular in a universe where it was actually real! I was miffed that Lissa and Stella didn't google up some practitioners and see what magical training they had missed out on. Does the church have its own magic?

I'm putting this down as a four because it was enjoyable, but since I'm not terribly excited about it either, know that it's more of a three and a half rounded up.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dominick.
Author 15 books27 followers
September 2, 2017
The kin are supernatural creatures perhaps most like vampires; though drinking blood does not seem to be essential to their survival, one becomes kin by being infected by the blood of another, and such conventional vampire traits as longevity, and enhanced strength and senses are part of the package (though others, such as susceptibility to sunlight, the ability to shapeshift etc. are not). So, let's call this a revisionist vampire novel. As such it is fairly interesting. The plot involves one such "Vampire," who has had his proclivities magically controlled by a witch, until her death unbinds the spell on him. The witch's granddaughter, a witch in training, is called on to reestablish the control, but in the mean time, the "vampire" infects another human, who has to try to come to terms with his new state. Complexly plotted, well written, this story weaves a narrative largely free of cliche (there isn't even a villain, really) and does a very good job (mostly) of giving the characters plausible personalities and motivations. Humphrey's refusal for the most part to follow the expected tropes of horror or thriller novels gives this a narrative interest that is greater than its basic concept would have allowed for, I would have thought. At any rate, I was somewhat surprised at how effectively this book kept me wanting to turn pages, because I really wasn't sure where things were going to go--but wanted to know. Horror or dark fantasy fans should like this one, I would think.
1,627 reviews19 followers
July 24, 2020
Very good tale of a young witch (Lissa) trying to step into her recently deceased Baba's footsteps in providing spells to neighbors. To her alarm, a strange desperate man (Maxsim) asks her for spells to bring him rest, sleep. The man keeps returning for more spells as he seems to deteriorate. Lissa's stepsister comes to California from London to help Lissa deal with her grandmother's death, and prickly, unworldly Lissa has a hard time forming a relationship with her. I thought all the characters were well drawn and likeable, except for immature, irresponsible Nick. I am hoping for a sequel.
Profile Image for H.M. Gooden.
Author 36 books710 followers
December 28, 2019
An intriguing look at history and magic through a lens not often used in mainstream stories. Sometimes difficult to head jump when I want to know what one character will do, nonetheless an enjoyable and easy read
Displaying 1 - 30 of 165 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.