Shortly after her parents' death, Silla Kennicot receives an old handwritten book in the mail. There's no return address, and the enclosed letter is simply signed, "The Deacon". In it, this mysterious Deacon claims that Silla's father—a high school Latin teacher—was a powerful magician and healer.
Even if she hadn't recognized her father's handwriting, she'd have been inclined to believe the Deacon anyway: she'd much rather that her parents died due to some magical vendetta than that her father killed her mother and then himself.
The magic that she begins to teach herself is based in blood and sacrifice. Not necessarily death sacrifice—though that is possible—but smaller personal sacrifices, in that the magic user will often offer up her/his own blood to power the spells. It allows transformation and possession, healing and creation and most anything else you can imagine. Before long, Silla's brother, Reese, and a boy from school, Nick, join her.
Nick, though, has a secret: magic isn't new to him. At all. He's been hurt by it in the past, but he's also fully aware of the joyous wonder* it can achieve. And so while he's still wary of it, his growing ties to the Kennicots (yes, especially Silla) and his own memories keep him coming back.
But there's another person in town who knows about the magic. Someone who, like Nick, has secrets, but unlike Nick, has dangerous secrets. Someone who will stop at nothing to lay hands on Silla's book of spells...
Silla and Nick take turns narrating Blood Magic, and their narration is joined by entries from the centuries-old journal of another magic user, Josephine Darby. (Who, by the way, opens the book with this great hook of a line: I am Josephine Darby, and I intend to live forever.) All three voices are distinct and believable, and their personalities and perspectives are just as varied and real. It's smart and lush and creepy and romantic and thoughtful.
Although the storyline might sound pretty run-of-the-mill contemporary paranormal, it's not. For one, there's no love triangle. ZOMG! NO LOVE TRIANGLE! YAAAAAY! But also, it feels more Gothic than paranormal. Lots of creepy imagery and blood and cemeteries and some nasty violation in the form of unwelcome possession. (As opposed to possession-with-prior-permission, which is also a thing.) As the magic requires sacrifice on the part of the magic user, there's a lot to think about in terms of ends vs. means, and some of the characters make choices that have irrevocable consequences. This is not a sitcom version of magic in which everything reboots at the end of the story. Not at all.
*And yes, that sounds dorky, but Gratton does a great job of conveying that feeling without making it feel dorky.
Book source: Finished copy from the publisher. At least, I think that's where it came from. Either way, a finished copy.