Catriona Ward was born in Washington DC and grew up in the US, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen and Morocco. She studied English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford followed by the UEA Masters in Creative Writing. After living in New York for 4 years where she trained as an actor, she now works for a human rights foundation and lives in London.
Catriona Ward’s stunning literary debut, Rawblood is a masterful re-imagining of the ghost story, drawing on the tradition of Sarah Waters, Daphne du Maurier and Hilary Mantel. Shortlisted for the Author’s Club Debut Novel of the Year and winner of Best Horror Novel at the British Fantasy Awards, by turns chilling, bleak and tender, Rawblood is a powerful evocation of the horror of loss, and a gothic parable with a devastating, very modern twist.
She comes in the night.
She looks into your eyes.
One by one, she has taken us all.
For generations they have died young.
Now Iris and her father are the last of the Villarca line.
Their disease confines them to their lonely mansion on Dartmoor; their disease means they must die alone.
But Iris breaks her promise to hide from the world. She dares to fall in love.
And only then do they understand the true horror of the Villarca curse.
In 1910, eleven year old Iris Villarca lives with her father at Rawblood, a lonely house on Dartmoor. Iris and her father are the last of their name. The Villarcas always die young, bloodily. Iris knows it’s because of a congenital disease which means she must be strictly isolated. Papa told her so. Forbidden to speak to other children or the servants, denied her one friend, Iris grows up in solitude. But she reads books. And one sunlit autumn day, beside her mother’s grave, she forces the truth from her father. The disease is biologically impossible. A lie, to cover a darker secret.
The Villarcas are haunted, through the generations, by her. She is white, skeletal, covered with scars. Her origins are a mystery but her purpose is clear. When a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child – she comes and death follows.
Iris makes her father a promise: to remain alone all her life. But when she’s fifteen, she breaks it. The consequences of her choice are immediate and horrific.
Iris’s story is interwoven with the past, the voices of the dead – Villarcas, taken by her. Iris’s grandmother sets sail from Dover to Italy with a hired companion, to spend her final years in the sun before consumption takes her. Instead she meets betrayal, and a fate worse than death. Iris’s father, his medical career in ruins, conducts unconscionable experiments, to discover how she travels in the Villarca blood. Iris’s mother, pregnant, walks the halls of Rawblood whispering to her, coaxing her to come. As the narratives converge, Iris seeks her out in a confrontation which shatters her past and her reality, revealing the chasm in Iris’s own, fractured identity. Who is she? What does she desire? The answer is stranger and more terrible than Iris could have imagined.
‘The story crosses generations, from Victorian England to World War I, and is told by a number of different voices, going back and forth in time and drawing the reader into their thrall. With a ghostly face at the window, inexplicable events and a sense of menace handing over every page, this is one chilling gothic novel’ Daily Mail
‘eerie… a gripping and gruesome story of death, war, mental health, scientific experimentation, opium addiction and ill-fated, fateful love. Chillingly good.’ Daily Express
‘From Victorian ghost story to anti-war polemic and back again: I raged, wept and hid under the bed covers. As full of science as it is the supernatural, this is a hauntingly brilliant virtuoso performance.’ – Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing
‘genuinely frightening.. Like the best classic Gothic novels (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Castle of Otranto), Rawblood relies on partially informed narrators telling their own stories… As a meta-examination of the Gothic genre and as a straightforward tale of grisly haunting, Ward’s novel is remarkably successful.’ The Spectator
‘an impressively hectic spin on the Gothic tradition’ The Telegraph
‘The ghost story is back’ The Guardian
‘an extended stalk through the history of the English ghost story.. the pleasures of the ghost story are presented in such abundance, and carried off in such fine style.. savour the allusive gusto..’ Literary Review
‘Beautifully written, in equal parts both terrifying and heart-breaking, Rawblood is a dazzlingly brilliant Gothic masterpiece.’ Sarah Pinborough
‘Rawblood is a cleverly interwoven Gothic tale of love and madness. Ward’s atmospheric writing and chilling story drew me in from the first page, and kept me up at night, right through to the disturbing and tragic ending.’ Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days
‘Grabs you like a vivid dream and won’t let you go.. A brilliant piece of fiction’ Lovereading
‘All the elements of a real chiller.. Had me on the edge of my seat’ Woman and Home
‘Gloriously dark and claustrophobic, Rawblood is a haunting gothic novel of intelligence and complexity. It has many echoes of the classics but is entirely its own book’. Essie Fox, author of The Somnambulist
Agent Name: Sam Copeland