When I read the synopsis for By Blood, I knew I had to have it—modern Druids in England (specifically, Oxford)? Yes, please! I’ve been obsessed with ancient religions in the British Isles since I was a teen, and my teenage self would have been all over this book. Luckily, the writing and story was even better than I’d hoped for, and my adult self was all over it too!Our main character and narrator, Emma, is traveling to Oxford to spend the summer with her professor mom and stepdad, as well as her baby half-brother, when the book opens. I have only spent one day in Oxford on my one trip to England, and it was immediately clear to me that Tracy Banghart knows the city much, much better than I do. But even from my brief time there I can say that she got it right—the mixture of old and new, of ancient buildings and museums and youth culture, of crowded urban areas and idyllic natural beauty. I loved the depth and skill of the writing Tracy used to evoke her setting, and how well she integrated it into her story. I know this is a bit of a cliché, but I really felt like I was there as I was reading.Main character Emma has a memorable and realistic teenage voice, and while some readers might find her a little whiny at the beginning, she was true to her age and I enjoyed her honest attitude. (Sidenote: I’m finding I almost always like and identify with the more “whiny” characters…maybe this is b/c I’m a very whiny person myself?!) As the book progresses, Emma discovers some aspects of her family history that add a lot more depth to her struggles and her character. And these struggles are, at least in part, what attracts her to a group of modern Druids in Oxford…I really liked the way the author incorporated the Druid element, and I especially appreciated the variety of characters that were attracted to the Druid rituals for various reasons. Some of these characters were more likable than others, and even though they were all very different, I could see bits of myself and my teenage fascination with pagan rituals in Emma, Ash, and Bryna. And the rituals/beliefs themselves were described with just the right amount of mystery, walking the line between realism and fantasy.There is a romance in By Blood too, maybe even a bit of a triangle, but it’s pretty clear who’s the right guy for Emma. The romance is fun, not too overbearing or angsty, and I enjoyed it as much as the rest of the novel.Overall, I LOVED this book, and I really hope I can find time to read the companion novel, Moon Child, soon!