Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blood Roses review

    Blood Shadows was a book I reviewed a few days ago and, it just so happens, I read the sequel to in that time. Likewise, I'll be diving into the third book in the series soon thereafter. I suppose that, by itself, is an endorsement of the Blackthorn series.

    The premise of Blood Roses is a young witch named Lelia, our female romantic lead, is told her sister is being held hostage by vampire. She goes to the undead-controlled district of Blackthorn in order to do a service for them. Using magics she shouldn't be able to use, Lelia saves the life of influential vampire Caleb's brother Jake. Unfortunately, Lelia finds out the circumstances of her sister's "kidnapping" were more complicated than she suspected.

    Not only is her sister not a hostage but they have figured out Lelia is a serryn, a subspecies of witch capable of entrancing vampires to drink their poisonous blood--sort of like a succubus is to humans. Caleb has an avowed hatred of serryns and has no intention of letting Lelia leave his club alive, even though he's trapped by his promise to give her safe passage as well as the debt he owes her.

    Readers may remember I wasn't terribly fond of the previous book's male romantic lead, Kane Malloy, due to the man's controlling nature and arrogance. Curiously, while Caleb is equally controlling and arrogant if not more so, I found him more enjoyable.

    I expect this is because Caleb is not nearly as in control of the situation as Kane was and his attempts to dominate Lelia prove to be extremely poor ideas. Furthermore, Caleb's behavior in the book is highlighte as both self-destructive to himself and his cause. In short, I love it when bullies have their bad attitudes explode in their face.

    The fact he is a bully, though, is part of his characterization. Long-standing fan of Noir fiction as I may be, I'm hardly adverse to flawed protagonists and watching Caleb struggle between doing what he wants to do (kill Lelia or turn her over to the vampire authorities) with what he knows to be right (letting her leave Blackthorn).

    I enjoyed this volume of the Blackthorn series because it added significantly to the mythology of the setting as well as its politics. The previous volume hinted at the fact vampires were unfairly ghettoized and imprisoned in the worst districts of the world due to race hatred (though, perhaps realizing this is a pretty big pill to swallow, the author makes it clear vampires are not innocent victims in all this).

    We also get an explanation for the mysterious vampire prophecy introduced in Blood Shadows but which was left oblique until now. Much like in the Elder Scrolls' Morrowind, prophecies aren’t actually something which will happen but more like an instruction manual in the Blackthorn-verse.  There’s a set of criteria and just about anyone can hijack it for their own ends. I find this infinitely more interesting than predestination.

    The character of Lelia is also a very fascinating one. She’s a woman destined to be a vampire hunter but who, despite having no great love for the species, chooses to eschew violence. Being trapped in the territory of cruel and apparently evil vampire Caleb is a near-insurmountable problem for her.

    Yet, Lelia is not broken by events and does her best to try and stick with her beliefs when it would be easy to turn on her power and destroy the vampire before her. While a fan of Caitlin Parish from the previous book, I find I prefer Lelia due to the perception she's both more emotionally centered as well as smarter (though Caitlin was no dummy).

     Having read the second novel in the Blackthorn series, I'm interested in some of the themes which have been developing. Lindsay J. Pryor has a fondness for placing her romantic leads in direct opposition to one another. Unlike in other Paranormal Romance novels, these are not easily resolved situations.

    While the protagonists possess a powerful attraction to one another, they are frequently on opposite sides of a conflict that isn't so easily resolved as the Capulets and the Montagues (which ended in their deaths--spoilers, I know!).  Watching the characters break down each others' rough spots and go through real change while facing the consequences of their actions puts this above a lot of fiction I've read.

    Half the time, when couples from feuding groups hook up despite centuries of war, it's like their parents vaguely disapprove. Not here. Here, it's a matter of life and death. Blood Roses makes a statement about relationships: you have to change and deal with the consequences for them to work.

    I approve.

    The supporting characters of Blood Roses were quite entertaining too. Both characters have very annoying siblings (to them) who are, thankfully, more than just cariactures. It's good to have flawed characters like the leads because we get to see their mistakes impact their family and them get called out on it.

    I think Lindsay J. Pryor does an excellent job of creating believable family relationships. Both the leads' siblings may be idiots but they're not without merit. Indeed, Caleb's brother is probably the most moral character in the book despite being a lecherous jackass. I also liked our first real glimpse into the vampire hierarchy.

    I had some small issues with the ending as I thought the resolution left something to be desired. One of the major issues between the couple is resolved through a previously-unrevealed rule of sorcery which I didn't much care for. I much would have preferred the consequences of the characters' mutual conditions to be a continuing obstacle they have to deal with.

    Then again, I love torturing characters and seeing how they're tortured by life so I probably shouldn't be the best candidate for deciding these things. There's also a "hidden nobility" reveal about one of the characters which lowered my estimation of them. After dealing with the unstoppable force of nature which was Kane Malloy, I was looking forward to seeing some "commoner" vampires.

    Overall, I'm quite pleased with Blood Roses. I enjoyed the first book a great deal and this is a marked improvement over it with more entertaining characters, more tightly woven interaction, and more complications for them to overcome. I will continue to read this series as long as she continues to write it, intrigued by the dark and seamy underbelly as I am.


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