Thursday, April 3, 2014

Blood Shadows review


     Blood Shadows by Lindsay J. Pryor is a novel which straddles the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The two genres sometimes fit together quite comfortably while other times feel like a poor fit. The difference between the two is fairly simple: one is about the supernatural and the struggles against it while the other is squarely focused on the love between a human with a monster.

    In the case of Blood Shadows, the love is between Caitlin Parish and Kane Malloy. Caitlin Parish is a member of the Vampire Control Unit and Kane Malloy is a master vampire, one of the strongest in America. The romance is all there, as is the sex, but the conflict is a great more antagonistic than is usually the case in these sorts of books. I have to admit I appreciated the naked hostility between the two that isn't over easily brushed away matters. No, these two hate each other at the start and with good reason.

    Of the two, Caitlin is a professional who wants to avenge her slain parents as well as prove herself a valuable member of the VCU. Surprisingly, they weren't killed by vampires as a lesser writer might do but an unknown unnamed monster which her employers have no idea about the existence of. Caitlin is a woman operating under a curse as she believes this creature will soon come for her and requires the assistance of someone with a great deal of occult knowledge to defeat it.

    Enter Kane Malloy.

    Of the pair, I can't say I much cared for Kane Malloy. It's unfortunate when you don't like the romantic lead in a romance but Kane managed to push all my buttons in terms of irritation. He's an arrogant manipulative bully. I found it inexplicable that Caitlin nurtured an attraction to the master vampire and, honestly, wished she'd kill him at several points in the narrative.

    Amusingly, my wife had the exact opposite reaction (desiring Caitlin's death) so perhaps it's a gender thing. Whatever the case, I found Kane to the weakest point of the narrative. I sympathized with Caitlin's plight while disdaining Kane's quest for revenge against his sister's murderer. This, despite the latter being suitably sordid and morally ambiguous (as I like my revenge).

    I think Ms. Pryor might have benefited from toning down the hostility between the two since virtually the entire first half of the book is the two snarking at one another with undisguised loathing. While a refreshing change from the majority of novels where the two leads have only superficial obstacles between them, I found myself wishing for the plot to get moving. Thankfully, once everyone's secrets are revealed in the halfway mark, the plot moves at a brisk and exciting pace.

    Lindsay J. Pryor takes elements of Noir fiction to flesh out her world with a corrupt police force, ethnic gangs (only monsters instead of Italians or Irish), and a general sense that everyone is playing an angle. The conflict between the New World laws of humanity and the Old World laws of the supernatural's home societies revives tropes which were once popular in the 1940s but went out of style as immigrant groups became more assimilated.

    Caitlin is the one honest cop in a corrupt world while Kane Malloy serves as a male fatale in a rather clever gender reversal. The fact there's no real hope of reforming the world gives everything a delightfully Sin City-esque vibe and kept me interested in the world's backstory. While we only catch brief glimpses of Blood Shadows' version of Earth and what rules it plays by, it is a dark and dreary place that fits the novels supernatural Noir tone.

    The supporting cast of Blood Shadows is a collection of dirty cops, supernatural crime lords, eldritch abominations, and influential community leaders. It's an eclectic mix and enough that I think there's plenty more stories to tell in the world. My favorite of the characters was Jask, a werewolf gang boss who is also the protector of his community from both the vampires as well as police. Seeing him try to be reasonable without that being mistaken for weakness was quite entertaining. I also like Rob who is a wonderful subversion of what I initially assumed him to be.

    For my tastes, I would have preferred if the author had spent more time developing the world and the plot versus the romance in the first half of the book. It seemed to retread ground it had already covered several times in the protagonist's up and down relationship. Overall, though, the twists and turns in the actual plot were quite enjoyable. Thus, despite the well-traveled ground of vampire and human romances, I give this a stamp of approval. Readers should beware the sex gets quite graphic at times but, otherwise, I have no complaints*.

8/10

Buy At Amazon.com

* I'm not a prude, I just hate the male lead.

Addendum: I have been contacted by the author of the series, who is awesome by the way, and told the series does not take place in America. She was very clear to make it ambiguous where Blackthorn is located and I stand corrected.

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