The Blackthorn novels are my favorite Paranormal Romance series.
I think it's because they straddle the line between genres so well. They're predominately romance with lots and lots of sex but don't sacrifice plot, drama, or world-building. The world is well-developed, divided on cultural as well as species lines with a heavy-emphasis on social ills. The character arcs are nicely done too, each lead showing genuine growth by the end of the novel.
The books have a signature style too. A pair of lovers meet, initially antagonistic, only to grow closer as they struggle against one another. This is always in the decaying urban hellhole of Blackthorn, a ghetto where the supernatural is segregated away from quote-unquote "polite" (read: human) society. Each couple is somehow tied to the Vampire Prophecy, which predicts the rise of a leader who will overthrow the human-run establishment to set up a more egalitarian society.
Blood Deep is the fourth novel in the series, introducing our fourth and final pair of star-crossed lovers. Jessie and Eden are a human male and supernatural woman caught up in covert operation gone horribly wrong. Eden, the man, has been sent to infiltrate crime boss Pummel's twisted "Circus" in order to extract Jessie for his employers.
Eden has been promised medical treatment for his niece if he can extract Jessie in three days. Jessie is a member of an unknown Third Species (non-humans like vampires or werewolves) with the power to heal. She is mystically enslaved by Pummel and if she tries to turn against him, she'll die.
Eden, of course, falls in love with Jessie but can he deliver her from one slave master to another?
Read and find out!
Interestingly, I find Eden and Jessie to be the healthiest relationship of the four series couples despite the fact she's a slave and he's an undercover cop pretending to be a convicted murderer. Previous romances in the series have involved a lot of emotional blackmail and even attempts to kill one another.
Here, Eden wants to help Jessie but he's caught in a situation where he can't blow his cover. Jessie would dearly love to trust Eden but she's a woman who has been seeing nothing but the worst of humanity in Blackthorn since its creation. Trusting a man who appears to be a hardened felon (and who isn't that far from one in reality) is a risk she isn't willing to take.
At least, initially.
What I really liked was the Noir elements and how they were taken to new heights this volume. We get a real sense of the injustice of Blackthorn's world and the segregation of species. The Circus isn't that far from John Carpenter's Escape from New York, a place where criminals are dumped to live out lawless lives where the strong feed on the weak. The immense poverty in Lowtown and surrounding districts also highlight the troubles of Blackthorn aren't as isolated as initial books implied.
We also get some development of the Vampire Prophecy plot and how the major powers are dealing with it. I admit, I wasn't too keen on the metaphysical results of our heroes "defying destiny" implied by this book and hope there's an explanation as to who (exactly) is so offended by it. I am, however, glad to see fictional power brokers dealing with prophecies in a proactive way. Which side is more evil is up in the air and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that Jessie is premature in her belief humans are worse.
I like the characters of Jessie and Eden, both of them appealing to me for various reasons. Jessie's Third species race turned out to be a genuine surprise and yet made perfect sense with all of the clues dropped earlier. While, "I did it all for a sick relative" may sound somewhat contrived, you can tell Eden is a ruthless man at heart. Jessie is hard in her own way, cleverly manipulating Pummel to avoid the worst of his abuses while plotting to figure out her next move. Jessie could easily kill Pummel, in all likelihood, but where would she go instead? As events reveal, there's nowhere safe in Blackthorn's world.
I liked the supporting cast, too, which is surprising given the majority of them are unrepentant psychopaths. Everyone from Mya to Chemist to Tatum is one sort of scumbag or another but they're all likeable scumbags. I wouldn't mind seeing the survivors come back in future books as allies of convenience. It takes skill to make likable protagonists but it takes an artist to make bad guys you enjoy reading about.
I really liked this book, arguably as much as any other in the series if not more so. This is one of those rare series I think which may get better the further you get into it like the Dresden Files. The fact the main plot finally getting off the ground is good too. I'm eager to see how the Vampire Prophecy ends and hope we'll see a conclusion in the next couple of books. Despite this, I'd still be happy to read more in the world.
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