Published 2011 381 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Born into a life of secrets and service, Chrysabelle's body bears the telltale marks of a prized comarré – a race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. But when her patron is murdered, she becomes the highly visible prime suspect. This sends her running into the mortal world... and into the arms of Malkolm, an outcast vampire cursed to kill every being from whom he drinks.
Despite their many differences, Chrysabelle and Malkolm must work together to stop a plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds. If they fail, chaos unlike anything anyone has ever seen will devastate both realms. And only a chosen few stand to gain.
Big sigh... Where do I start? Let’s start with the facts and go from there. Blood Rights is the first book in the new House of Comarré urban fantasy series by Kristen Painter. Painter’s previous writing credits include a selection of romance e-books but Blood Rights is her first main-stream novel. It’s published by Orbit, the sf/fantasy imprint of Little Brown, who generally publish a lot of the best sf/f genre books available, so the expected standard for this novel is high. It’s the first book in a planned series of five (so far) and there is a quick release schedule for the first three books – one book a month during autumn 2011.
Now for the opinion. Maybe because Blood Rights was published by Orbit I expected too much from this book the start. Maybe I was always going to be disappointed. The book’s description sounded perfect for a vamphile urban fantasy fan like me. Noble vampires from different houses feed on their pet comar (a human hybrid species that have potent, tasty blood) outcast vampires are shunned, and a prized comarré ends up in the clutches of the worst outcast vampire of all time – who takes her in after she’s accused of murder. No shortage of opportunities for action and drama. Add ghosts, shapeshifters and fae to the mix and there is something here for every fantasy fan to like. However, the poor execution of the storytelling detracts from the reading experience.
For the first half of the book Chrysabelle and Malkolm suffer from “contrived situation” syndrome. This is a sickness that infects books where the protagonists need a reason to get together but sadly don’t have one. Readers are treated to frankly nonsensical arguments between the pair, such as: Malkolm takes Chrysabelle captive locking her in his dingy home but wants Chrysabelle to leave him alone. (Release your captive, idiot.) Chrysabelle’s blood rights are hers to giveaway as she pleases. When she’s unconscious her blood is drained to save her life. She then insists that her blood rights now belong to Malkolm, who has stolen them. Malkolm doesn’t want them. Chrysabelle is offended. She either can not, will not (or is too stupid) to take her blood rights back without a fight to the death (the traditional way to get blood rights back from a vampire) the fact that he doesn’t want her blood rights is neither here nor there. She forces them on him and then complains about it! After far too much time is spent on pointless arguments that make no sense the pair are resolved to work together to rescue Chrysabelle’s aunt who has been kidnapped by the villain of this piece.
Enter Tatiana, the mad and evil vampire who wants to rule the world. One dimensional villainy at its best – she’s a sadistic bitch; what more do readers need to know? Well actually, I’d like to know why she’s the villain of the story, how she ended up where she did. Some fleshing out of her character beyond her ridiculous, self-centred inner monologues wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Blood Rights also has a superfluous futuristic setting with the time frame placed in 2067. Why? For no good reason that I could work out. There is little world-building effort put into the time setting. Except for something called a com chip (which has no bearing on the plot) there doesn’t seem to be any difference between 2067 and 2011. Sorry, I almost forgot in the future France becomes the Islamic Republic of France, a bizarre thrown in reference that again has no bearing on the story or explanation. Why France? Frankly, if I had to bet which country in the world would be the last to ever become an Islamic Republic it would be France. I could envisage a mosque on every US street corner before I can see the French population going Muslim. The book’s fictional setting (Paradise City) is clearly a large American city in Florida, why couldn’t it just be called Miami and the setting be left in the current day?
There are many things about Blood Rights that make little sense and these almost out way the good things about the story. But on the plus side once Malkolm and Chrysabelle have a reason to be together (how ever little it makes sense) the plot starts to move ahead at a much better pace. Readers are introduced to a new mythology of noble vampires, fringe vampires, shapeshifters and fae creatures. This fantasy world building is done far better than the half-assed 2067 setting and Tatiana’s plot to bring chaos to the mortal world just about makes sense (if you remember that she’s completely insane and therefore probably prone to bad ideas.) The secondary and supporting characters are the strongest part of the story – they are all compelling enough to keep reader attention and finding out more about their supernatural abilities is incentive to read further instalments of this series.
Blood Rights is far from perfect. As the first book in a series it could have done with more coherent storytelling but there is huge potential here for the original mythology to develop further in future instalments. While this book’s not one to run to the bookstore for, this series is certainly one to watch.
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