Saturday 8 December 2012

Out for Blood

Out for Blood by Kristen Painter (Orbit/ Little, Brown/Hachette)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9780356502106
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Vampires, fallen angels, ghosts, and shifters are integral to the House of Comarré Series of which this book is the fourth. The urban fantasy revolves around a race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility, called comarrés.
Chrysabelle, a commaré, has been ordered by the Kubai Mata to rescue a child kidnapped by the leaders of the vampires, otherwise Mal, who is very close to her, will be regarded as enemy number one. Lola, the mayor, whose deceased daughter is the mother of the stolen child, also wants the child in her clutches. She declares a curfew in Paradise City in the hope of controlling the othernatural population. In so doing, Doc, a close friend of Chrysabelle and Mal is captured. Mal risks death in saving him, and Chrysabelle, in turn, goes to his rescue. She has powers she does not understand but they have given her the ability to return to life after dying. Chrysabelle is relying on these powers to aid her in the recapture of the child, Lilith, and also to rescue Damian, the brother she has been searching for.
Not having read the previous books, I was bewildered by the lack of retrospective detail to grasp the storyline, especially as it abounds in fantasy words equal to my knowledge of Russian - zilch! However, a small reference list at the rear of the novel did provide some answers and the intriguing scenario in the opening pages encourages going with the flow.
For a start, I liked the name choices, three of which seem to be derived by the omission of one letter, e.g., Chrysabelle (Chrystabelle?) Jerem (Jeremy?) Maddoc (Maddock?) but also disliked her use of three names beginning with D which made me have to rethink who these characters were. But it is the author's prolific details of the emotional and physical responses of a vampire which is fascinating, along with the unreal abilities of other supernaturals. Painter's imagination expands way beyond the basic point that vampires drink blood. It is as if she opens a window into their private world. There is also a glamorous touch to her work.
Although I found the dialogue to be stilted in parts and sometimes there was a tendency to over-explain, Painter shows expertise in creating gripping action, and the passionate scenes stop short of the graphic, strengthening the romance factor. 

I found the normal human elements - cars, chocolates, city buildings etc. grounded this near-future story but wondered about the use of laudanum to inhibit the victims a little at odds with the magical elements which Painter conjures up. Why not call the drug something else? But perhaps this, too, was to give the readers a name they would readily understand, albeit one from over a century ago.

There is more for fantasy fans to look forward to in this entertaining series. Watch for Last Blood.

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