I met the author and got a signed ARC copy of Blood Rights at BEA. Thanks to Orbit, I have a couple extra ARCs that I will also be giving away at the end of this post.
The Premise: Chrysabelle is a comarré, which is "the vampire equivalent of a geisha", bred for their blood and social skills. When the vampire she serves is found murdered, she flees, hoping to make a break from her life in a gilded cage. Ambitious vampiress Tatiana searches for her, both because Chrysabelle is the prime suspect for the murder of her master, and because of a special ring Tatiana wants and suspects Chrysabelle has. Chrysabelle seeks her aunt 's help in the Americas, specifically, Paradise City, New Florida, and runs into Mal - an outcast vampire (anathema) suffering from two devastating curses.
My Thoughts: Blood Rights is an urban fantasy where its vampires have a decidedly Gothic Horror air about them. They are a combination of dark and angsty, aristocratic and arrogant, monstrous, and insane. Sometimes they are all of these. They can't go out in the sun or touch crosses. Their vampire nobility prefer to stay in eastern Europe (Romania is home), and they are enemy to the shapeshifters (called the varcolai). These are common vampire traits but this story adds its own details to the standard vampire culture. There are rules (some enforced magically), and a caste system based on 'parentage'.
While vampires and other supernatural creatures are hidden from most humans, there is a race of humans bred just for them: the commarré. For centuries they have served their masters and have been prized for their blood. The comar/comarré relationship with their vampire masters has evolved into a symbiotic one, where while the vampires feed, the bloodletting relieves the commaré of extra blood their bodies produce, and vampire saliva lengthens their lives.
The vampires consider the commaré nothing more than their subordinates (albeit expensive ones), but the comarré are so much more than pretty faces with big veins, and Chrysabelle is one of their best. The story begins with her escape after her master's death, a move she makes to stay alive and to figure out what is going on. She has the ring, but isn't the murderer. So she goes to her aunt the only other commaré she knows that is not living with the vampires. In the process of all this, she runs into Mal, who recognizes what she is, even with her pains to hide the golden tattoos that mark her for what she is. She stabs him and leaves him for dead.
So it's not a great beginning, but Mal and Chrysabelle are thrown together again, and despite the animosity, both feel an uncomfortable attraction - she's made to give blood, and her blood is more compelling than the average human's to a vampire. It only gets more complicated from there. One of Mal's curses is that once he starts drinking someone's blood, he will not stop until he kills them. The other curse is that once he kills someone, they haunt him. He's followed by the ghosts of the hundreds of people he has killed, both as a vampire, and as a human. The clearest ghost is Fi - a graduate student who was unlucky enough to discover Mal locked up in a dungeon, left to rot. She's in love with a varcolai, suffering under his own curse. Fi and Mal and Doc (the varcolai) live together on a container ship, and while Fi and Doc consider Mal one of the good guys, they never forget that he killed Fi.
I found the world building well thought out, and I also liked the attention to detail that went into the characters' histories. Every character has a past that informs on their present and on their relationship with other characters. Even the past of bad guy Tatiana sort of explains how she became as crazy as she is, so she isn't entirely one-dimensional (although she does seem to have just one note: evil).
Amongst the backstories, history and world building that this book introduces, there are a lot of arcs that kept me curious about the direction of the series: what the ring means, what Mal and his past mean, the hidden agenda of the commaré, and what Tatiana's allies are really working towards. These are enough to make me to want the second book, but what really whets my appetite is the attraction between Chysabelle and Mal. Their lust for one another is mixed up with their instincts to feed and be fed upon, and I'm not sure what is going to happen. With Urban Fantasy there's never a guarantee for a HEA, but I'm hoping that what I'm seeing here is a slow burn romance (a bit more physical than your usual slow burn, but it works within the context). There are three books of this series out this year , but there is a contract for more. A lot could happen with that much room to work with, but I'm cautiously optimistic.
Overall: Compelling. This is an urban fantasy with a Gothic Horror vibe and a dash of Paranormal romance, and I felt like there's this sense of dark drama that sets it apart from the genre. I like that the story is set on the cusp of potential chaos (the world discovering that vampires and others do exist), and that the protagonists are a human and a vampire. Their relationship (attracted yet avoidant) intrigues me. I want to see where it goes.
Blood Rights is out October 1st. Flesh and Blood, it's sequel, is out November, and book 3, Bad Blood is expected in December.
Buy: Amazon | Powell's | The Book Depository
Karissa's Reading Review - positive
I have TWO extra ARC copies of this book that I can give away. To win one, just fill this form with your name and email.
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* One entry per person
* This giveaway is international
* Giveaway ends September 19th, 2011, midnight EST