Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: Blood Blade by Marcus Pelegrimas

Blood Blade (US - Canada - UK)
By Marcus Pelegrimas (Website - Blog)
Publisher: Eos (January 27, 2009)
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages

I found Blood Blade refreshing. Although it contains vampires and monsters (specifically various types of werewolves), it offers a fresh take on them, primarily concerning their biology and how they reproduce. Vampirism is transmitted by a spore that attaches to the heart. Werewolfism can be transmitted through werewolf bites, but someone who is bitten won't become a pure werewolf. The world of this book also contains other types of wereanimals who aren't really friendly with the werewolves. Blood Blade is urban fantasy with a setting moving from Seattle to Canada to Chicago and beyond.

The story is about a human named Cole, who starts out a mere computer game developer and ends up a Skinner, which is someone who dedicates his life to fighting werewolves and keeping a fragile peace with vampires (known as Nymar). I felt Cole's initial introduction to the Skinner way of life was a little shaky, since it required him to suddenly decide to take an extreme vacation to the wilds of Canada, where he ran into a type of werewolf known as a Full Blood. This encounter propelled him into the rest of the story. Unfortunately, I could see all of it being set up, and I wished Cole had had more of a reason to be where the Full Blood was. I still don't know why that particular Full Blood was there, but maybe that's being saved for another book.

Once Cole had been propelled into the main story, everything moved along at an enjoyable clip and I didn't have any more complaints about obvious setups. For most of the book Cole is in Skinner training, but of course the things he's fighting don't wait for him to be fully trained before they attack him, so there's plenty of action along the way. Cole isn't an invincible hero by any stretch of the imagination. He's capable, has a good heart, and admits his weaknesses, all admirable qualities. He was fun to read.

His Skinner trainer is a kickass woman named Paige. She could easily have turned into a stereotype, but I didn't think she did. Naturally, Cole lusts after her, but she seems to return his interest only when they're about to die. The rest of the time she just cares about training him so he can help her fight the things that are after them. Readers will notice that the women in the book get much more detailed physical descriptions than the men, and most of the women are attractive. But I still don't know what Cole looks like other than the fact he's got a gut that appeared when he hit thirty. Maybe the gut is why Paige isn't interested in him…

The main villain's motivations were a little murky. On the one hand he was looking for revenge, but I wasn't clear on exactly how he intended to get it. He had a plan, I just wasn't sure what the end result of it was supposed to be. I did like the fact that his monster sidekick, whom I felt sorry for, had good reasons for being the way he was.

There were a few things I would have liked to see added or adjusted. First of all, I would have liked to see more of an origin myth. Cole never asks where the Nymar and various types of werewolves came from, but I wanted to know. Also, I would have liked to see Cole's gamer background play a more integral role in the story. It plays a role, but there was still room for it to become indispensable to resolving the plot. Finally, there were occasional rough patches in the writing. Not a lot, but enough that I noticed them. Awkward wording and the misuse of "lie/lay" stood out, as well as one or two spots where the characters didn't seem to know something they'd been told earlier.

On the whole, however, this was a fun book that kept me reading, and I don't hesitate to recommend it to fans of urban fantasy. Although the book contains lots of dark creatures with dark plans, the tone stays hopeful. The Skinners we follow are a pragmatic bunch who live day to day and don't worry much about angst. I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of dark characters with wounded souls. Well, there aren't any of those here (at least not among the heroes), and that's okay. The characters are fun, the pace was quick, and although the story boils down to a very basic good vs. evil plot, it's an enjoyable ride and a nice introduction to this series.


Tia Nevitt said...

Thanks for a great, comprehensive review, Raven! I really like the way you did this one.

Raven said...

Thanks, Tia! I felt this review was a little chattier than some of my others. Maybe that's the way for me to go.