Orbit, p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
In some respects it seems very unfair to try to review a book part way through a series especially as perceptions are likely to be different if the characters and setting had been encountered fresh in volume one. Out For Blood is the fourth in this series by Kristen Painter and is not the last.
A well thought out series of books will have the capacity to engage the reader wherever they enter the chain and tell an encapsulated story that gives satisfaction. At the same time it should develop the main characters allowing the reader to discover more about them and the world they inhabit. For me, Out For Blood fails on the first criterion but just about passes on the second.
Basically, this is another of the plethora of books in which vampires and other supernatural (called othernatural here) beings share our planet. Their presence has not been wildly advertised until the recent past and most of the plot revolves the othernatural community so humans do not have much of a role with the exception of one small group. The comar are a group of humans who have been bred over the centuries to be personal food sources for vampires. At one time, they had a responsible role organising and controlling vampire wealth and resources. In more recent times they have been kept subservient and treated more as animals. Chrysabelle is comarré, her body tattooed with golden symbols that show her status. By this point in the series she has her freedom and, by the efforts of her late mother, is an independently wealthy woman. In a previous volume, she acquired a magical object called the Ring of Sorrows which she had melted down and tattooed into her skin. Although she knows it has done something to her she is not sure what. She wants to know but, due to more pressing situations, the investigation of this is left on the side-lines until close to the end.
Among these other issues are fact that her varcoli (were-animal) friend, Doc, has just become pack leader of Paradise City’s varcoli community and has inherited a wife. Doc would much rather be married to Fi, a ghost who can become corporeal at will. Chrysabelle is also searching for the brother she has been told is somewhere within the comar community. She is also falling in love with the vampire, Mal, who once was her patron (she was his comarré and food source). Eclipsing all these problems is the unresolved situation of the vampire baby. This infant is actually the granddaughter of the City’s mayor – who wants the child back. The baby is currently in the care of Tatiana, the head of the vampire House of Tepes from whom Chrysabelle escaped. Tatiana will do anything to keep the infant in her possession as she is not only the first vampire to be born rather than sired but also appears to be immune to the effects of sunlight. Not only does the mayor want Chrysabelle to rescue the child, so does a secret organisation called the Kubai Mata. She is reluctant as she knows Tatiana will kill her on sight. As might be expected, some of these issues are resolved in this volume, others made worse or more urgent in an attempt to tantalise a reader into buying volume five.
While there are a number of readers out there who will revel in another ‘vampires out of the closet’ series, the more discerning would do well to avoid. Not because it is necessarily a bad series but because the theme has become tired and there is very little that makes this series shine out from the rest – there are far more exciting choices to be had. Whether or not it is a symptom of starting at volume four, none of the characters seemed to engage with me – even towards the end of the volume it was difficult to remember why I ought to get excited about their dilemmas. Only one character had any page presence. Thomas Creek, the motorbike riding Kubai Mata agent stood out above the rest but he was given too little space to develop and even some of his reactions seemed false. A novel written by a strong author about him might be worth spending time with. This novel I could only recommend to someone who has read and enjoyed volume one (Blood Rights) and who doesn’t particularly want to engage with the characters.