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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blood Rights - Kristen Painter

I recently finished a book that was completely beyond the scope of what I normally read.  The book?  Blood Rights by Kristen Painter.  I don't read a lot of urban fantasy and I read zero paranormal romance (and by zero I mean none).  Why in God's name did I decide to pick up this title then?  Well, I'll tell you - I trust Orbit Books.  The more I read the more I come to depend on publishers I trust to consistently put out quality books regardless of subject matter.  Not to mention Orbit and Nekro put together an absolutely gorgeous cover that appealed to me as a red blooded American male.  We're so simple aren't we?

In any case Blood Rights is a vampire book set in the near future. I kept expecting some kind of science fiction action, but it never developed. The story follows Mal, a vampire living in exile, and Chrysabelle, a comarré (think vampire feeding device trained from birth to serve) on the run from vampire nobility. When Chrysabelle finds her vampire patron dead she feels sure the blame will fall on her. She flees into the human world chased by Tatiana, a noble vampire with a bad attitude and a craving for ultimate power. Naturally our intrepid comarré ends up in the hands of Mal who is trying really hard to not to eat people and has a grudge of his own to settle with Tatiana.  As might be expected the pair find themselves very attracted to one another and Mal ends up in the role of protector as Chrysabelle tries to stay alive and clear her name.

When I first started Blood Rights I really wasn't expecting to like it.  One of my twitter and message board friends (Bastard Books) is a big urban fantasy reader.  I tease him frequently about his love of tramp stamps and crossbow wielding broads, but I realized it might be intellectually dishonest of me to ridicule him without actually knowing what I'm talking about.  Picking up Child of Fire by Harry Connolly or Storm Front by Jim Dresden would have felt like a cop out.  So I consulted my trusty book catalogs and found Blood Rights which thankfully met all my criteria - publisher I trust (check), sexy girl on the cover (check), gothic feel (check), some sort of supernatural thingy (check), and written by a female (check).  For better or worse, I was committed.

Then something sort of funny happened, it ended up being for the better.  There is no question that Blood Rights is paranormal romance in the very well done disguise of urban fantasy.  That's not a criticism at all since Painter made her hay as a writer with covers that feature rock hard abs and curling smoke.  To ignore her experience in that genre would be a mistake and she integrates it well largely because the nature of the romance is so unexpected.  There are no heaving bosoms (alas) or comparing of bodies to chiseled works of art.  In fact, there's not really any sex that I can recall (well unless you count demons doing evil vampires) and only a smattering of kissing.  Instead Painter creates an entire culture of eroticism around blood sucking.  To a vampire sucking blood from a comarré is the equivalent of Kim Kardashian walking up to my desk right now and straddling me - irresistible and all together impossible to ignore.  There is tension and passion and it's all tied to self-denial.

Sure, things get a little bogged down in the early going as Painter dwells a bit on Mal's insatiable desire to chomp down on Chrysabelle's neck.  And by the third or fourth time I was definitely ready to move on and get to the action, but I never had to wait long before things picked up.  Additionally, the novel does an excellent job of dribbling out bits of world building within the romance to give me a reason to be there other than as the creepy guy in the closet (this would be a good time to include a link to R. Kelly's In the Closet).   And for me, it totally works.  So well in fact that after finishing the novel I tweeted the author with, "I can't look at my wife's veins without feeling 'dirty'."

As to be expected with an experienced author, Painter's writing style is very accessible and fits the subject matter well.  There isn't a lot of subtext, but who really wants any when it's time to kill vampires?  She has created a lush imagining of the supernatural culture replete with shapeshifters, demons, fallen angels, and others who all orbit around the vampire nobility.  The comarré - humans living among vampires - are far more than they appear to be much of which I believe remains to be revealed.  Interwoven among these races and humanity is a Biblical thread that promises much more to come in future books.  If I had to try to put a bet on what such a conflict might look like, I'd go pick-up John Milton's Paradise Lost and dust it off.

For someone who wants romance, vampires, and hot chicks with full body golden ink, Kristen Painter's Blood Rights is a great place to start.  While it hasn't convinced me to go commando on the urban fantasy wilderness, I won't be shy about picking more up in the future.  As for the rest of the House of Comarré series, I'm very much on board.

Oh, and I guess Bastard was right.

Blood Rights is available now in the U.K. and on September 27 in the U.S.

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At September 13, 2011 at 6:43 PM , Blogger Elfy said...

I'm a bit over all the vampire stuff, otherwise I may pick this up as I too tend to trust Bastard's tasted. If you are looking for Urban Fantasy with a female protagonist that is a little out of the ordinary, some romance (not a lot) and with absolutely zero vampires you could try Seanan McGuire's October Daye series (first book Rosemary and Rue).

At September 13, 2011 at 6:50 PM , Blogger Justin said...

Should note he didn't recommend this one in particular. He's just piqued my interest in the UF genre. I'm also pretty over vampires, but if you're going down that path this is a good one to go with.


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