Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Born in the 1800s into a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien Gilbert wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France. Adrien loved his family and their life but all that changed when his older brother, François, is murdered, or so he thinks. Bound by his hunter’s oath and lost in grief, Adrien sets out to find and destroy his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier. But nothing is as it seems and the course of Adrien’s life is forever changed by his hunt for the killer and truth.
Desperate to find Charles after months of fruitless searching, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. In exchange for Adrien escorting Nicolas to Paris for his arranged marriage to a rival clanswoman, Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. A simple agreement that would have profound effects on them all. Because despite the fact that Nicholas is a vampire and Charles a vampire hunter, they are drawn together by a bond neither understands.
In searching for Charles, Adrien’s established view of the world is fundamentally shaken, first by what he finds out about the history between hunters and vampires and secondly by his feelings and actions towards Nicholas. As his world falls apart around him, Adrien must still deliver Nicholas to the wedding ceremony that is to make peace between the two warring families. This peace is necessary for the safety of all Adrien loves but will he be able to let the one man he loves above all else go to make that happen?
In Blood and Rain, first installment in the 3-book “Blood” series from author Shira Anthony, Anthony must lay down a complicated foundation for the three couples and stories involved. The author starts in Europe, France specifically, with a history of the hunter and vampire dynasties that exist, the troubled and convoluted political jockeying for power, and a mythology so strange that some of the hunters and vampires have buried it under layers of disbelief and legend, until most of those involved arent’ sure what is fact or fiction. Added over top of that like an intricately patterned lace cloth lies the Gilbert, Lambert and Rousseaus families, (hunters and powerful vampire clans) as well as the Council of Hunters, a governing body in deadly disarray. Anthony has so much basic series universe building to do that it can feel a little heavy and complicated trying to remember it all.
And woven into the middle of this 18th century political drama is several love stories, the first two are as intwined as the brothers involved. Two human brothers, Adrien and Francois, and the vampires they love or loved. The destinies of this quartet are tied together by love, blood, and power. Adrien and Nicholas, the vampire scion whose helps Adrien enlists to find ancient vampire Charles Duvalier, are the primary couple here, but only just. Adrien is something of a naif at the beginning, full of absolutes and a certain provincial lack of sophistication. That you believe in him as a character while not exactly liking him is to the credit and talent of Anthony’s ability to build realistic characters who act, think, and feel as humanly possible.
Nicholas, and the other vampires closely associated with Adrien, Francois, Nicholas, and others are constructed along the same believable lines, although I found these characters to be far more appealing and affable than Adrien at first. Luckily for all, the reader included, Adrien runs headlong into some life altering events, ones that will change his perception of everything he knows, family, history, even the laws of nature. But until he does, don’t be surprised if you want to smack him up head the head a time or two.
This story is full of mythical elements, from hunts for revenge, secret passages and hair raising escapes from malignant villains and vile dangers. That means over the top fights with magical swords, life altering wounds, and bloods, tons and tons of blood. I loved the action sequences and the mystical elements that Anthony has created are marvels themselves. Plus there is angst, almost as much angst as there is blood that flows. The suspense will keep you riveted as the narrative speeds along.
And yes, there is a cliff hanger too.
All of this adds up to a supremely entertaining and engrossing read. It’s a vampire swashbuckler, full of romance and evil deeds, that includes thwarted, star crossed lovers and the stuff heroes are made of. Errol Flynn (a swashbuckler above all swashbuckers…google him) would have felt right at home. I kept flipping the pages until it was over and then was ready for the next story to see what happens next.
The only thing that kept this from being perfect was that it got a bit dense in trying to establish all the histories, mythologies, political intrigues and alignments, (and yes, genealogies too) for all the character involved. At times that tended to weigh down the action and derail the romance, but once established, the story swung perilously along to our horror and delight.
A new series from Shira Anthony is always cause to celebrate. By adding vampires to her mermen and musicians, she has given us a triumph of genres and couples to root for and love. Add this to your Holiday wish list or just go ahead and get it right now, you know you deserve it!
Cover art by Reese Dante. Great cover, very brooding.
ebook, 268 pages
Published December 15th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press