A MelanieM Review: Blood and Ghosts (Blood #2) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Blood and Ghosts coverWith vampire Nicolas Lambert’s marriage to a rival clanswoman only weeks away, Adrien Gilbert struggles to come to terms with his defeat at the hands of Verel Pelletier, a vampire hunter and an immortal like himself. Adrien and his former teacher, Roland Günter, begin to explore his newly acquired abilities. But without his soul’s sword, Adrien flounders.

On Nicolas’s wedding day, a two-hundred-year old secret is revealed, sending the wedding party into a blazing battle between hunters and vampires. Once again Adrien finds himself facing Pelletier’s superior strength. Just as Adrien believes all hope of a future with Nicolas is lost, he finally learns his true gift—he can turn back time. But time travel comes with a high cost. To save Nicolas, Adrien must become strong enough to use his power without descending into madness.

After the death and destruction of Blood and Rain (Blood #1), I was hoping for some resolution to some of the loose ends and ever expanding plot threads but I should have known better as Blood and Ghosts is the middle story of Shira Anthony’s Blood Trilogy.  This book only ups the drama, danger, and multiple timelines these characters seem to exist in.  And therein lies this story’s strengths and weaknesses.

Time travel can be an extremely tricky element in any story but especially in one where one of the main characters or perhaps more, switch time frames frequently within chapters or pages for that matter.  For me, this format worked in several ways.  As Adrien chases not only his enemy Pelletier through  time, he is also looking frantically for his beloved Nicholas, who Pelletier has stolen away (long story, you must read the first book for this one to make any sense at all).  As the search continues through multiple eras and time periods, an exhausted Adrien is carrying with him the knowledge of the future, and all the dangers that brings with it.  With each change, the suspense and anxiety increases along with Adrien’s anguish and physical exhaustion.  We can connect with the fact that he’s losing hope with each century he passes through.  Anthony’s format serves to involve us with Adrien’s emotions and pain as the search continues even as his enemy taunts him.  I liked seeing all the “different” Adriens that existed, even if we see them only briefly.  I also liked getting more of a sense of history behind the various feuds and vampire/hunter lore.  That also serves to solidify some of the world building laid down in the first story.  But there is a downside to all this time flipping, and that’s confusion and a tendency towards density.

There are so many different eras and time periods to keep track of and with them, different logistical nightmares and ever expanding plot threads that your mind can grow tired trying to keep track of them all and how they figure into whatever current situation Adrien is finding himself in at the time.   I had to refer back to my notes several times in order to figure out  who was where at what time and why.  I can see what Anthony was going for and its works in the long view, however, I also wished for a few less stops along the time continuum and a tighter time line for the story all together.   At one point we are just jumping around way too much for us to get a feel for the “Nicholas” seen or for the other characters that are involved, there’s just not enough “time” for that to happen.

Make no mistake, there are some very cool components here.  I loved all the action sequences and the stuff that happens with Adrien’s sword had me swooning with glee.  It was unexpected, wildly imaginative, and vividly realized.  And it also made other parts of the story pale in  comparison.    Now that was a battle.

And while Adrien is believably flawed, impatient, angry, and powerful, Nicholas remains a bit of a shadow character.  I was just starting to get a sense of him before the traumatic events of Blood and Rain.  Then nothing.  I find him even more elusive here than Adrien does, and the switching of personas through the centuries doesn’t help that.  I’m continually told that their love is eternal and they know it “through the blood”.  But I would have wished for more showing to help me connect with the person behind all the drama and events that happen.

Blood and Ghosts is the middle story in this trilogy and it ends on a heartbreaker of a cliffhanger, one I can’t wait to see the author write her way out of.  I thought it was a fascinating way to end this story as it supplies tons of questions with little answers, its thought provoking in a major way and the riddle it implies will keep you guessing until we get the answers in early 2016 which is when the final story, Blood and Eternity, will come out.   If you aren’t a fan of cliffhangers, perhaps you might want to wait and read all three stories one right after the other.   If you are like me and have the impulse control of a magpie, then go ahead and pick this up and see what happened after the carnage of Blood and Rain.

But if you are new to this trilogy, run back to the first story and start there otherwise you will find yourself lost in time, along with the characters here.  For all vampire lovers, this is a new take on vampire lore and vampire hunters.  This story and series is beautifully written, intricately plotted and heavy with elements and logistics.  And yes, there’s some hot men/vampires and sexy times too.  The time travel can get a wee bit wearying but hang in there, for the acton sequences and rocky journey to everlasting love worth every minute, hour, and year.  Now if only I could time travel my way to 2016 and get my hands on Blood and Eternity….

Cover art by Reese Dante. I’m not a fan of this cover, not sure why.  Perhaps its the models or the design color.  Either way, its more of a miss than hit.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press   –   All Romance (ARe) –  Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 242 pages, available in DSP paperback too
Published April 20th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press (first published April 2015)
ISBN139781634761154
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.shiraanthony.com/books/blood-and-ghosts/
seriesBlood #2

Books in the Blood Trilogy are:

Review: Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Adapting InstinctsZoologist and primate specialist Carl Anderson’s thoughts are consumed by one man and one kiss whose message remains unclear to Carl.  And it is not just the kiss that has unsettled his life, but  the fact that the man who kissed him was a vampire, one of many who live all around him hidden to most of human society.  This fact was revealed to Carl through events involving his best friend Andreas Nikandros and his vampire lover Titus Antonius Calidus (Loving Instincts).  Those events saw Carl caught between the vampires and the vampire hunters, including another of Carl’s friends, Matthew.  At one point Carl and Andreas were threatened with death and one of Carl’s rescuers was the vampire warrior, Egill Dalgaard.

Egill Dalgaard.  Viking warrior and member of vampire society’s ruling body, the Tribunal, is used to having complete control of his life but one special human has upset his calm and ordered existence.  Egill cannot get Carl Anderson out of his thoughts since he first met the human and helped save his life.  And that one kiss has insured Carl’s place in Egill’s nightly dreams.  There are so many reasons why a continued association with Carl is ill advised and just one reason to do so.  Egill hasn’t felt this way about someone in a very long time, and for that reason alone Egill cannot let this human go.

Carl’s thoughts are still so divided and upset.  There is Matthew, mixed up with the vampire hunters, on one side and Egill Dalgaard, viking vampire on the other.  Carl’s life is now full of fearful glances at the dark, and longing too.  But the vampire hunters are still out there , posing a threat to Carl, Andreas, and the vampires Carl has come to know and respect. Any relationship Carl and Egill might have will be threatened by a variety of forces all around them, including the Tribunal.  Carl has always been afraid of confrontation, but if he wants Egill in his life, then he must decide on which path to take, including one that will take him away from his humanity.

Adapting Instincts is the fourth book in the Instincts series by S.J. Frost, a series that shows continues to deliver wonderful characters and a deepening overall story arch that runs through the entire series to date.  In this latest installation, all of our favorite couples are back and fully involved in this book’s narrative.  We have the original couple of Andreas Nikandros (now a vampire himself) and his eternal partner Titus Antonius Calidus,  Vampire Samurai Ryunosuke Kimura and his vampire lover Daniel Valente (my favorite couple) and now brought into the center are viking vampire Egill Dalgaard and human Carl Anderson, friend and former coworker of Andreas Nikandros.

Adapting Instincts picks up three months after that last events of Loving Instincts (Instincts #3), events that have left reverberations through all the lives of those involved, human and vampire alike.  One of the strengths of S.J. Frost’s writing is her wonderful world building and complex narrative.  While each book normally revolves around one main couple and their romance, multiple plot threads and characters weave themselves throughout the romantic relationship, acting not only as a foundation but as the perpetuator that lends the story momentum and depth. Coexisting with the daily conflicts that arise with being a human, Frost contrasts that with the rigid societal structure of the vampire world.  It makes for a fascinating and absolutely addicting read to see how the two worlds will not only collide but continue to mesh as vampires and humans interact.  The first three books are full of conflict and harrowing events for all the couples involved, so it makes  sense for the fourth book to deal with the aftermath and emotional letdown.  With two exceptions, most of this story concentrates on relationship issues, those between Carl and Egill.  And while that choice simplifies the storyline, it also carries with it a more lightly layered plot as well, lacking the depth and complexity of those books that precedes it.

After the emotional events, that is a very realistic way of dealing with the aftermath of the kidnappings and near death experiences of book 3.  I really enjoy the character of Egill, former viking warrior and formidable vampire lord.  Stolid and controlled, it is lovely to watch such a character react to love entering his life after such a long existence.  Frost does a great job with Egill’s personality, making him both realistically regal and yet vulnerable too in his tightly controlled mien.  Carl, on the other hand, felt a little too passive for me to connect with.  True, he has a poor self image and his need to avoid conflict puts himself and others in terrible situations. It is hard to connect with a character that you want to give a shake to most of the time.  Carl’s indecisiveness is just unattractive to me so it helped immensely that Frost gave us Davy, the Black-headed Spider Monkey.  Davy, along with all the other marvelous animal characters in this series, adds a touch of humor and endearment just when the story needs it the most.  By seeing Carl’s relationship with Davy, it helps connect us to a character that lacks some of the vivid personality traits of the others in the series.  I loved Davy and hope that the author will bring him back into the series somewhere down the line just as she did with Dakarai, Andreas’ lion, and all the other animals who a such a delight in the series.  Here is your first introduction to Davy:

Carl stopped outside the habitat for the spider monkeys. He released the cart’s handles to place his hands on his hips, fixing Davy with a disapproving look. “Really? Is that necessary?”

Davy quit banging the bowl on the mesh and stared up at him with intelligent black eyes.

Carl swore the monkey was trying to play innocent. A smile broke over his lips despite trying to stay stern. It was all Davy needed. The monkey scurried up the mesh to be at eye level with him, reaching through with his left hand, the one missing the index finger. Carl held a finger toward him, and Davy wrapped his others around it. The warm, soft leathery feel of Davy’s palm made him grateful he’d been able to save the monkey’s hand. When Davy and the others came to the zoo, starved and sick from the poor care they’d received in a backyard zoo—or deathtrap, as he called it—Davy’s hand was so infected from a baboon biting his finger off, he didn’t know if he’d be able to save it. But he had, and after months of diligent care, Davy and his brothers were healthy and sassy.

The interplay between man and monkey is telling.  It is humorous, affectionate, and clearly a wonderful relationship.  Even when you are fed up with Carl’s dithering about, moments like this will keep the reader invested in his character and his future.

Is this book a stand alone?  No, it must be read as part of the series and in the order they were written, otherwise key elements will be lost or misconstrued.  I love this series and absolutely recommend it.  Start at the beginning and work your way through.  Instincts shows no hint of slowing down, as new characters are introduced here as well as persons left over from the last book such as Matthew.  And the fact that all the other beloved characters will be there as well is just the icing on the cake.  If you are already invested in this series, I guarantee you will enjoy this book too.  Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) carries the main plot thread forward while satisfying us with another romance completed.  Great job, great story, wonderful series.

Here they are in the order they were written and should be read:

Natural Instincts (Instincts #1)

Enduring Instincts (Instincts #2)

Loving Instincts (Instincts #3)

Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4)

Cover art by Winterheart Designs is evocative in design and tone.  I thought the two landscapes a nice touch.

ebook, 210 pages
Published March 14th 2013 by MLR Press
ISBN 1020130040
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=SJF_ADIN
seriesI