Another YA book, means another try at the vampire story. Apparently. I am happy to say, however, that while Blood by KJ Wignall is yet another foray into the YA Vamp bottomless pit (before you get in a twist over that, the pit has both good and bad in it) it is more about the action then the tortured romance. At least, as of the end of the first installment in the Mercian Trilogy. And I liked that.
Unlike many of its contemporaries, this book doesn’t really try to be about a superficial teenage relationship that only starts because one of the pair is soooooo dreamy that the reader swoons from the description of him. (It’s usually a him. Not always, but usually.) It’s set up about the mystery surrounding our protagonist’s history. Namely, his search to find out how he became a vampire. It also doesn’t try to romanticize the nature of a vampire, instead Will seems that he would happily accept death over the immortal vampire life he has. That’s a little different from the Twilight and Twilight-like series that proliferate this genre. And it’s a welcome difference.
Our story goes something like this. Will wakes up from another period of hibernation and takes to the streets. Like always, after such a period he needs to feed. And that means finding someone who’s life force he can get from their blood. Will doesn’t know any other vamps. But, he decided long ago that he will only feed on those who are likely to not be missed. That’s why he settles on Jax. Jax is a street person who seems a little off his rocker. But, he has a notebook that proves that he knows about Will – even if it’s subconsciously. This notebook feeds Wills desire to find who turned him and why. Then, Will saves Ella from a bunch of street kids who are hassling her. She too is homeless, but that’s a sad and sort of complicated story. Turns out that Will thinks he was destined to find Eloise and that she may be part of the key to finding out who turned him. Enter Chris and Rachael, friends of a sort of Ella’s. And they embark on a journey to piece together clues left by Jax and his notebook.
Despite what is a sort of clunky beginning (and, in the galley I received, I think I found a few glaring errors/inconsistencies that will hopefully be caught and corrected before final publication here in the US) I think the series has promise. And while the beginning is a little clunky – I like the idea behind the way it starts. I would not change that. It’s a great way to open, watching Will wake up from hibernation. It just seems to need a little more fine tuning. But it was a wonderful refreshing way to start a book like this.
I will say this, however, I am not sure this should really be a series. What I mean is that I think I would rather a longer stand-alon book then 3 short books – just so that it can be a series. Some stories really shouldn’t be separate books. For example, one of my all time favorites is the Count of Monte Cristo – I can’t imagine if the publishers (in what is presumably an attempt to make more money by publishing in installments) split that up into 3 or 4 little books. I am not sure I would have fallen in love with that story the way I did. It was seamless and you didn’t need a cheat sheet to remember the details a year later when the next installment came out. Here, the book was short enough that I really wonder if it would not be more enjoyable as one long book. I will eagerly read the second, but I am not looking forward to the repetition that will likely be there so that if someone picks up #2 first, they aren’t totally lost. That takes away from the enjoyment much of the time. Especially with short books.
So far, the plot is intriguing. We really don’t have much of a clue as to why Will was turned or who a few of the players are – those who are really only referred to but not introduced. Hopefully the connections will play out some in the 2nd (another problem with some serials – they wait until the last book to give you anything, sucking most of the joy out of reading the series because the reader is left feeling duped and let down after reading the second **hint, hint**) – I am not asking for all of them – just enough to keep me interested and keep the plot moving.
It will also be interesting to see how the relationship between Will and Ella plays out. It hasn’t been that gushy girly to die for romance so far. And I like it that way. It still leaves room for them to get together but seems to be a little more plot driven then romance driven.
Where things got a little complicated (and another area where clunky seems the best way to describe it) was in the use of other paranormal entities/devices. The introduction of the ghosts sort of felt wasted. And while we hear early on that Will is turned right after the burning of some witches back in the 1200s, it really doesn’t make sense that those same witches would be looking to help Will. They sort of come out of nowhere, seem threatening but then are all of a sudden helpful, and then wham! they are the witches. I felt like I got whiplash from wondering where the heck that came from.
The best thing about this book was the little “flashbacks” – they weren’t really flashbacks, but they were Will telling about his history. They were interesting and seemed to provide information about Will as a character which made it much easier to like him. I am hoping that there is more of a reason for each of the snippets we get later on though.
Most of the descriptions in this book had a nice balance – I had just enough to form a picture that the author seemed to want me to have, and yet I was still free to fill in some blanks and I didn’t get the same information repetitively (often, a problem with serials – where we get the same descriptions of places and characters over and over as a way to add girth to the page count, adding to the reason for splitting books that really shouldn’t be split). I was able to form that little movie in my mind while I read the book and it didn’t take four pages to merely set the scene.
I am intrigued by the action at the end to. I didn’t expect the cliffhanger to work out that way (no spoilers until after publication – that’s my rule for galleys I get) but was happy that I was surprised. It’s starting to be hard to surprise me – only because I read so much and a unique idea is apparently hard to come by in this genre.
When all was done, I felt it was a happily spent few hours reading. I look forward to what ever #2 will be.
NOTE: Goodreads has 2 primary covers on the site – so I included both.