Laws of the Blood: Partners
I’ve read one romance by Susan Sizemore (The Price of Innocence) and thoroughly enjoyed it. And I love horror/dark fantasy tinged with romance of the variety that Laurell K. Hamilton does so well. So when I found that Susan Sizemore has a series of vampire books set in a world somewhat similar to that of Hamilton’s, I got really excited. I immediately volunteered to review the second of the series, which justified rushing off to Amazon and ordering the first and third as well. I have to be a well-prepared reviewer, after all!
In Sizemore’s universe, vampires or strigoi exist, although they are unknown to the vast majority of mortals, and the vampires work very hard to keep it that way. There is a central council of vampires who make the Laws, which all vampires must obey. For those who don’t, there is a special breed of enhanced vampire called an Enforcer. Enforcers see that the Laws are observed in their particular city, and brutally punish those who break those Laws.
After gulping down the first book in one sitting and liking it immensely, I turned to the second one – and stalled. In Partners the main protagonist is rookie Enforcer Char McCairn, who is given a simple assignment: kill Jebel Haven, a mortal self-styled vampire hunter who is getting perilously close to finding out way too much about real vampires. Meanwhile, a fellow vampire asks Char to find her teenage charge, who has disappeared in Seattle.
Both assignments come together when Haven shows up in Seattle as well, seeking the same missing person. Char ends up working with Haven, knowing as she does so that a) she is going to have to kill him at some point (and at times, he’s so obnoxious that neither Char nor I minded the prospect much) and b) if he finds out what she really is, he’s going to try to take her out.
Unlike the first book, which had me from page one, it took almost half the book for me to get all the way into this story. Neither Char nor Haven clicked with me as particularly sympathetic characters at first, although they eventually started to grow on me. The dilemmas that Char in particular faces as her opinion of Haven changes became increasingly suspenseful and interesting.
Also, much of the plot development in Partners was confusing to me. There were herds of supporting characters, including one who is insane and not clear on what’s really going on. Since much of what the bad guys were up to was told from his point of view, I was mystified by it until Char finally started figuring things out and adding helpful exposition. Once I grasped the overall plot, the unwinding of the climax and denouement made sense, and had me turning the pages as fast as I was in the first book.
I think one source of frustration is the limited page length of these books, only 260 pages or so, and Sizemore is building a wonderfully complex world. The explanations of this world and how it works, while fascinating in themselves, require their share of the limited space available, necessitating a certain amount of shoe-horning when it comes to actual plot and character development.
And I’m beginning to get impatient to see things that have now been alluded to over two books. The vampires of Seattle have been wiped out in retribution for a Really Bad Thing they were doing, but the why and how of that has not yet been made clear. And both books are full of dire mutterings about Istvan, an Enforcer so scary he makes grown vampires just about wet their pants, yet he has yet to make more than a cameo appearance.
All of this, of course, just whets my appetite for more.
I do love the overall world that Sizemore is developing in these books. I’m not big on Tolkien-style fantasy, but I am a huge fan of so-called urban fantasy, where the world in question is ours, just weirder around the edges. Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, and Emma Bull have done great things with the lighter side of that kind of world; now Laurell K. Hamilton has some company in developing the darker side of it.
However, fans of Susan Sizemore the romance writer might be a bit taken aback. While romantic relationships play a small part in both stories, romance takes a distant back seat to the suspense and fantasy elements, even more so than in Hamilton’s books. Readers who prefer their romance without teeth and claws might want to stick to Sizemore’s straight romances. Me, I’ll be curled up with the third book in the series.
|Review Date:||March 28, 2002|