REVIEW: Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper
Dear Ms. Cooper,
Anyone who follows you, me or Jane on twitter or who read this probably caught the tempest in a teacup over the disappearing book. For those who haven’t a clue as to what I’m referring: Jane was looking all over for Blood of the Wicked, and realized that she probably sent it to me. I checked through my Pisa-like tower and didn’t see it. That afternoon, what should Paul the postman (yes, that really is his name) show up with? A package containing one item (a rare occurrence): your book! Well, after all the back and forth, I decided I had to read it, even if I’m not a huge fan of witch stories.
Jessie Leigh is a witch, and in the world of New Seattle witches are hunted and killed. Jessie and her brother Caleb have been on the run their entire lives, hiding their abilities and trying to blend into the grimy underbelly of a shiny stilt world. They support each other through thick and thicker until one day Caleb disappears and even Jessie’s talents can’t help her locate her brother. Jessie continues to lay low in the deep dredges of the city hoping that something will lead her to Caleb, but finds herself face-to-face with Silas Smith.
Silas is a missionary, a branch of the Holy Order of St. Dominic that locates and exterminates witches before they do any further damage to the world crumbling around them. His latest mission is to find and kill Caleb Leigh, and Silas is sure he’ll be able to manipulate Jessie into helping him. He has no idea that Jessie is a witch too and she isn’t going to enlighten him. Of course, when eyes meet eyes…they can barely talk because they’re so busy drooling over each other.
I sighed with relief when Jessie immediately staged an escape attempt from Silas. Yeah, she may have a hoo-hah (and it may even be magickz!) but she isn’t letting her libido lead her into utter stupidity. Jessie keeps her eye on the prize; stay out of the hands of the Order and find her brother alive. Silas and Jessie trek down into the depths of Old Seattle and find the remains of a blood ritual (and if you’re not comfortable with CSI I suggest that you skim this part of the book) and Jessie realizes that her brother is up to his neck in trouble. As they run, hide and try to figure out what they and Caleb are entangled in, they fall for each other but Jessie’s secrets are going to come out eventually.
I had some real problems with this book but I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when I decided to put it down for a while (eh, a day is a while for me). But we’ll get there in a minute. Let me tell you about our H/H. Jessie is well written and I really loved her character. She’s physically vulnerable and knows it, and without Caleb she’s a bit lost but refuses to let herself fall into despair. Staying on an even keel when you can’t trust anyone around you and are hiding what you are seems nearly impossible and Jessie doesn’t just take it in stride. Her constant struggle is obvious. I can’t imagine living a life looking over my shoulder every few minutes. Her attraction to Silas is a major distraction. She initially attempts to fight it, but even after she’s swept into it, she doesn’t loose sight of her need to protect herself and her brother.
Silas is somewhat rock-like on the outside. He’s getting older and realizes that the aches and pains he has are new and the Order is going to bench him soon. On the inside Silas is a mess of guilt and confusion and sexual frustration. Silas worked for the Order his whole life and very reluctant to question any of the demands or rules, both because he believes them and because he’s fearful that he’ll loose his reason for getting up in the morning. He’s attracted to Jessie but thinks that there can’t be anything there because of the needs of the Order (yeah, he’s kinda clueless here and I did have a bit of an issue with that). When he has his lightbulb moment it’s ugly and at the same time I was nailed to the page as I watched the blinders get ripped off him. I think I could fall for him too.
The post-apocalyptic New Seattle reminded me of a cross between Blade Runner and Judge Dred (the comics, NOT the movie…oy). The divisions between upper- mid- lower- and Old Seattle are well described, and the entire place seems treacherous. A lack of guard rails, or any sort of safety measure is one of those things I love with any post-apocalyptic world. While parts of the world-building are well done, I have two issues with the book. First, I wish there had been a little more on exactly how the witches were responsible for the apocalypse and what, exactly, was the apocalypse. I have a vague understanding of the Earth splitting open, but that’s about it. Second, I would love to understand why the Holy Order of Saint Dominic ended up with all the power, and a little more on how the Order works. This may have been explained in the novella, but a few lines or thoughts worked into the beginning of the book would have helped me from feeling lost at times. Frankly, I wanted more world. A lot more world. But since I just couldn’t put the book down it’s a B for me.