REVIEW: Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein
Dear Ms. Stein,
I love urban fantasy but lately I’ve found myself getting tired of the genre. Too many books feature the usual suspects (vampires) and the same plot conflicts (love triangles). So when Jane sent me a copy of your book, I admit I sighed. A vampire bounty hunter? And a comparison to Anita Blake on the cover? Not another one.
But despite this, I found myself hooked by Anna’s story. The comparison to Anita Blake does this book no favors. While that series may have started one way, it’s come to mean something else so I was anticipating a certain type of story. That I received something different was a happy surprise.
Anna Strong is a schoolteacher-turned-bounty hunter and a few months ago, she was turned into a vampire during a job gone wrong. Since this is the second book in the series, I can only assume the story of Anna’s change and discovery of vampire life was covered in The Becoming. Unlike other vampires, Anna chose not to give up her human life and works to balance holding on to her family and friends while adjusting to the need for blood.
As a result, she lives a double life and hides the fact she’s a vampire from the human world while refusing to immerse herself into the supernatural world like she should. This dilemma plays out well in her various relationships: the human ones with her parents, her bounty-hunting partner David, and her sometime-lover Max and the inhuman ones with vampire police chief Williams and shapechanger teacher Frey.
I especially liked how conflicted Anna’s relationship with Max was. They’ve always been casual lovers with no strings attached but somewhere along the way Max started wanting more, leaving Ana confused about what changed in their relationship. And now that she’s a vampire, to whom sex and blood are closely intertwined, she’s afraid of sleeping with him for fear of not only revealing her new nature but of draining his blood. When Frey is introduced, I found myself liking him despite my suspicion that he’s to become part of a developing love triangle subplot in future novels because he offers a distinctly different choice for Anna. Nothing is worse than a love triangle where the heroine’s two potential love interests are essentially the same.
But where this book really shines for me is its plot. When an old ex-girlfriend of her dead brother asks for Anna’s help in locating her runaway daughter, Anna agrees when it’s revealed the ex-girlfriend’s daughter might actually be her brother’s child and Anna’s niece. What follows is a story about finding the missing niece, re-establishing a family bond that never had a chance to form, and discovering why her niece ran away in the first place. Is she really a troubled teen? Or is there a more sinister reason? The story’s twists and turns kept me on my toes and that doesn’t happen often. While I do think the connection between Anna and the main antagonist was a little convenient, his identity fell perfectly in line with what the reader learns beforehand. Nothing angers me more than when an author throws a revelation in from left field and calls it a “twist”. It’s not a twist if it makes the reader say, “WTF?” So I appreciate that your twists were true twists of existing elements and not random plot devices thrown in for author convenience. And the final revelation regarding Anna’s niece and her mother was as heartbreaking as it was inevitable. I hope this will come up again in future books.
I’m also really impressed by your usage of first person present tense. While this tense doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it does other readers, I also think it’s much easier to make a book unreadable and off-putting than any other tense, except perhaps second-person point-of-view. But I didn’t even notice it was written in present tense until several pages in and to me, that is the sign of a skilled writer.
So despite my initial misgivings, I’m very glad Jane sent me this book and even happier that there are two more books in this series to acquire and read. B+
This book can be purchased in mass market. No ebook format found.