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REVIEW: Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein

Dear Ms. Stein,

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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+

My regards,

Jia

This book can be purchased in mass market. No ebook format found.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

11 Comments

  1. Jeanne C. Stein
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 07:41:00

    Thank you, Jia, both for reviewing my book and liking it! I appreciate the number of books out there in the Urban Fantasy genre. I’m glad your friend, Jane, sent you one of mine.

    Next month, Barnes and Noble will be discussing my books on their Paranormal/Urban Fantasy online book club. Please stop in if you can and say hello.

    Best regards, Jeanne

  2. Anji
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 11:52:10

    This sounds really interesting, and though I’m pretty vampired-out, I may just give this one a try.

    Thanks for the review, Jia!

  3. Jia
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 13:08:30

    I’m pretty vampired-out myself but this goes to show that sometimes all it takes is the right story to make it interesting again. It helps that Anna never whines or broods about her circumstances or throws herself a pity party. Most of her internal turmoil stems from her trying to keep both human and inhuman lives separate — how long can she keep the fact that she’s a vampire a secret, what’s going to happen when she no longer can do that, and what is she going to do when that day comes? That’s why I thought the storyline with the niece was interesting, because Anna finding the niece is essentially Anna finding someone to take her role as daughter to her parents.

  4. LesleyW
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 13:13:07

    I very much enjoyed Blood Drive.

    It’s funny you should mention the first person present tense, as I found this harder to get into in the first book – The Becoming.

    The thing I liked about Blood Drive, was a lot of it was Anna coming to terms with her vampirism. Through a lot of the book I think she ‘thinks’ she’s coping and has made the transition, but in fact she hasn’t.
    And I liked Frey because he didn’t let her have her own way all the time. :)

  5. Jia
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 13:16:44

    LesleyW: I thought Anna’s coping, or lack thereof, was well done too. And it certainly is refreshing to read an urban fantasy in which a male character/potential love interest doesn’t give the heroine free reign all the time. It’s give and take, just like it is in real life.

  6. celeber
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 13:30:30

    I read this book a few months back and loved it. It was a nice break from the rest of the vamp stuff out there. I can get pretty vamped out, but I highly recommend this book. It was a lot of fun.

  7. Kalen Hughes
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 13:50:59

    Can I just gush about the cover? Wow. It’s been a long time since a cover made me want to pick up a book.

  8. Jia
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 13:55:50

    I think Jeanne Stein has been blessed by the cover art fairy. The Anna Strong novels all have lovely covers.

  9. Jane
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 13:59:03

    I didn’t realize that there was any romantic subplot in these books so I think I’ll pick them up.

  10. Jia
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 14:03:44

    The subplot is minor in Blood Drive but I suspect this is an instance of the subplot developing over the course of multiple books. Based on the description of the next book, Max plays a more prominent role.

  11. Jeanne C. Stein
    Dec 20, 2007 @ 12:13:50

    I may be too late in responding to Jia’s last comment–the holidays have a habit of sneaking up on me and I’ve just been crazy trying to catch up. I don’t have a steady romantic interest for Anna yet. I have it in the back of my mind that she may end up with David, her partner, but since he’s human, she may have the same problems with him that she has with Max. The living and the undead have definite relationship obstacles to overcome! I will introduce a new potential in the fourth book–another vamp this time, which may work out a little better–

    Happy Holidays– Jeanne

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