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vampires

REVIEW:  Guardian by Blood by Evie Byrne

REVIEW: Guardian by Blood by Evie Byrne

Dear Ms. Byrne:

When I began this book, I had only vague memories of the vampire series you wrote several years ago. This story takes place shortly after Damned by the Blood and involves Alya Adad sending her Hand, Eva Sosa Padillo, to the northwoods of Minnesota to seek out the clan of the vampire who attempted to kill her. Either the clan moves south to Minneapolis to be assimilated or the entire clan will be decimated and burned to the ground.  Actually the plan is to burn and salt the earth where the northwoods vampires live regardless of their assimilation but Eva doesn’t let them know that. Instead she offers the opportunity to parlay.

Guardian by Blood by Evie ByrneThere is an impossible conflict presented here because the clan is a small group of individuals with fervent beliefs. They do not feed off humans but animals. (Looking at the human feeding as a disgrace). They live in harmony with the land, wasting nothing. They hunt wild boar and deer. While at first, I was shuddering at their primitive lifestyle (outhouses for god’s sake), I quickly began to become enchanted with the simplicity of their lifestyle and, moreover, their tie to the land.

The unfairness of the situation ate at me.  Wat, the regent for lack of a better term, tried to explain to Eva that they were no danger to Alya and to move south and abandon their beliefs was no small request she was asking. She was asking for them to destroy their way of life because some outcast had threatened Alya’s rule.  But Wat and his people would rather die. There’s this beautiful scene in which Wat goes to pray to his gods to seek guidance. Is the “more” out there worth giving up all that he has ever believed in?

Eve represents an interesting and very challenging character because she doesn’t take by force, but rather manipulation and it was very hard to see her desecrate the philosophies of Wat’s people in order to turn Gunnar, the prince, against him and lead the people into the south. She does this because she sees Gunnar’s capitulation as their only safe recourse. Better to be alive and having forsaken the old ways than dead martyrs, she justifies to herself.  Eve is very very very hard to warm up to.

I was so disgusted at Eve at one point that I thought about giving up on the book.  I think because I had experience with reading you before and I knew your work was excellent that I hoped for a payoff, a turn around. I was surprised that there were not greater recriminations by Wat over certain actions he took in response to goading by Eve. Yet his easy forgiveness of Eve paved the way for me to let go of my own frustration and anger. In the end, it was Eve who saves the day and I admit I didn’t see her solution which made it all the sweeter for me as a reader.

I really loved Wat and his people and I came to appreciate Eve.  It’s a bit of a reverse captivity book because in a captivity book, the captive changes the people from the inside out whereas Eve is the one that undergoes the transformation. The mystical magic of the indigenous vampire tribe was portrayed in a loving manner.   This was a difficult book to pull off and that you did is remarkable.  Even though Eve is a hard edge manipulator, there is a core of steel in her that appeals to Wat.  And Wat?  He is a teacher, lumberjack, man who has loved every woman he’s slept with.  Definitely swoonworthy.  B-

Best regards,
Jane

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MANGA REVIEW:  Jiu Jiu volume 2 by Touya Tobina

MANGA REVIEW: Jiu Jiu volume 2 by Touya Tobina

jiujiu2

Story & Art: Touya Tobina
Publisher: Hakusensha/Viz
Rated: T+ for older teen
Volumes: 2/5

Dear readers,

A few weeks ago, I read the first volume of Jiu Jiu, a shoujo manga series about Takamichi, the heir of a demon hunting family, and her two shapeshifting bodyguard-familiars, Night and Snow. Although the pacing was uneven, I liked Takamichi’s internal conflict and continue on to the second volume to see if the writing improved. Turns out: not so much.

Random is the adjective I’d used to describe volume 2. After the events of volume 1, Takamichi has thawed and started to form emotional attachments again. Night and Snow are thrilled at this development because they adore their mistress. Unfortunately, this leads to some complications.

First, Takamichi encounters a vampire prince who must drink the blood of a virgin in order to obtain his full power and heritage. Night and Snow are predictably horrified by this development but because the vampire initially takes the form of a little boy, Takamichi buys his fabricated story and wants to help him find his way home. But when he’s not in human form, the vampire takes the form of a pig. Yes. You read that correctly.

I like crack as much as the next person. I did use to read the Black Dagger Brotherhood once upon a time before I broke that habit, but some things just don’t work for me. Apparently, flying vampire pigs are one of them. Other readers may feel differently. Even as I write this, I’m fully aware other people eat this up in manga.

Secondly, Takamichi, her bodyguards, and her friends take a trip to the beach. But while there, they stay at a supposedly haunted house. Except the supernatural creature in residence is not a ghost. It’s a selkie. A lesbian selkie who forms an immediate attachment to Takamichi.

By this point, I was struggling to figure out what was going on and what kind of manga this was meant to be. Was it meant to be an episodic supernatural slice of life, in which Takamichi encounters various supernatural creatures and helps them? Is this further set-up, in which Takamichi gathers more supernatural beasties around her, before we go on to the bigger plot? I had no clue.

And while I loved the Takamichi of volume 1, I found myself less enamored with her in volume 2. I suppose I found her rapid turnaround in which anything cute and helpless merits her help, no matter that the circumstances may say otherwise. I can’t say I found it believable that someone who hunted monsters would buy a vampire’s story that he was lost and needed to find his way home. Surely she’s dealt with child monsters before? On the other hand, I found her brusque handling of the selkie to be more in-character.

I definitely see the vampire as trouble. He wants Takamichi and messes with Night and Snow to get her. I can’t say I’m keen on this sort of thing. It only reinforces the impression that Night and Snow are mentally children, no matter their physical appearance. I could be misreading the foreshadowing, but there are definite hints that Night and Snow’s feelings for Takamichi go beyond the familial and platonic, or will in the future. If anything, the developments in this volume made me more uncomfortable about any future romantic prospects for Takamichi.

At this point, I have no idea what this manga is aiming to be. There wasn’t enough meaty supernatural conflict to sustain an interesting external plot. The romantic aspects, such as they were, are clumsy at best and uncomfortable at worst. The comedic bits don’t work for me, but humor is tough to pull off since it’s so individual. I’m not sure I want to continue this series but other readers might feel differently. There’s potential buried under all the randomness. C-

My regards,
Jia

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