Title: BLOOD RIGHTS
Author: Kristen Painter
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: House of Comarré
First, I have to say thank you to Stella for noticing my grabby hands and drooling over the pretty, pretty cover of this book at Authors After Dark! There is no book description on the back of the ARC I received, just blurbs from a few NY Times bestselling authors. So, as I did with Sharon Shinn’s ARCHANGEL, I will make up my own back cover copy!
Comarré are status symbols in the secret underworld of vampires in the form of a trained, geisha-like companion who provides some of the richest blood available—to those who can afford their price, that is. Our heroine, Chrysabelle, is such a comarré. One of the best her house has ever seen.
And she’s been accused of the murder of her patron.
On the run from the vampires who hunt her, she makes some unlikely friends in the form of a ghost, a were-housecat, and an exiled vampire. A very sexy—and very cursed—exiled vampire. Will Chrysabelle survive being hunted? Will she be able to save her friends from the creatures chasing her? Will she bone Mal raw?
…aaaaand I’m going to stop there.
I’ll be honest. I had a love-hate relationship with this book in the beginning. There was a bit of eye rolling to start out, but that soon turned into a fangirly crush that guarantees I’ll be one of the first in line to pick up the sequel FLESH AND BLOOD in November. The characters have such incredible personalities they practically leap off the page. Let me give you an example (this is the inside cover snippet):
She was not for him.
He knew that, and not just because of the voices, but getting his body to agree was a different matter. Her scent was so rich it numbed him like good whiskey. Made him feel needy. Reckless. Finding some shred of control, he shadowed her out of the club, away from the mob awaiting entrance, and herded her deep into the alley. He scanned in both directions. Nothing. They hadn’t been followed. He could get her somewhere safe. Not that he knew where that might be.
“No one saw us leave.”
She backed away, hugging herself beneath her coat. Her chest rose and fell as though she’d run a marathon. Fear soured her sweet perfume. She had to be in some kind of trouble. Why else would she be here without an escort? Without her patron?
“Trust me, we’re completely alone.” He reached awkwardly to put his arm around her, the first attempt at comfort he’d made in years.
Quicker than a human eye could track, her arm snapped from under the coat, something dark clutched in her hand. The side of her fist slammed into his chest. Whatever she held pierced him, missing his heart by inches. The voices shrieked, deafening him. Corrosive pain erupted where she made contact.
He froze, immobilized by the hellfire scorching his insides. He fell to his knees and collapsed against the damp pavement. Foul water soaked his clothing as he lay there, her fading footfalls drowned out by the howling in his head.
As you can see, the writing is excellent. Passionate, gripping, and exciting. So, yes, I had a lot of fun with this book, but it had some flaws which I feel would make me remiss if I failed to mention them. There are some logic fails and a couple of TSTL moments, as well as a lack of explanation as to why some things occurred.
One of the major points which is never made fully clear is exactly how Mal was granted Chrysabelle’s blood rights. If I understand the mythos correctly, vampires come to the comarré house and place a monetary “bid” for the companionship of a comarré (female) or comar (male). This gives the vampire the rights to do whatever they like—I think just short of killing their companion—for the next 100 years. The comarré then has the option to either fight to the death for their freedom and to regain their blood rights, or to remain by the vampire’s side. It’s unclear if the bond between patron and comarré is mystical other than that the vampire’s saliva injected during their bite grants the comarré some special perks, e.g., slows aging/extends their lifespan/grants them extra speed, stamina, agility, whatever.
Chrysabelle is knocked unconscious at one point and Mal directs another vampire who is acting as a doctor to use her blood in a transfusion for someone else. Did he suddenly get some mystical claim to her blood rights that way? If so, it’s never exactly explained why or how it ties in to the established mythos. It was very odd to see her fighting with him over whether or not he had her blood rights—him saying no, her saying yes. I thought she wanted her freedom?
Also, “Special snowflake-ism” runs rampant. (Heroine: Pale skin, long/pale hair, golden tattoos, violet eyes, vampire-crack blood, excellent fighter. Hero: Vampire, super hot, magnetic attraction to heroine, emotionally tortured, silver eyes when hungry/horny/excited, excellent fighter. Side character #1: Ghost, died at vampire hero’s hand, can occasionally take a corporeal form and feed said vamp her blood [?!]. Side character #2: Were-housecat, who occasionally functions as comic relief, and is hot/built/powerful in his human form. Need I go on?)
Here’s the thing—despite its flaws, it is still a very enjoyable book. Part of the reason I was able to forgive all of the above and soldier on is that the story and the way it was written reminds me of the glory days of roleplaying Vampire: the Masquerade / World of Darkness online back in the 90’s/early 00’s. It hit a very personal note for me on that level, and that played a huge part in why I devoured this book very nearly in a single sitting.
Also, some of the world building is very intriguing, and I’m quite curious to find out more about the comarré and their long term plans. This series does have a lot of potential, and I am hopeful that Painter will take the time to explain in future books some of the things which were not made clear or seemed to jump the shark. It may seem early to say anything is jumping the shark considering this is only the first book, but the contradictions of the mythos and character derailment that pepper the story may (note: not will but may) give you a bit of reading whiplash. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone so I’m not going to go into much detail here. It’s entirely possible you won’t notice what I did when you’re reading, so take what I say here with a grain of salt.
My opinion is that people who are able to turn off their logic-meters and just enjoy the story for the sake of the action and intrigue will get a kick out of it. You might hit a few speed bumps along the way, but it’s like watching a movie along the lines of Last Action Hero, Waterworld, Air Force One, etc. Don’t question too closely, don’t nitpick the details, just sit back and enjoy the ride. Regardless of whatever else I’ve said, it’s a fun story, and–if nothing else–the characters make it a worthwhile read.
If you can’t bring yourself to turn your logic-meter off, you will likely take issue with it. If you’re like me, and you went through a teenage phase where you played vampires and hunters on AOL, I think you’ll be just as sucked into this story as I was.
1. Blood Rights (Coming October 1, 2011)
2. Flesh and Blood (Coming November, 2011)
3. Bad Blood (Coming December, 2011)