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ChrisHepler

Class-Action Vampires

Author of "Civil Blood" (2018), contributor to numerous video games, infrequent blogger at www.christopherhepler.com. I like thrillers, urban fantasy, science fiction, and the occasional thematic point about human nature.

Blood Kissed: Okay, I'll Bite

— feeling bloody
Blood Kissed - Keri Arthur

"Blood Kissed" follows Lizzie Grace, a psychic descended from witches who runs a café in small-town Australia. There's a nasty vampire on the loose, a werewolf cop who doesn't trust witches, and Belle, Lizzie's peppy familiar (unusually, a human and Lizzie's BFF). A lawyer employs Lizzie to find her missing daughter, who, as is revealed in the first chapter, ran off with the vampire.

 

I read through this book fairly rapidly – it's not very long – and though it wasn't terrible, I wasn't thrilled, either. The author sets up a fair bit of world-building for the series in large chunks in the first few chapters. There's differences between psychics and witches, wild magic, and some particular noble witch families. But for all the talk about Lizzie's potential for witch power, said witches don't make much of an appearance. Because her familiar Belle is a witch, Lizzie can channel plenty of witch magic through her throughout the book, and she can ultimately tap into wild magic, rendering her I'm-only-a-psychic protestations of the first few chapters a distinction without a difference. (To be fair, fans of the book say there are witches coming to town in the sequel, so all the world-building may pay off there.)

The Australian setting had me excited, since I haven't seen an urban fantasy set there before, but the scenery is barely mentioned, and the characters' turns of phrase sound as if they could come straight from the modern USA. In my head, I tried adding Steve Irwin's accent to all the dialogue, which made the experience better, but one would expect at least a few colloquialisms unique to the area. I was hoping the setting would inform the magic and the feel of the place, like Mexico City in Silvia Moreno-Garcia's "Certain Dark Things," but alas, no. (Again, I am told the sequels improve upon this.)

The chapter style tired me out a little; they're long, and moments where the protagonist gets some sleep or otherwise jumps forward in time is no guarantee that a new chapter will start. As such, I found myself getting irritated that the protagonist just kept going, selling brownies at her café or working on enchantments when I wanted to finish a chapter. It made me want to skip paragraphs even when the writing was interesting.

As for the mystery (don't all urban fantasies require one?) and the villain, I didn't find it memorable. The villain's motivation sounds like a creature of great power seriously angered by a pretty banal evil. Yes, evil often is, but I was waiting for the psychic protagonist to have some visceral flashback to that time, making us feel the horror and injustice that started its path down a dark road, but I don't recall reading that scene. It made me expect a villainous monologue, but I don't remember getting one of those, either. What I did get was lots of descriptions of magic, with only a few of them evoking fear or wonder. Most of them are caught up in explaining why someone or something is an exception to the rules, because there's a lot of exceptions (protagonist, sidekick, antagonist, spell, power source, etc.).

Well, that's plenty of complaints, but all this is not to say the book is terrible. Lizzie and Belle are charming and easy to relate to. Their telepathy is a useful narrative device that provides constant insight into their characters. (Who hasn't had the thought of "Hey, nice butt," when you should be listening to the words coming out of someone's mouth, yet you'd never admit it to someone who wasn't reading your thoughts?) The action is reasonably convincing, as is the threat from the villain. The protagonists and villains aren't stupid. Sure, some side characters are, but when the main ones walk into traps, it's because they don't have a lot of better options.

I'm giving this one 2.5 stars out of 5 using the Goodreads rating system. That's where 2 stars is "It was okay," and 3 stars is a definitive "I liked it." I picked it up on Kindle at a pretty low price and was satisfied for what it was. It's competent and plenty of my urban fantasy fan friends are more positive about the book than I am, so of course your mileage may vary. I just wanted this kiss to have a little more teeth.