Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review of Bad Blood by Kristen Painter Book Three of the House of Comarré series

When we last left Chrysabelle she had been stripped over her signum and her status as Comarré for daring to bring Creek,  Kubai Mata and Malkolm the cursed vampire onto sacred Comarré  land.  She is saved by in an infusion of Malkolm's blood, but instead of being grateful to be alive, Chrysabelle feels violated and that her pure blood has been defiled. Despite having her skin cut off her back, Chrysabelle is determined to see the Aurelian again to find out the identity of her brother.  To do this, she must find a sigmatist to re-tattoo her and since the only sanctified gold she has access to is currently in the form of the ring of sorrows, this means she must retrieve it. 

Though Chrysabelle is involved in her own drama - surprise surprise, Samhain is quickly approaching and this means that the protections that kept humans from seeing the supernatural world around them will finally be completely erased.  Doc is able to switch to his true form but it comes with a cost. Fi is desperate to find a way to save the man she loves, but because Mal is off once again with Chrysabelle she must marshal other sources. Creek is charged by KM to protect the mortals from the demons and various other worldly creatures that are appearing on the streets of Paradise City.  Dominic's fake comarré are being murdered and with the world completely going completely off kilter, this might have been ignored if one of the women hadn't been the mayor's daughter, who just happened to give birth to a half vampire child.  The witches of course are plotting but this time they have trapped a Castus [read: demon] in a fish tank of all things, to do their bidding.

Chrsyabelle is so determined to secure the ring of sorrows that she blocks this all out.  She heads off to New Orleans to deal with the fae.  Though this puts Mal at risk, because no vampires are allowed in the city of endless night, he accompanies her to keep her safe.  He does all of this because he loves Chrysabelle, though he does not feel worthy of her attentions.  For her part, Chrysabelle, spends most of the book ordering Mal around and charging around New Orleans.  Chrysabelle is in a city that she is not familiar with, immersed in fae politics, but she cannot be arsed to listen to Mortalis, her fae guide.  This is typical spunky agency at its best.  Why oh why are these people letting her lead? She is so worried about Mal over reacting and going all vamp, that it does not even occur to her that she could potentially be wrong about anything. This of course silences any reasonable dissent that Mal could present.

Tatiana continues to be the major antagonist of this series.  It is her goal to become Dominus of the house of Tepes.  When she first calls the Castus to confirm her new role, he does not appear because the witches have trapped him.  Tatiana sneaks back to Paradise City with the intention of kidnapping Chrysabelle or someone she can hold hostage for the ring of sorrows.  Once again however, Tatiana fails in her mission.  I have to say that this is getting extremely tiring. Tatiana is at her best when she is scheming, but for a large part of this book, she spends time exploring her softer side, and this culminates when the Castus delivers a vampire child for her to raise to adulthood.  Suddenly, Tatiana is all about motherhood and her new daughter Lilith.  This from the woman who just spent 2.5 books determined to get her hands on the ring of sorrows.  I understand that she lost a child hundreds of years ago, but motherhood does not suddenly shift someone's personality.  The Tatiana of Bad Blood, is nothing like the Tatiana we met in Blood Rights, or got to know better in Flesh and Blood. This new Tatiana seems needy and desperate for validation, instead of a woman fighting to have access to power. 

The best parts of the book did not involve Chrysabelle at all.  I am tired of hearing about the magnificence of her skin.  No such commentary is ever made about the few characters of colour that have been included.   I am tired of hearing about how special her blood is.  WE GET IT.  At this point it has become so repetitive that it is annoying.  How much glorification of Whiteness is enough? Other than the allure of her blood, her treatment of Mal is horrendous and it makes no sense that he is love with her. I particularly detest his thoughts of suicide at the idea that Chrysabelle might have died at the hands of Nadira, the Aurelian. I further don't understand how a small trip to New Orleans is enough for Chrysabelle to move from not wanting to choose between Creek and Mal to deciding that she loved Mal.  If one is going to include a love story, it should at least be remotely believable.

The relationship between Doc and Fi is a lot more reasonable and enjoyable. They would do absolutely anything for each other and this adds a sense of reciprocity in their relationship that does not exist between Mal and Chrysabelle.  Fi is an amazing character who has gotten stronger each book.  Fi is strong, confidant and despite the violence that she has lived through, she continues to be brave.  Unlike Chrysabelle her actions are though out and she is far more likeable than Chrysabelle could ever hope to be. 

There continue to be no GLBT characters and no real disabled people in this series.  I say real because the only time disability has been an issue was when Maris faked a disability in the first book in the series, and now Chrysabelle is walking around with a cane that she does not need.  Yes, Chrysabelle is still injured but instead of paying attention to her body, she seeks to rise above to complete her quest. So this means that we have a fake disabled person playing super crip.  Isn't that just marvellously ableist.  Painter either needs to add real disabled characters, or stop having her able bodied characters play super crip. This is not inclusion; it's offensive. In Painter's vision of the future everyone is hyper able and they're straight. 

I have read a lot of urban fantasy books where the protagonist is insufferable and Chyrsabelle is quickly making that list with her selfish, short sighted behaviour. I am starting to wish that the story was built around the side characters and feel like any time focused on Chrysabelle and Mal is a distraction from the real story. If we must continue with her as a protagonist that Painter had better take care to either rehabilitate Tatiana or create a better antagonist. This does not bode well for the fourth book in the series.