Monday, December 16, 2013

Blood Wager (Blood Destiny #1) by Connie Suttle

Lissa was an ordinary, late middle aged woman reeling from the grief of losing her husband and trying to find some solace in the bottom of a glass.

Which is when the vampires notice her – not for any good reasons, but for a cruel bet on whether someone they regarded so pathetic would turn into a vampire and how soon, to be disposed of as soon as they had their answers

But the newly vampiric Lissa escapes. She builds a new life for herself, far away from her erstwhile creator, getting  a new job and becoming embroiled in a werewolf pack

She hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Vampire Council, however; she is technically a rogue, a vampire created without their knowledge and one who has not been properly educated. Rogues are usually killed and Gavin, an assassin, is dispatched to do just that

This book starts pretty poorly, I have to say. It’s slow, it’s clunky and the whole set up of the story requires some vast leaps of coincidence that stretches any attempt to maintain a willing suspension of disbelief.

Lissa becomes a vampire in dubious circumstances – but I was fine with that. I was less fine with how extremely quickly she became a vampire, how extremely quickly she learned the ins and outs of being a vampire. I felt that whole section was somewhat fast forwarded through when it should have been a compelling part of Lissa’s story. I think we get some good scenes of her frustration about being a vampire without an instruction manual – but she does so extremely well without it! We also had some good scenes of her grief and regret of leaving her old life – but they’re brief scenes, especially considering her grief over her recently deceased husband, the family and friends she left behind, her job et al. She has some nice grief scenes but they feel limited.

So… we’re stretching. Then she decides to become a bodyguard – she has zero experience in this field, no idea of the technology or laws or regulations involved and is completely incapable of working anything but the night shift – but she applies anyway and gets the job because she can use her vampire wiles to beat up another bodyguard. She’s hired as a full time body guard because she can fight, that’s it (at least they do eventually hand wave the lack of background check, etc).

And, chance of chances, she ends up being a bodyguard to werewolves. Pure random chance after answering an ad in the paper. There follows a series of events that just occasionally throw me – like her forgiving William for something he did and I didn’t see why she would – it just seems to be silent treatment then reconciliation (though it does take time, I have to concede that, she doesn’t instaforgive). Or why she’s farmed out to another pack as bodyguard – are vampires that much more dangerous than werewolves? If so, how does it follow that vampires and werewolves have nearly driven each other to extinction in their war?

Also, are we supposed to regard the sale of the super powerful facial recognition software to the NSA as a good thing?

Ok, all those complaints duly noted, there were good points squeezed between them. Lissa’s competence and intelligence grow through the book as she expands into her new role. I like how Gavin grows to respect and admire Lissa, to be impressed by Lissa and, eventually, be outraged on her behalf on how she has been treated. In just a few short emails to his superior we can see a developing respect and infatuation from Gavin that doesn’t happen on first sight nor is it even based on her looks – but grows slowly as he admires her growth, strength and capability. It’s an excellent part of the books

But did we have to have the supernatural sexy smell?

The world and story itself, while not entirely original, are intriguing. Lissa now straddles the boundary between two supernatural species, is rare and highly valued with an ongoing exploration of where she fits in this world and learning to adapt. It’s not perfect, but it’s good – and has some pretty nifty action scenes squeezed in there as well.

I was originally interested to see that Lissa was a late-middle aged woman, overweight and not considered conventionally attractive by any stretch – until becoming a vampire transformed her into a young, slim, beautiful ideal.

Other annoyances – Lissa can cook (which is fine), and does so for all the menfolk she’s surrounded with (and there’s a lot of men). They make requests (and they are requests, not orders and they certainly appreciate her cooking) and she rustles up meals – and then cleans up afterwards. She even cleans the houses they’re staying in. She’s a bodyguard, not domestic servant for the predominantly male cast.

Though it is amusing to see her threaten to withhold cookies from alpha werewolves.

There aren’t a lot of other women either – part of that by design. For mystical woo-woo reasons without any real explanation, female vampires and werewolves are super-duper rare. Because. The women we see aren’t much of an improvement – there’s a young woman with a credit card who loves to spend spend spend (pretty much the entirety of her character), a series of women Lissa merrily slut shames for sleeping with his boss (she assumes they’re prostitutes even though he doesn’t seem to be paying for it) and a couple of distant female figures who barely make a ripple on the story.

Also what is this line: “Charles was all male too, no doubt about that, even though he did enjoy shopping with me”? What does “all male” mean? And how does it relate to shopping?

There are no GBLT characters in this book, despite its huge cast. We do have POC – but they’re vanishingly minor: one of the Vampire Council, a random vampire guard, a person in lissa’s past who is referred to but never actually appears. They’re after-thought window dressing, not chracters.

So my final thoughts? It’s a poor book. It’s a poor book largely because the set up is dubious, the writing is clumsy and it relies far too much on huge leaps of logic and coincidence that leave me behind. However, it has been set up, unless more leaps of logic follow, it should now be established and the writing somewhat improved towards the end of the book. We still have some major problems with every marginalised person, a lot of erasure and tokenism and it didn’t end up with shining writing –so there are still issues. But even accepting that, this book ended better than it started and I’m hopeful for the next book even if this one wasn’t great