Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Blood Bond (Anna Strong Chronicles #9) by Jeanne C. Stein

Having finally realised that Frey is the one for her, Anna and Frey begin to dream of a life together.  For the first time, Anna is not only deliriously in love but happy.  Unfortunately, this doesn't last for long and Anna is informed her mother is dying.  Now she must make the decision whether or not to reveal her true nature in order to save her mother or watch helplessly as she dies.  

In order to make her mother happy, Anna and Frey decide to move up their wedding day.  It promises to be the happiest day in Anna's life.  Once again however vampire politics intrude and Anna finds herself meeting Vlad the Impaler and dealing with the European Council who not only do not recognize her position but have a completely different plan for how to deal with the humans.

Blood Bond is very different from every single novel in this series.  Rather than dealing with vampire politics, it is largely focused on Anna's human life.  Being immortal sounds great, especially when you factor in the things one will be witness to until the reality of the fact that at some point everyone you love is going to die and leave you behind sinks in.  Anna has love and happiness but the reality is that even though she and Frey promise each other forever, it can only really be temporary.  It gives the book a tinge of sadness, even as it allows Anna to experience the most growth she ever has.

Blood Bond is the last in the Anna Strong Chronicles and it is all very fitting.  For the first time, we see Anna really begin to accept what has happened to her and what it really means. I found myself embracing this series in a way that I never have.  The Anna Strong Chronicles essentially falls into the ass kicking protagonist trope were strength and spunky agency are meant to suffice for the purposes of character development and personality.  If one is a fan of copious fight scenes, I suppose this is a plus; however, it's not something that never really worked for me.

The Anna Strong Chronicles had many problems from the beginning chief among them Anna's relationship with women.  Anna is not able to get along with women who are not related to her.  I thought that we were going to get a reprieve when Tracey entered the story but all they ever did was talk about the men in their lives. This series does not even come close to passing the bechdel test. A book is not simply pro woman because it has a female protagonist who defies gender stereotypes and is written by a woman.  The female characters need to be developed, engaged and not constantly snarking at each other.

The Anna Strong Chronicles also managed to go nine books without a single gay character.  With the exception of Michael, Anna's supposedly gay best friend, who never actually makes an appearance in the story, there is zero inclusion. Are we to believe that there are no gay people in San Diego?  There is no excuse for this exclusion.  There was similarly a problem with people of colour.  For the large part they play the role of criminals are simply evil women that Anna cannot get along with like Gloria Estrella. It's absolutely tiresome.  The one exception is Culebra who functions like a faithful servant throughout the entirety of the series.  We do get one novel which is set on a Navajo reservation. The problem is that throughout the novel, people of colour are treated as exotic.  There is also the character of Chael who at the beginning is treated as power hungry Middle Eastern man. Yes, that's a sick trope.  In the end Chael does change but what he becomes is a servant to Anna, which really isn't that much better.

I would have liked to see the world of the Anna Strong Chronicles grow along with Anna in this book.  I would have liked to see a better relationship with women, and marginalized characters who were fully developed people.  For what this series is, overall it was good but in 2013 don't we deserve more than this?  Don't we deserve really inclusion?