My biggest complaint with this book is that there is simply too much going on. I am not a fan of comic books and too much of this book focuses on breaking down comics to microscopic levels for clues. Barant, who is obviously a fan of comics, did some name dropping of famous comic artists, weighed DC and Marvel against each other, and went into the story lines and origin stories of many superheros. I suppose on some level this is meant to remind us of the similarity between Jace's originating world and the world she inhabits today, and the fact that they are connected but for me, it plain and simple just dragged on and on.
In Dying Bites, Jace had several men seemingly vying for her attention. I liked that it never really became a paranormal romance type thing but in Death Blows, all of that disappears altogether. There is one awkward date with Cassius at a save the human event. I suppose this was meant to build the will they or won't they vibe but the fact that Cassius has "a thing" for humans is just super creepy - particularly after meeting his ex girlfriend.
In terms of character growth, we learned all about Dr.Pete's background and some of Cassius's past as a superhero. It became clear that Jace had developed a really good working relationship with Charlie, though I would like to see them on a more social level at some point. Jace also really cares deeply for Rachel but despite all of the concern, I have yet to see the work that went into building that relationship. If Death Blows had spent more time working on the relationships and less on the comic books and weird magical world building, it would have been a far more interesting book.
Death Blows did finally introduce a character of colour but unfortunately, she didn't have a large role to play in the story. Catherine Shaka Zulu is the offspring of Catherine the Great and Shaka Zulu. Naturally, she is in exile from her people but is actually described at one point as (get ready for this) "the noble savage." The second time this term is used is in reference to the efforts of Vampires and Werewolves attempting to preserve human culture after nearly eradicating it. Yep, more appropriation. Barant really needs to just stop with this shit.
When it comes to ableism, Death Blows hits it problematic stride. Naturally, all of the people who neurologically atypical in the book are violent murders. Brother Stone, who is suffering from PTSD after a violent battle decides to do a comic retconn which naturally involves killing his old co workers and attempting to launch an infant into space. Then there is Sheldon Vincent, who is conflicted because he is the product of Mary Shelly and Vincent Van Gogh. He just wants to be artistic pout and double pout. This strain for artistic expression naturally leads him to murder and mayhem. He wants to be the most creative writer of all time. Naturally, it's Shelly the author of Frankenstein who is responsible for his dark impulses. It's always mommy's fault.
I couldn't wait to get to the end of this book. There were too many people, concepts and magical phenomena going on for me to keep straight in my head. Some characters even had multiple names, causing me had to re-read parts of the story. If you're a fan of comics, you might find this book a little bit more tolerable than I did but I basically believe I deserve a cookie for getting to the end of Death Blows. Even the fight scenes were a struggle. If a battle is going on with high stakes, it would make sense for the writing to move quickly right? Well, everything felt like it was in slowmotion. I suppose it matched the long drawn out nature of this book. The best I can say about Death Blows is that it didn't defeat me and I made it all the way to the end.