In THE LIVING BLOOD, ostensibly her sequel to 1997's MY SOUL TO KEEP, Tananarive Due adroitly explores territory traveled far and wide by many other authors, the age-old classic battle between the forces of good and evil.
The central characters from MSTK, the immortal Dawit Wolde and his estranged wife, Jessica (also now an immortal) are back but TLB is a very different book from it's antecedent. Primarily, plot revolves around Fana, the precocious three year old daughter of the two immortals, a young child who is beginning to exhibit powers well beyond her mother's understanding and even further beyond her ability to control. As with her home and clinic in South Africa, where she had fled to soon after Fana's birth, Jessica decides to abandon the clinic she and her dedicated sister, Alexis, are running in Botswana to seek out guidance from the LifeBrothers, the secret Ethiopian colony of immortals, before Fana's powers mature any further. She knows the blood coursing through her veins can be a salvation but also carries a tremendous liability. Unbeknownst to her, but not unexpected, there are conflicting external forces, corporeal and otherwise who want to gain control of the blood and her daughter, for a multiplicity of reasons: some personal, some altrustic, some captialistic and some...just pure malevolence.
Due does an excellent job of encapsulating MSTK's significant plotlines within TLB. She masterfully crafts a portal to an alternate 'unreality' as seen through the comprehension of a three year old. She evokes vivid images of Southern Africa and the little acknowledged history and beauty of Ethiopia. As she has proven with earlier works, she writes with uncomplicated elegance, seemingly unafflicted with the arrogance so often displayed in the works of so many other writers.
TLB is a good book but that is not to infer it is flawless. There are a number of incongruities that cannot be effectively addressed here without detracting from the story for future readers. One that I can talk about however, might be my misconceived idea of the LifeBrothers, and their ethereal leader, Khaldun, rather than a failing on the part of the author. Due chose not to devote a great deal of the story to the LifeBrothers, their philosophy and the religious implications. In essence, the immortals were portrayed as little more than men who just lived forever, subject to the same petty jealousies, competitiveness and insecurities as mortals. Rather than superior, they appeared to be stagnant, unable to die but for the most part unwilling to evolve. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up to TLB that deals with that aspect in depth.