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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is definitely an urban fantasy vice romance novel, 4 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Blood Memories (Paperback)
Eleisha is one of only a handful of vampires in the world. Once a servant in a lord's castle in Wales, she was turned in the 1830s at the age of seventeen by Julian, the lord's son, a man everyone fears. She's put on a boat to America with a very specific responsibility: to care for William, a vampire everyone but Eleisha is repulsed by.
In America, Eleisha finds friendship with another vampire, Edward, who teaches her how to hunt, how to feed, how to ensure mortals never discover what she really is, and how to use her gift. When turned, a vampire's singular personality trait as a human becomes a tool of manipulation with which to lure mortals. Julian's was fear. Edward's was charm. Eleisha's own gift is to appear angelic but helpless, weak and vulnerable - and make people want to help her, protect her, rescue her.
Little changed over the course of years, decades, centuries - not for the small clan of vampires: Eleisha and William, Edward, Maggie, Philip and Julian. But everything changes when Edward commits suicide, dramatically bursting into flames when he steps into the sun - right in front of the police.
Now Eleisha is on the run, and not just from the police but also from a telepathic police psychologist who has somehow linked to Eleisha. Unable to turn to the cold and brutal Julian, she runs to Maggie in Seattle ... only to have trouble follow her and change her immortal existence, forever.
First published in 1998, long years before the vampire craze took off some time in 2007 (I remember it well - I'd just finished reading Twilight and about two months later, so had everybody else and suddenly vamps were IN!), Blood Memories has more recently been re-released - "resurrected", you could say - and very timely it is too, now that there's a more appreciative audience for vampire Urban Fantasy. The present-day dates have been moved to make it more current, but I don't think it needed it. It reads fresh and modern and is solid Urban Fantasy - no dash of Romance here, not even a whiff, as they tend to have these days. (Hendee is also co-author of the Nobel Dead series, a Fantasy series featuring vampires, which I've yet to read. I've got the first book, Dhampir, just haven't got around to it. There are a few authors who were writing about vampires in new ways, long before they became mainstream. Credit where credit's due.)
Eleisha narrates, though there are flashbacks told telepathically through memories that shift to third-person. Eleisha's voice is at once strong and vulnerable. She's come a long way, matured hard, and can fend for herself, hold her own, fight and kill efficiently when necessary, albeit reluctantly. The others think she's weird for genuinely liking William, and for seeking out the companionship of other vampires - they've been taught by Julian that they should always be alone.
As vampires, they're traditional - sleep all day, sun will kill them, as will fire and decapitation - and yet not: no fangs, no super-human strength or speed or hearing, though they're better than mortals and have good night vision. They're not invincible. And they're messy eaters. They have their personalised gift and, as Eleisha learns, something extra too. Overall they struck me as surprisingly vulnerable, but more organic for it. It could be their self-induced loneliness, their superiority complexes that mask a pathetic desire for companionship. It makes them sympathetic - alien, but understandable.
I liked that Eleisha's inhumanity - her non-humanness - was there to see, as well as the residues of her humanity. She's unapologetic about what she does to survive, but is also keen to explore ways of changing their methods of feeding without killing. The male vampires are more varied - Julian is more insane, insecure and deluded than plain evil (though maybe that combination is one definition of evil, especially when acted upon?).
Structurally, it's fast-paced for the most part but free of the worst traits of genre fiction, traits ever more prevailing today - the things that make my right eyelid tick: too much introspective thought, explaining everything and over-thinking everything; and those abominable standalone dramatic sentences that too many genre authors overuse, reducing the intended tension to the incessant landing of a fly on your leg that tickles and just won't leave you alone. It's why I haven't read any Kushiel since 2006, even though I keep buying the new books (I loved the stories, but the writing style got on my nerves and I needed a break), and why Rita Herron's abysmal Dark Hunger got such a bad review from me. Dramatic standalone sentences (which get their own paragraphs) should be used sparingly, or they won't be dramatic anymore. Just irritating to the point of being obnoxious. I can't bring that up without diverting into a mini-rant. Thankfully, Hendee's narration is just right: mature, nicely balanced between light and heavy, confident, firmly grounded in her protagonist.
However, the story itself did start to lose my interest towards the end for a bit. It lost momentum with all the flashbacks, as good and necessary as they were and interesting to read too. The ending was too static to give a suitable climax after all that build-up, and left me less interested to read Eleisha's next story
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