My husband won this for me in a drawing at the Ace/Roc presentation at Renovation (World SF Convention in Reno). The front tagline: They called it the New Badlands—Until the vampire came… That was interesting, until I turned it over and read the top blurb. “A great, edgy, fresh twist on paranormal romance. Brilliant!” by Susan Sizemore, author of the Vampire Primes series. Paranormal romance? Who is Susan Sizemore, anyway? Just to check, I looked the spine. It said “ACE, Fantasy,” so I hoped it was Urban Fantasy, which is something distinctly different than Paranormal Romance, at least to me. After reading it, I’d say there was enough world-building and grit to qualify as “Urban Fantasy,” even though it’s not in an urban environment. I don’t think it qualifies as Paranormal Romance, however, because romance readers will want a definitive happily-ever-after ending.
Bloodlands does contain several new twists. It’s a dystopian futuristic novel set in the western badlands (rather than the urban environment that’s become somewhat tired). Yes, there’s a vampire (again) who’s denying his monster within (again), but he comes up against a wily intelligent dog who can communicate with humans. There’s sexual tension between the vampire, Gabriel, and his rescuer, Mariah (same ol’ plot and even older naming conventions), but he has to cooperate with the Intel dog (okay, that’s different) so he’s not outed as a vampire with these settlers who have taken him in. More and more twists follow… but we’ll stop here to avoid any spoilers. (Just a warning: this book has some graphic sex scenes.)
World-Building (A Plus)
I liked the world in this novel, at least the hints I saw. The desolated “new badlands” environment, unfortunately, seemed to hamper the author when describing what actually caused this world to decline into dystopia (for instance, what was the “apocalyptic” event?) The author only uses the few urban scenes to impart world history. It’s tantalizing, however, because she doesn’t take the old path of “destruction by warfare” and hints at economic/biological decline.
Plot Twists I Didn’t See Coming (Another Plus)
I did enjoy how the author slowly changes the tables, on the characters as well as the reader—no one is who they seem to be initially. The author does connect all the dots, however, and make the plot come together. In the denouement there’s a bit too much exposition, just so we really, really understand, I guess.
Unfortunately, all these twists makes me leery of continuing on with the next book. So much of this book was about uncovering the mystery behind the characters. Now that we know everything, with so little of this world exposed, can the author parley it into an exciting second book? If I’m enticed enough by the chemistry between Mariah and Gabriel, perhaps… But I didn’t feel the chemistry so unfortunately, I’m still sitting on the fence about continuing the series.