Bad Blood by L.A. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
LA Banks succeeded in restoring my faith in her as an urban fantasy writer with this book. I read the first two Vampire Huntress Legends books, and I was very disappointed with the execution. I didn't feel that the first outing of an African American lead vampire hunter went very well. Thankfully, I had different thoughts about the first in the Crimson Moon series.
There were times where I wasn't sure I would like the direction that Banks took with this story. But then, her writing (which is very polished and without flaw) diverted me into paths that made me fascinated and almost excited to keep reading. My fear of being let down hung in a pall over me as I read this book. I was almost determined not to like it, afraid to have myself be disappointed again. That's why this book earning a four star rating is significant.
I like a lot of books, but at the same time, I'm rather demanding on what I read. I don't like certain elements thrown into a book without rhyme or reason. I want things to make sense. I want my time spent reading to be of value. I want to feel that the writer took the time to write a story that she or he cared about. If she or he does not care about the story, why should I? It's clear that Ms. Banks really did invest herself in this series. And the results turned out very well.
Bad Blood has a strong lead in Sasha Trudeau. She is a competent soldier, who is very good at taking care of herself and solving problems. That's what I look for in an urban fantasy heroine. I liked that she's just one of the guys, but feminine at the same time. She is devoted to her team, they are her friends and family. Events in this book unfold to destroy her unit, and her grief is palpable to the reader. Her path in the world has not been easy, and she goes through even more heartbreak in this book. She earned my admiration for her strength and for her humanity. I thought Sasha's origins were quite interesting, giving this story a high tech/almost futuristic vibe in that sense.
The plot of this story centers heavily on the aspect of lycanthropy being in part a viral disease that turns humans into rampaging beasts, completely out of control, and hungry for human flesh. As the story continues, it becomes clear that this not representative of all werewolves. There are natural werewolves, who are in control of their wolves, and who are good, and hunt the demon-infected werewolves. That's where Max Hunter and Shogun come in. Max Hunter is the alpha of the Shadow Wolves, part of the Ute Native American tribe. They are werewolves who can hide in shadow and use shadows to travel. I found this to be a very fascinating element (and something new for me as a werewolf fiction fan). Shogun is the alpha of another tribe of wolves, who makes contact with Sasha on a mission in North Korea, revealing that what she knows about wolves is all wrong.
From their very first scenes together, it's clear that Max Hunter is destined to have a very strong connection with Sasha, and this is revealed in a very steamy, erotically intense way. Their scenes together make you want to reach for a large glass of something cold. There was some serious chemistry between Sasha and Max, making this story read more like a paranormal romance, in certain scenes. I think that their relationship will make this series even more worth continuing.
On the negative side, I do have to say that Sasha came off as being a little hard-shelled in her behavior towards Max Hunter. It was clear from the begining that their attraction was extremely intense and hard to resist, and going with it, went against the grain for Sasha. However, this is a woman who herself said she was used to be a sex buddy, booty call, casual friend that you take to bed, and it felt good to be someone of value, someone treasured by another person. Max cherished, respected and valued her. He saw her as an equal from the beginning. He didn't treat her merely as a possession or sex object, disposable or otherwise. But when Max got possessive with her, she threw a fit. Come on! This is an alpha wolf--that's how they are. He made it very clear that she was his mate in his mind. Max was a man who was rejected by women because of the taint of his heritage. For him to find a woman of his own was a tremendous thing. Even still, when he wanted to bond with her fully as a mate, he didn't try force her, or press her for a commitment. It hurt him deeply that she couldn't give the same for him, but he was willing to give her time. Despite that, he couldn't help feeing possessive, especially if she was treating him as her mate in all but name. She took it as a personal affront, like he was saying she would sleep with any random guy to get info. It wasn't like that at all. It was about his primal feelings towards her. Just like the attraction between them was primal, and she was more than willing to go with that. That annoyed me about her. I will freely admit, I am not fond of hardened heroines. Something just rubs me the wrong way with them. Nothing wrong with being tough and in charge, having self-control, and being no one's pushover. But when they get where they are so callous about emotions, that's a pet peeve to me. I admired her honesty with Max, but I think she needed to really get where he was coming from a little more, since he was doing the same for her.
This was really the only issue I had with Sasha. But I'm a little worried what's going to happen in the next book. A clear that there's an attraction to Shogun as well. She's more or less 'lightly committed' to Max. Is she going to get with this other guy too? If so, I will be very disappointed, especially in the light of how much ground was laid building the relationship with Max. I really dislike when the heroine is going between two men. I don't mind if there's a flirtation, but since it's very clear that Max is deeply in love with Sasha, I will not be a happy camper if Sasha 'cheats' with Shogun.
The military vibe was working for me, mostly. I love characters who are soliders, warriors, or military. I especially like when the heroine is a badass warrior. Sasha's definitely that. It looks like she'll be running her own unit, so that's going to be really cool to see where her mission takes her yet.
I hope the storyline expands past the search for the demon-infected werewolves. Ms. Banks already introduced other creatures into this book, and very well, in fact. I look forward to seeing the vampires, werewolves, faery, wizards, etc. The vamps that show up, do a good job at trying to steal the show. They are seductive, sexual, and devious, with their own agenda. They have presence. I think it will be interesting to see more of the vampires as this series progresses. I can't wait to see what Ms. Banks does with the fae.
As you can see, I got involved with this story. Even though I was a reluctant reader, afraid of being hurt again. I have to give Ms. Banks kudos for that. I was glad that she left out a lot of the urban vibe that she used in the Huntress books (it does nothing for me), and told a story I could get involved in. The action scenes were intense, and the magical elements were very vivid. I loved the parts when Sasha and Max called their wolf. Very well done. It's icing on the cake to see the main characters of African-American/Native American ethnicity. We could use some ethnic diversity in the urban fantasy.
If you're like me, and felt let down with the Vampire Huntress books, give Bad Blood a try. I think you might like it. I'm happy to say that I believe this series has a lot of potential, and I hope I continue to enjoy it.
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