* Prices may differ from that shown
Urban fantasy may be regarded as a fairly new genre but its origins can be found way back in classic literature with such tales as Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', and the adventure stories from such luminaries as Jules Verne and H G Wells which included the fantastical with the commonplace. With such antecedents, you'd think this genre would garner more respect but sadly as the popularity of urban fantasy has risen, everyone has jumped onto the bandwagon which rather than enhancing has merely diluted the quality. That can't be said for Jennifer Armintrout's wonderful Blood Ties series, the first of which is The Turning.
Dr Carrie Ames has just been taken to task for a squeamishness which isn't appropriate to her calling and her mentor has called into questioned her suitability for her chosen profession. To prove to herself that she has what it takes, Carrie visits the morgue to view the corpse which brought about this situation but she suddenly finds herself in a living nightmare when the body proves to be very much alive and in need of her blood. The consequence is that Carrie now finds herself a vampire with a blood tie to a monster who wants to turn her into a vicious killer as well as being hunted by another vampire intent on putting an end to her existence.
As the urban fantasy genre grows in popularity, it's proving more and more difficult to find the good stuff amongst the dross but there are a handful of first rate writers who not only bring a touch of originality to the genre but also add some literary merit. They may not be Booker Prize winners but they tell a well written and engrossing story. I'd previously read reviews of Jennifer Armintrout's Blood Ties series, most of which were favourable, and had put her name on my list of possible future reads, so when I came across this first book in a charity shop I snapped it up. When I read it, I was hooked!
Jennifer Armintrout's vampires are divided into two schools of thought: those who revel in their bloodthirstiness and have no qualms about draining a human body of every last drop of blood, and those who only take from willing donors and are mobilised to exterminate any vampire who breaks their self-imposed rules. The origins of vampirism have been lost in the mists of time but modern thinking, in this book at any rate, is that it's some form of disease. To my mind, this is a much more plausible theory and Carrie, being a doctor, attempts to deal with her vampirism with the pragmatism of a medic.
As a newly fledged vampire whose sire isn't around to guide her through her first tentative steps, she turns to the internet for advice and makes contact with Ziggy but when she turns up to meet him, she finds she's been set up to be killed by Nathan, a member of the Movement which eliminates rogue vampires. Despite his intention to kill her, Nathan allows Carrie the benefit of the doubt and commences to teach her how to be a 'good' vampire and Carrie finds herself not only learning about her new life but also attracted to her tutor and growing fond of Ziggy, who not only provides willing blood donations but is Nathan's surrogate son. But blood is thicker than water and before she can commit to Nathan and the Movement, Carrie needs to meet her sire whose blood tie she shares. When she meets Cyrus she discovers she's been sired by a monster who rejoices in cruelty and death and even though she's revolted by this, she's also inexplicably drawn to the man himself.
Cyrus is the son of an old vampire, so old and evil that he now only feeds on the souls of humans and with each devoured soul, his strength grows. Cyrus has buried any humanity he may have once possessed and continually seeks to gain his father's approval, usually through acts of unspeakable cruelty. Some of these unspeakable acts are described in pretty lurid detail so if you're of a sensitive disposition, you may possibly not enjoy this book.
Though I'm sure there will be those who disagree, I found this to be an intelligently thought out take on vampirism. There isn't anything romantic about it. These vampires may look as they were when they were turned but when feeding they are transformed into something less than beautiful, along the lines of those in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even the so called, good vampires, have to control their desire for blood and the bad ones are an example of how any person, human or otherwise, behaves when they give in to evil impulses. Look no further than the Mafia or the ethnic cleansing policies of Milosovic for modern day examples of this.
The characters in this novel are not carved in a heroic mould at all and vampire though they may all be, none of them are so good or bad as to be unbelievable. Cyrus, too, is undoubtedly evil but Jennifer Armintrout has provided enough background to his former life to, if not mitigate his crimes, as least go some way towards an explanation. Carrie is a modern, independent woman without being ultra 'kick ass' and Nathan's back story may be tragic as in the best vampire tradition but it explains his motivation for wishing to eliminate Cyrus and his kind. Ziggy, too, has a storyline which is believable and poignant and it's easy to see how he gets himself into the situation which moves the story to its final climax.
The plot is well thought out, moves at a great pace and had me turning the pages for most of the night. I simply couldn't put it down. The series is a relatively short one of four novels and I'm already half way through book two which more than demonstrates that Jennifer Armintrout is as good as her fans claim. The second book in the series is every bit as enthralling as the first but she's taken the story in a totally unexpected direction. There's nothing predictable about either this writer or the series.
This was a five star read for me and I'd put Jennifer Armintrout up there with other top urban fantasy writers such as Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher et al.
I only paid pennies for The Turning and used copies can be bought online for as little as 1p or in Kindle format for just over £4.
The Blood Ties series of four books is:
1. The Turning
3. Ashes to Ashes
4. All Souls' Night