Monday, November 2, 2009

Blood Vice by Keith Melton

TITLE: Blood Vice
AUTHOR: Keith Melton
PUBLISHER: Samhain
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 93k)
GENRE: Urban fantasy
COST: $5.50

Boston’s criminal underworld is at war, and vampire Karl Vance has chosen a side. As a hired hit man for the Ricardis, he satisfies his bloodlust by preying only on those who deserve it, but when Maria Ricardi decides to make her own play for power within the family, things take a deadly turn. The rival Lucattis have their own vampire to defend them, Alejandro Delgado, who’s in town primarily to settle the centuries-old vendetta between him and Karl. He recognizes Maria as Karl’s weakness, but his strike against her changes the war irrevocably…for everyone.

NOTE: This is a review originally written for The Electric Elephant.

A vampire as a hit man for the Mafia? How on earth was I supposed to resist a set-up like that? The possibilities of how it could play out were delicious, and with the excerpt detailing him doing a hit, then going off to church to pray for their souls, convinced me to give it a go. I don’t regret the purchase for a second.

Karl Vance is a master vampire, centuries old, living in Boston and subsisting both physically and financially on hits for the Mafia family, the Ricardis. He lives with a woman/creature named Xiesha, who he saved from the Order of the Thorn years earlier (a group of religious warriors who kill evil supernatural creatures, Karl has an amnesty agreement with them). In payment for saving her life, Xiesha serves as Karl’s servant, protecting his home with magical wards, fighting for him, conducting business during the day when he can’t, etc. They have an easy equilibrium with their existence until Karl gets an email (Nosferatu of the digital age) asking for a meeting with Ricardi. It’s not just with the father, but also Maria, his daughter. Maria wants to do more than play accountant for the family. She wants to demonstrate she can do great things for getting the family more power, in hopes that she can show she can take over for her father when the time comes. Her plan is to hit the Lucatti’s cash flow, using Karl to take out targets that earn the rival family a steady income. Karl only agrees after he learns that the Lucattis have Alejandro Delgado for them. Though the Ricardis aren’t aware of it, Delgado is a vampire, who had the same creator/Master Karl did. The two have been enemies ever since Karl killed their Master, and now it looks like they’re going to finish their little war amidst the Boston Mafia families.

This propels the story into its action-packed, labyrinthine plot, gradually picking up speed as new events twist it into a different direction. Karl is an interesting take on the usual vampires in urban fantasies. He recognizes his nature and tries to satisfy it with criminal rather than innocent kills, yet afterward, he prays for their souls, even though religious artifacts of any sort cause him pain and weaken him. Not for his own soul, because by his own admission, there’s no hope for him. As for Maria, she isn’t the usual shrinking violet that generally typifies heroines in urban fantasies where the protagonist is male. She’s very much her daughter’s father, eager to get ahead in the family, uncaring of what it takes. She’s desperate to see and experience what it feels like for someone to die, too, and makes no apology for it when Karl calls her on it. They make great characters to get embroiled with as the story charges into its full momentum.

That changes some when a plot twist nearly halfway through catapults Maria into an entirely new direction (I won’t elaborate, I try to avoid spoilers in reviews if I can help it). The new path her thoughts take, the broody angst about what she’s doing, sits ill for more than a few chapters, while Karl starts to seem more morose as well. Their characters become less the ones I fell for in the beginning and more like angsty archetypes I try to avoid. It takes a while for them to even out, and for my interest and dedication to the characters to reaffirm itself. That, too, is the primary reason this drifts from an outstanding to a very good read in the end.

The prose itself utilizes wonderful incisive imagery, like From this close, Karl could smell the blood in the young woman’s veins. Warm. Rushing through her body as her heart thundered away, life in liquid, a heart-blood sacrament., and Dribbles of red stained the white of his open shirtfront like a scattering of roses on snow. The author combines his precise verbiage with never-ending action, and I finished the story, wishing there was more than this one book. Since this is labeled the first of a series, I can only hope that there will be more to come. While it does have a slight romance within it between Karl and Maria, it’s absolutely not a romance overall. There are miles and miles for this series to go, and I for one would love to see the road Mr. Melton chooses for them.

Readability

10/10 – Incisive imagery, relentless action…absolutely fantastic

Characterization

9/10 – Only a few of the minor characters slip in richness

Plot

8/10 – I have to admit, I didn’t care for the twist halfway through, though it did spiral the story into a new direction

Entertainment value

8/10 – Some of the broody angst on the part of the leads starts to wear thin by 2/3’s of the way through, but otherwise, great

World building

9/10 – I absolutely love the premise, the atmosphere was rich, and with the exception of wanting more about Karl’s past, found everything I could want

TOTAL:

44/50

3 comments:

Mandi said...

Great review..I really enjoyed this one myself. Karl Vance is a great character. Looking forward to see where they go next!

Keith said...

Thank you for the review. I'm very glad you liked Blood Vice.

I'm currently working on the sequel and it's going well so far.

Thanks again! ^_^

Book Utopia Mom said...

That's great to hear, Keith! I love your voice, and Karl's a fantastic character.