Blood Rights is the first book in the House of Comarré series by Kristen Painter. It was just released the beginning of October, and both the second and third books in this urban fantasy series, Flesh and Blood (#2) and Bad Blood (#3), are also available now. There will be fourth and fifth books coming out later as well – Out for Blood in August 2012 and Last Blood in February 2013.
As a comarré with blood specifically designed for vampires, Chrysabelle has spent nearly her entire 115 years of life in the service of a vampire noble. When she finds the vampire she serves murdered, she flees and goes to stay with her exiled aunt. One of the other vampires, Tatiana, is hunting Chrysabelle as the possible murderer. However, Tatiana seems more concerned about Chrysabelle’s possible possession of a ring of great importance that her master had – a ring that Tatiana had designs to take for herself.
Chrysabelle’s aunt directs her to people who can help her, and Chrysabelle finds herself with Mal, a vampire who is anathema. Incidentally, Chrysabelle and Mal met briefly recently and Chrysabelle tried to kill him, making their meeting rather turbulent. It’s even worse because Mal has voices in his head telling him to drain Chrysabelle dry. Yet an accident in which Mal unknowingly becomes the new owner of Chrysabelle’s blood rights forces them together, and the two will do what they can to stop Tatiana.
In spite of the fact that I’m not normally a big fan of vampires, I was excited about Blood Rights. It had a cover quote from Patricia Briggs and it had nice matching covers with a gorgeous red, white, and black color scheme. After hearing a lot of good buzz about it, I couldn’t wait to start reading it. Unfortunately, I found it a real struggle to finish and my feeling of “Eh, it’s ok” that I had for a bit gave way to dislike when it wasn’t any better by the end (especially after stopping to really evaluate what didn’t work for me and why). Since it was the first book in a series, I decided to give it a chance and finish it in case it got better, but I ended up wishing I had just dropped it to read something else. Take my opinion with a grain of salt since most seem to have found Blood Rights enjoyable, but I believe there are much better books out there and I would have rather spent my time on one of them instead of this one.
Kristen Painter has developed an interesting idea with the comarré, humans modified to be more pleasing to vampires. I do like how she set this up and gradually revealed more about them and their role over the course of the story. It soon becomes obvious that there is much more to them than serving vampires and they have their own agenda. I’d imagine this will be further developed in the next books, and this part of the series certainly has potential.
However, an interesting idea is not enough to carry a story and I thought this one needed a lot more in order to succeed. The plot meandered and took a while to get started, the characters were bland and one dimensional, and some of the dialogue was quite cheesy. In particular, the parts told from the perspective of the villain Tatiana were difficult to read. She’s a very arrogant, vile, power-hungry, self-centered vampire who has no depth as a character at all. She never tries to hide the way she is and has no subtlety at all, and she has scenes like this one in which a Nothos just showed her something important it found:
She smiled and nodded. “Well done.”
“Thank you, my lady.” It bowed with the litheness born of an excess of bones and double-hinged joints.
She scowled at the Nothos. “I was talking to myself. If I hadn’t sent you out, you wouldn’t have found this, would you?” [pp. 91]
Tatiana is one of those overdone villains. She can’t remember the name of anyone she thinks is beneath her even if she’s spent years around them, she loves snakes, and she rarely does anything that doesn’t give off an EVIL vibe. More of the book is focused on Chrysabelle and Mal, but a decent part of the book is spent with Tatiana.
While they are somewhat better written than Tatiana, I didn’t think Chrysabelle or Mal were great characters, either. Chrysabelle is very perfect but bland since there’s not a lot that gives her personality. She’s the common kickass heroine and there’s very little that really gives her any sort of unique features or traits. It seems as though she spends most of her time arguing with Mal, talking tough, and explaining comarré. She worries about her aunt, but other than that, there’s not a whole lot that makes her seem like a fully fleshed human. Nor does she seem capable of the finesse that seems to have been part of being comarré, but perhaps she just did away with that when she found herself running for her life (one character who had known her before this did say she had changed so that is a possibility). Likewise, she doesn’t have the maturity I’d expect from a 115 year old woman, but then she has probably been somewhat sheltered all her life so that may be part of it. Because of her lack of personality, she feels more like a conduit for learning about her kind and a foil for Mal than a real character.
Mal at least had an interesting past story that unravels throughout the novel, but he is also a somewhat repetitive character in that there are just a few traits of his that keep coming up. He’s an unusual vampire with a drinking problem and a curse. Anytime Mal drinks blood directly from someone he ends up unable to stop and killing them. Due to his curse, anyone he kills haunts him as a name written on his skin and a voice in his head. The voices particularly haunt him in Chrysabelle’s presence, constantly wanting him to drain her dry. He spends most of his time angsting over his curse and his past. Eventually he and Chrysabelle end up angsting over each other when they have to keep kissing each other for a very contrived reason that I found irritating.
The plot is pretty slow going since for a while it doesn’t seem to go anywhere and consists of Mal and Chrysabelle arguing a lot. At the end, it does move faster, but it still feels like very little happened given the number of pages. Most of the time I was bored by the story and was just reading it in hopes that it got better.
The more I think about it, the less I like Blood Rights. The secret agenda of the comarré has some promise, but I’m not convinced it will be worth reading the rest of the books to get there. There were far too many negative aspects with this one, even for the beginning of a new series. The story dragged, the characters were flat and one dimensional, and some of the dialogue was outright cheesy. I’m dropping this series. There are much better books out there to read, both inside and outside of the urban fantasy genre.
My Rating: 3/10
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher. (I also picked up a signed ARC at BEA this year, but I read the finished copy.)