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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires, #13) - Book Review

4/5 Stars

Now that the threat to the vampires of Morganville has been defeated,

the gravest danger to the human residents is the enemy within...

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Edition: Paperback
Pages: 538
Chapters: 18 (Plus an introduction and prologue.)
Publisher: Allison & Busby

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

Ahhh! I'm so goddamn conflicted!

Bitter Blood could easily lose half a star if I focus too closely on my dislikes, so, let's just not do that. Much. There are so many highlights, too, it's one of those times that when the book gets something right, it knocks it out the bloody park, and when it misses, it angers. There's also been another page increase, and I cannot see the need for the ever-growing length. The last quarter is far superior to all the setup that comes before.

But the series is making its way to a definitive finale, and my attention is rapt to see what Caine comes up with.

SPOILER WARNING

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

With the dreaded draug defeated, the vampire population of Morganville releases a collective breath of relief.
Now, nothing stands in their way; nothing they fear, anyway.
As the undead begin to reshape the town into a darker image, the human population face the heaviest consequences.
As tensions escalate, and a TV crew from outside of town comes a-knocking, Claire has to quell the rising war, before it starts and destroys everyone.
Unbeknownst to her, however, an old friend of massive influence hides in the shadows, ready to strike...

Plot - 4/5 Stars

Caine brings us back to a more human vs vampire mentality, and the tension she weaves is great. We've been here before, but with all that's transpired over the course of the series, there's more weight to the threat. The age-old fight is also more complex. Back in Glass Houses, when Claire becomes a Morganville newbie, the human population, despite some dissenting, doesn't really clash with the vampires. In a word, they're whipped.

Since Claire, with a little help from her friends, has totally knocked the world order off its axis and given the living residents of the town some spirit to fight back, everything is a lot more even (vampires might be stronger and faster, but humans are plentiful and intelligent). There's the palpable feeling that this could truly be the end for Morganville, a very real chance that everything could implode.

And as the reader and main characters catch on to a sinister plot, the mystery and its consequences are also stark.

But, the length derails a lot of the magic. Bitter Blood is just too long. While the building for the most part coalesces into something I'm excited to follow, there are so many scenes that just don't do anything but bulk something that doesn't need bulked.

I love Naomi's return and subsequent attempt to take over. Despite her powerful gift of influence, and the fact that she achieves so much with it, one of the most satisfying parts of the novel is the vampires, such as Amelie, coming to their senses and being royally pissed. So, so much undiluted fun!

Caine also grows the series' lore just that tad bit more. Focusing on the more paranormal aspects, she brings in a reality TV ghost show which opens up a whole avalanche of consequences. Namely, hundreds of ghosts. And not the kind that the Glass House has saved, oh, no, real, incorporeal ghosts. It's an interesting expansion, even if it doesn't always adhere to many rules, at least none the reader is privy to.

The last quarter is the book's most rewarding segment, with some truly fist-pumping moments to sheer chills. The scene where Eve is attacked by a mob (thanks to her controversial marriage to Michael; vampire/human relationships are a pretty big no-no) is perhaps the standout. I get terrified goosebumps just remembering it in my head. 

Then twists are spun, consequences come into action, and it's a battle of wits at the end to see who takes control of Morganville. Hint: It's, of course, icy Amelie, who shows an astounding amount of heart now she's in control of her senses. And, as the battle is won, Claire and Shane get permission to leave, forever!

The next entries are going to be interesting indeed.

Pace - 3.5/5 Stars

It's the length that does the most damage for me. 540 (roughly, for my edition anyway) pages is a lot for a plot similar to entries in the series that barely cross the 300 mark. There's also a drop in immediacy, and the time frame for the book is a little hard to identify. There are still some stellar moments, as you can read above, but the last two books look to be around a similar size, and I hope they're full of happenings.

Characters - 4/5 Stars

So for the majority of Bitter Blood the characters are great, their usual lovable selves. Claire is still my favourite with her bravery, empathy and intelligence; Shane is still a kickass slacker; Eve is the bundle of joy and light; and Michael, despite being a vampire, remains the voice of authority and caution.

They're that way for maybe 3/4 of the novel, and then it all changes! Caine sets about the destruction. It's both good and bad in ways, but a large part of it miffs me to no end. So, Michael is influenced (magically, by Naomi) to end his relationship with Eve and kiss and grope an unwilling Claire to demolish her relationship with Shane.

And I get the overall goal: The four mains coming apart highlights and underlines the severity of the novel's plot. And I guess it still does that, but, what?

The way Shane buys Michael's lies about Claire cheating is beyond what I can believe, no matter his insecurities. Then, the way he treats her... No! Eve also believes her vampire lover and isolates Claire. It's just so damn frustrating and out of order, especially when Claire doesn't warrant it. And they should know that. After everything she's done for them (I am of the opinion everyone would be dead without Claire) they still turn their backs on her for a ridiculous reason.

Aaaaand breath. Phew.

It really brings Eve and Shane down on my love list. It really does. I like what the author is going for, I just don't buy into the execution.

The plethora of other characters (Amelie, Oliver, Myrnin etc.) are all fine and used to brilliant effect in this entry, so as a whole, the entirety of the cast remains as fantastic as ever.

Writing - 4.5/5 Stars

I'm gonna give another positive opinion on the differing viewpoints introduced not too long ago. Caine just injects them with so much individuality and character that they work wonders. Myrnin's go this time is testament to that, giving us a long-awaited look into his chaotically brilliant brain. Plus the flow and smooth sentences are as great as ever.

Overall - 4/5 Stars

We're nearing the end people! We are nearing the end...


Previous Instalment: Black Dawn
Next Instalment: Fall of Night


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