Blood Hunter by JS Marich (The Eden Blackwell Series: Book 1)

The age-old tale of Vampires and Werewolves has been around for a long time and I have no doubt that we all have our own icons, favourite novels or favourite films that mean something different to us all. Mine would definitely be the great Christopher Lee as Dracula (and Tom Cruise as Lestat – my own guilty pleasure) and probably Michael Sheen as the werewolf Lucian in Underworld. Certain portrayals of these monsters are utterly brilliant and terrifying – in film and in print, but unfortunately there are some that are stale, overdone and show no character innovation whatsoever. These stories of love, lust and danger have been so successful over the years because they still have an intoxicatingly enticing hold in our ever-changing society. Vampires especially are the guilty pleasure of most because of their monstrous offerings of desire in one hand and death in the other. They are our sexual need personified and difficult to resist as creatures of the night – but unfortunately over the years something has been lost in translation as vampires and werewolves are transferred to modern fiction.

I’ve spent most of my adult life fascinated with monsters and have always wanted to find a story that is different and satisfying - and isn’t a teen angst/Mormon religion metaphor like the Twilight series or a C.G.I. laden snore-fest like Stephen Sommer’s film ‘Van Helsing’. Bad acting, an indescribable accent and the unnecessary shouting of lines doesn’t give you a successful portrayal of Dracula as Sommer’s film would have you think.

However, some little gems can be found every now and then. It all depends on where you look for them...

J.S. Marich’s Eden Blackwell series debut – ‘Blood Hunter’ is another supernatural foray into the world of vampires, werewolves and worse yet... politicians.

In 2049, preternatural species roam the earth with the inevitable blood lust, public fear and American Civil Rights. Since revealing themselves to humans; Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies have integrated themselves into society and are working to pay the rent like the rest of us. Eden is a young vampire warrior, assigned to keep order by the Pope himself in return for guaranteed survival if the Catholics get their wish of preternatural extermination. Beautiful, deadly and armed with her signature twin daggers, Eden enforces the underground laws of her kind by keeping humans safe and making sure further exposure doesn’t hurt the Civil Rights campaign. When the police find a horrific murder scene, they call on Eden for her expertise in monster hunting and connections with the underground. Will she be able to keep her feelings for her human partner at bay? Will she be able to solve the murder and catch the sadistic killer? Can she resist the temptation to fall back into the demonic clutches of her sire? And will she actually be paid this time?

Marich offers a good quality start to a series that has great potential in an already over-populated genre. Few paranormal thrillers have something special to offer to readers that make them different and intriguing to carry on with, yet I am curious as to where Marich can take Blackwell’s character in future storylines.

Eden’s America is more or less what we live in now, except for the inevitable racial segregation and religious cited hatred of preternatural creatures. By the time we join our heroine in 2049, she is already the religious instrument to control her fellow vampires, werewolves and zombies from chowing down on the general public. She is never really without work, which is probably unfortunate for the human race.

Eden’s character is (on the surface) a typical heroine for this territory – irresistibly beautiful, desirable, sarcastic, dark and deadly. She also has an underlying story that intrigued me – as she has different reasons for becoming a vampire. Traditionally, when you read paranormal fiction the vampires and werewolves are very powerful and I never quite got a sense of danger or vulnerability during a fight scene. Of course, you would know how the protagonist would die but an untimely death never seems to come close. In one scene Eden is wary of fighting a werewolf foe with open wounds on her arms – because if they were to mix each-others blood they would become a hybrid creature that eventually would drive itself mad due to warring contagions. I did like this aspect, because it presented a warped and interesting concept that made sense in this universe – and was full of different possibilities. Marich would certainly have to describe what would happen if a hybrid creature was introduced in a future novel.
Eden is also revealed to have wanted to change into a vampire due to her fear of death. Most usually have it done to them against their will or change to be with their immortal lover – but Eden does so to take care of her pesky mortality after the death of those close to her. This feeling provided a connection for me, as I’m sure it would for the rest of us mortals.

Unfortunately this was as far as I could get to understanding Eden and her motives. Her thoughts were quite contradictory, if not a little confusing especially when it came to her own condition. She seems to hate herself in one moment, putting down her abilities just as extra sensory perceptions and quoting that she is just like a human more or less. The next moment she is saying things like ‘Silly humans, I can still hear you. I’m a vampire’ when eavesdropping on the police in another room. I’m not sure whether it is Eden who is contradictory because she hates what she is, or whether it is Marich struggling to define what her monsters can and can’t do. I’m sure that Eden wouldn’t describe vampires as being ‘like humans, mostly’ if she saw herself leaping from building to building or burning to ash in the daylight. Mind you, a reader would be able to interpret Marich’s prose in another more satirical context which is probably the way it is intended to be. Interpretation can be everything when you’re trying to get a sense of environment and personality over to a reader – so if she continues to mark her territory in this way it should become more apparent as the series moves on.

Either way, there are instances later on in the novel that confused me e.g. her hot and cold relationship with her sire. I wanted to know more about what was going on there and to be honest I thought that might have made a much more interesting plot in a back story. There is also no inkling whatsoever that she could be attracted to her partner when we are introduced to him and she has obviously known him for a while if they are working together. Her feelings toward the werewolves are also a bit hazy as the descriptions of Scout are derogatory in the beginning as she hunts him and tortures him for information. Then she seeks him out afterwards to apologise for any rough treatment. I wasn’t sure how to connect to Eden properly because as soon as I thought I could – her whole outlook and game-plan changed.

The story itself was very fast paced and Marich remains one of about five authors I have read so far that can describe violence and gore quite accurately. It was written so scarily well that I felt a bit queasy imagining something like that on a coroners slab in front of me – and as a horror student, I have pretty much seen it all.
That said I felt as though the story was wrapped up too fast and regrettably didn’t satisfy my curiosity as Marich tried to tie up the ending and prepare for another story. I was reading and enjoying something that was working very well as a paranormal romance/crime thriller and then it seemed to trail off and not address any of the issues that it brought up. I can appreciate that there are supposed to be more but novels like this one should offer a contained story with the promise of more and not just a first chapter that will become part one very long story. It’s like waiting for every Friday night at 10pm when they play Dexter season 5. It’s always a great episode, but you’re left empty and wanting more of the story to give it a sense of completion.

I suspect that a few people like me will compare the similar premise of vampires showing themselves to humans and gaining civil rights as citizens to the Southern Vampire Mysteries (True Blood) novels by Charlaine Harris. Although the two universes are similar only in that respect, I can use Harris’s novel to comment on Blood Hunter’s content. One whole season is created using the subject matter of one True Blood novel. If the Eden Blackwell series was to be made into a television show, one book (in my opinion) may only have enough content for one or two episodes unless it could be fleshed out a bit. This novel could be quite well be a successful film adaptation if helmed correctly – with every scene meticulously planned out with each passing chapter. Marich obviously has the capacity for the great psychological depth a murder mystery would require and a darkly, seductive tone that a reader can relish in. Her style, language and paragraph construction is fantastic and carries a reader through the story quite effortlessly – along with some great humour and little appreciated titbits along the way.

Even with all of the faults, they only contribute to my wanting more of Eden Blackwell – not less. I can only see things missing that could be added, not things that are wrong with Marich’s story. I really hope that we see more of Eden Blackwell and that Marich has gotten the taste of blood to give us more vampire/werewolf mayhem in the near future.

6/10 Style, language and paragraph construction are fantastic.

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