Monday, April 12, 2010

Death Blows by DD Barant

Death Blows is the sequel to Dying Bites. This is a series of books with the most generic titles imaginable. Fortunately, the books are much more memorable.

In the first book, FBI criminal profiler Jace Valchek was yanked into an alternate world to help track down an insane serial killer. The population of the world she's been brought to is 99% vampires and werewolves, 1% humans. In this book, she's got another serial killer to track down--a murderer who seems to be connected with magic-enhanced comic books, a band of superheroes who turn out to be real, and not one but about 500 secret societies.

Seriously, there are so many secret societies that I stopped being able to keep them apart. I also had trouble keeping track of the conspiracies and counter-conspiracies. About halfway through the book, my interest sagged so much I almost just gave up. By the time I got to the two separate instances of (to paraphrase) "it's time you were told the real truth," I was just annoyed that the real truth had been held back for so damn long. It doesn't help that, yes, this book is in present tense like the first one was. It continually threw me out of the story, particularly when I came back to it after setting it aside for a while.

The world Barant has built is fascinating, but it's not a lot of fun. Humans are an endangered species, preyed on by vampires and werewolves--the insulting term for humans is "OR," original recipe. Barant does a great job building the tension between Jace's professional responsibilities and her personal difficulties adjusting to a world where she's considered prey or someone to be pitied; the professional and personal overlap a lot, causing even more tension. Jace has made a few friends in her new world, but ultimately she just wants to get home again.

But. The last paragraph? Those issues do not resolve or change in this book, and indeed barely apply to the plot at all. While Death Blows is mostly entertaining, I dislike having to essentially march in place, with the real plot--Jace tracking down the one person whose arrest can get her a ticket home--sidelined for an entire book. I dislike even more that the major theme of racism--because that's essentially what this is all about, except that it's more species-ism in this case--isn't given more than a quick stir before being left to simmer some more. I know this is a series and the overarching themes can't be resolved in one book or even a few, but I'd like some hint that Barant intends to resolve them at all, and that she has plans to that effect. Oh, and she can stop writing in present tense whenever she likes.

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