by Helen HarperMackenzie, or Mack, lives in Cornwall with a pack of shifters, and though she has a psychic link to them she isn't one of them. This is a problem because the pack are ultimately ruled by a group known as The Brethren who forbid shifters from sharing their presence with ordinary humans. The penalty is death for the whole pack if the Brethren discover that they've been hiding a human amongst them for years.
The story starts with John, the pack's alpha, finding a wichtlein stone, which is supposed to be a really bad omen. Uh-oh. The pack's cosy rural life at this point involves banishing the occasional low-level creature from the Otherworld, and living peacefully in their rural stronghold as a small community. Mack has a hot temper, and literally hot blood that somehow helps her hold her own against any creatures or shifters, but aside from that it's a quiet existence.
That is all shattered by John summoning the Brethren from London to come and investigate the omens, and then by a brutal murder that has everyone upset. Mack vows to find the killer and avenge the murder, but in the meantime she's obliged to lie low in order to protect the pack. It's not in her nature to be a wallflower, and her pack-mate Anton seems to be determined to make her unmask herself. He can't do so himself due to a magical geas put on the pack, but anyone could trick her into revealing herself.
More bad omens appear as the plot deepens on this magical murder mystery, and the stakes get higher as monsters appear and their attacks threaten to alert the local humans that something odd is going on. Then there's Corrigan, the alpha of the Brethren, who is of course very influential and strong, and far too interested in Mack for her own liking. She tries to deflect him with a series of pretences, including lying about her abilities and relationships to what she is doing, which lends the story a slight sense of farce. This is mitigated by the handful of close friendships we see between Mack and her pack mates such as Tom and Julie, which adds a poignancy because the Brethren are threatening to recruit some of them to their more dangerous roles in London. Then there's Alex, a mage with whom Mack strikes up a very quick friendship, almost oddly quick.
The story is brutal in parts, and doesn't shy away from that. It becomes more intricate as it progresses, and due to Mack's fiery personality it doesn't become the spicy romance I suspected it was being set up to be, at least not in this episode. The first book in the Blood Destiny series concludes somewhat abruptly, finishing the main thread so we're not left with a cliffhanger, but not following up with the stories of a number of minor characters, and leaving plenty of questions about the main character's origins and potential that could be explored in later books.
This urban fantasy has a thread of British folklore that distinguishes it from much of the genre. It's well plotted and, crucially, the characters are likeable and even the flawed ones have redeeming qualities, or at least the potential for redemption. The book left me keen to continue the Mack's story.
4th August 2023
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy