Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Written In The Blood

by Stephen Lloyd Jones


Written In The Blood has nothing to do with vampires or periods. Let's get that out of the way, because the blood-smeared cover of the hardback suggests otherwise. It's also not a romance, in spite of starting off with one or two common tropes from that genre.

Leah is able to change her face just by wishing to. She's part of a hidden subspecies of people with this ability, the long-lived hosszu eletek. They're definitely not vampires. However, they are dying out. Leah gets the opportunity to form an alliance with outcasts of her kind in order to save her race, but she has to do it in secret. Even to talk to these people means breaking a taboo.

Leah crosses the Swiss border alone in order to meet a mysterious "Dog Prince" (who definitely isn't a werewolf). When she does, she happens to meet a hot renegade with nice eyes and a solid reason to dislike her. She's out of her depth, and she just happens to have a need to breed when this capable and intriguing man crosses her path. If that sounds exciting, bear in mind that this is more of a thriller with a dash of horror than a steamy romance. I'm not sure whether it was a deliberate or accidental choice to confuse readers about the genre.

Although the story is international and largely based in Europe, it's written in American English. It covers lots of points of view, and goes back and forth over various time periods. One thread of the tale takes place in the nineteenth century and features a boy with a fractured family. Another thread is about a family's road trip holiday to Yosemite and the increasingly strange behaviour of the stepfather, Ty. Then there's the story of politics and infighting amongst the hosszu eletek leaders, and the controversy over attempts to set up a breeding programme. Leah's blind mother champions this, even though a high number of the participants tend to die in childbirth.

Written In The Blood is highly suspenseful, and after some initial genre misdirection it settles into a fast-paced thriller with elements of horror. The pacing is tight, and I found myself keen to read on throughout the novel. Stephen Lloyd Jones' characters are realistic and likeable, so that I wanted to root for them, even though in many cases they didn't get many chapters devoted to them.

The novel retains an element of surprise because the author has created a new type of monster, as well as a new species. However, in both cases the supernatural characters are overpowered, so I did wonder why they'd existed for centuries without taking over the mundane world, or at least without creating much more mayhem. Think of the things anyone could do with the freedom to change their face at will. "Hello, Mr President, why yes, that's the red button. Why do you need to ask? And why are you wearing a dress?"

However, that's a fairly minor niggle. Overall this is a richly-imagined, exciting thriller. The horror can be a bit gory, but it's also effective and gripping. What's more, I didn't realise this novel was the second in a series until after I'd written this, so it's safe to say it stands alone very well.

23rd March 2015

Book Details

Year: 2014

Categories: Books


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4 star rating

Review ©

Source: ARC

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