This slim novel (243 pages) tells the story of Eleisha, a vampire who was turned in her teens in the early 1800’s in Wales. Now living in modern day Portland, she is the caretaker of her sire’s senile father (also turned vampire). Another vampire, William also lives in the city. They hunt for blood and the life force of humans whom they must kill - to protect their secrets and sustain themselves. There is much recounting of hunts in gory detail and flashbacks to fill in the back story. This is the vampire trope presented as a psychopath. Remorseless killing machines.
I find it difficult to connect with characters of this nature and I strongly felt I was reading a horror novel not an urban fantasy. Finally five pages before the end at page 238, Eleisha has an epiphany that she doesn’t have to kill her victims to survive. I made a note to include a relevant quote, but unfortunately it is not included here (but more on that in a moment). Hurray, perhaps she was a character with a chance of redemption after all. This was now solidly in urban fantasy territory and the obvious setup for future sequels, but to me seemed too little too late. This was disappointing but not the surprise.
Prior to posting my reviews I visit the author’s websites and blogs to pick up any additional tidbits of interest, check for links and other items of merit. This is where I found a series of discouraging surprises relating to Blood Memories.
Here is what I discovered –
- Buried in her FAQ section is a mention that Blood Memories is revised version of a novel written in the mid-nineties. Ms. Hendee updated the book to 2008 and rewrote the last three chapters to set up the sequels. I guess if I had researched the book more thoroughly before purchasing I might have known this. Silly me. This confirmed my sense that this was a horror novel as there was not much urban fantasy being written then with the current 21st century urban fantasy sensibilities. It also illuminated the sudden character about face near the conclusion of the book.
I respect a writer’s right to repurpose their work as they see fit. But in my mind this was little more then ‘bait and switch’. A deliberate and calculated decision to jump on the strong urban fantasy bandwagon with a minimum of effort, but without disclosing to fans of the genre what they were really buying. To me the sudden change in character motivations near the end invalidates the characters very foundation moving forward in a series. Really in 170 years of undead life, Eleisha never considered the possibility, or failed to kill a victim and discovered she was replenished anyway? Or for that matter, any of the other vampires. Enough said.
- You will note I did not include the pivotal quote or even include the usual cover blurb in this review. Again in the FAQ’s a question is posed – Can I quote from your books on my website, blog etc.? And the response is a vehement – “Sorry, but no… absolutely no.” She provides a few eyebrow raising reasons and finishes with a final condescending note about her criteria for 'professional reviewers' – “If you feel the need to ask for more detail on these criteria, you can immediately assume you do not qualify.” Wow. Hence no details in my review. I have always found the urban fantasy community of authors to be open and friendly. This is anything but.
- Finally you will also note there is no link to an excerpt from the novel. Not because I didn’t want to include one. There isn’t one at the publishers site, however there is one on the www.barbhendee.com website but it is not linkable. I suspect deliberately so given point two above.