I’d read the first in this entertaining urban fantasy series, The Sweet Scent of Blood, over a year ago and had been impressed with the emotional depth of the protagonist and McLeod’s adroit plotting – this is certainly a cut above the average supernatural romp. For various reasons, I hadn’t written a review – but the reasons had nothing to do with not enjoying or liking the book. Would I enjoy the sequel as much?
Given her sidhe bloodline and her job at Spellcrackers, Genny Taylor is accustomed to seeing ghosts. But rarely has she been haunted by one so persistent. Who – or what – ever it is, is trying to help her, she knows. Only she doesn’t know how. Then a friend of Genny’s is murdered, and she stops worrying about the meddlesome spirit and starts worrying about the fact that all the evidence points to… her.
That’s the blurb. What it doesn’t convey, is the well-developed characterisation of Genny, who despite blundering around with all the finesse of an elephant in a china shop at times, I found sympathetic and enjoyable. It was something of a relief to have a heroine who fails to pick up so many of the nuances despite being intelligent and reasonably alert. McLeod is walking something of a tightrope. Genny Taylor is a rarity, as sidhe this side of a closed portal are rare – a scenario as familiar as the dark creepy cover. However, she avoids Genny becoming a Mary Sue – someone innately ‘special’ who breezes through the book hardly touched by all the chaos around her – by making the consequences and final fallout brutal and longlasting. One of the main supporting characters is killed off in this book, for instance.
And kudos to the publishers for the cool covers – I’m always ranting about inappropriate covers and spoiling blurb. So it’s only fair to hand a gold star to Gollancz and Ace for having the same girl on the covers of all the books, with slickly sharp cover commentary that doesn’t tell half the story before we’ve opened the book.
The world is complicated – there are vampires, goblins, fae and witches, all with their own strengths and weaknesses and all operating largely beneath humanity’s radar. But what I particularly liked about this and the previous book, is McLeod’s plotting. Genny only has a vague inkling of what is going on, and a lot of that isn’t what it initially seems. So we go on a journey with the protagonist while the plot steadily unpeels, like an onion skin, presenting the actual storyline to be something quite different, with far higher stakes, than we or poor Genny initially realised.
We also learn a slice of Genny’s backstory – a bleak and dark slice. The initially chirpy tone of this book belies some of the more chilling undercurrents and this is one book I certainly would think twice before allowing a younger teen to read it. McLeod’s writing is for the grown-ups with some adult themes. And this adult was engrossed and entertained throughout and particularly enjoyed the dramatic and entirely convincing ending. I shall be looking around for the rest of the series and if you like your urban fantasy intelligently depicted with clever plotting, I recommend you give it a go.