I’d just tossed yet another half-read book across the bedroom in a fit of disgust, when my gaze fell upon one of the freebies stacked up by my bed I’d acquired at Fantasycon – The Sweet Smell of Blood. I’d read it a while ago and recalled I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like McLeod’s writing – read my review of The Cold Kiss of Death here . And though I don’t very often revisit a book, I reckoned I was due a treat – and this time around I was going to write a review about it…
My name is Genny Taylor. I work for Spellcrackers.com. It’s a great job, pays the rent, lets me do the thing I’m good at – finding magic and cracking it – and the bonus is it’s run by witches, which stops the vamps from taking a bite out of me. Not that vampires are the big bad any more, not since they launched a slick PR campaign. Now the vamps are sought-after celebrities, and Getting Fanged and taking the Gift are the new height of all things cool. But only if you’re human. And I’m not… I’m Sidhe fae. And I know first hand just how deadly a vampire can be.
McLeod doesn’t hang about with this first book in the series. We’re straight into the world with plenty going on and Genny’s smart, enjoyable first person narrative giving us a ringside seat. In addition to our feisty heroine, there is also a cast of vibrant characters accompanying her on this roller-coaster adventure. Small wonder that Spellcracker.com became such a successful series – in my opinion, it is right up there with Charlaine Harris and her Southern Vampire series at its best.
One of the aspects I really enjoyed with this book is the way Genny’s traumatic past is woven into the fast-paced action going on, so that the aftermath and consequences bite her – physically and metaphorically – just when she least needs it. Which is a nifty trick to pull off, particularly at the start of a long-running series. I also want to congratulate Gollancz for their really strong covers – using the same girl to feature in them, who is a red-head as flagged in the text… After some of the mismatches I’ve seen in the past, it is a real pleasure to see such coherence across the series…
There are plot twists a-plenty and while I recalled quite a lot about Genny and her circumstances, the details of the actual plot had faded sufficiently that I could enjoy it all over again. Standout characters that had lodged in my memory were the enticing satyr Finn and the lovably dependable Hugh. I enjoyed the tensions set up between the supernatural races – as well as being plausible, they promise continued and intriguing lines of conflict. Vampires find fae blood irresistible and fae are far harder to kill than humans… While it isn’t necessarily completely original, McLeod’s punchy prose gives the story a freshness and readability that was pure pleasure after a couple of the recent sorry efforts I’d attempted to wade through.
If your weakness is urban fantasy, complete with an engaging, complex protagonist, suave dangerous vampires and a number of enjoyable fae, including the satyr, then track down this first book. The real bonus is that it is the first one in the series – and there are three others, with the fifth book, The Hidden Rune of Iron, due out during this month. Enjoy!