Tag Archives: Genny Taylor

Review of The Sweet Smell of Blood – Book 1 of Spellcrackers.com by Suzanne McLeod

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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…

sweetsmellofbloodMy 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!
9/10

Review of The Cold Kiss of Death – Book 2 of Spellcrackers.com by Suzanne McLeod

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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?

coldkissGiven 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.
9/10