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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cat Adams: BLOOD SINGER SERIES


Author:  Cat Adams (pseudonym for C. T. Adams & Cathy Clamp)

Series:  BLOOD SINGER
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence-4; Sensuality-2-3; Humor-2-3
Publisher and Titles:  Tor
         Blood Song (6/2010)
           Siren Song (9/2010)
           Demon Song (3/2011)
           The Isis Collar (3/2012)
           The Eldritch Conspiracy (1/2013) 
           To Dance with the Devil (11/2013)

     This post was revised and updated on 12/11/13 to include a review of  To Dance with the Devil, the sixth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first five novels:

            BOOK 5:  To Dance with the Devil            
     After the destruction of their office building in the previous book, Celia and her partner, Dawna Han Long, are looking for a new site, with little success so far. By now, Celia has a reputation for being a magnet for trouble, so landlords are quick to turn her down. Even some of her friends are treating her differently, particularly Dawna's fiancé, Chris Gaetano, who wants Dawna to terminate her relationship with Celia

     As the story opens, Celia meets with a prospective client calling herself Abigail Andrews who wants Celia to protect her adopted daughter, but lies to Celia about critical aspects of her case. When Celia pushes for the truth, the woman leaves in a huff and is later found deadtortured and murdered. In the meantime, Celia herself is attacked and left for dead on a sunny beach. (Remember, Celia is now a bat (a vampire) who can sustain exposure to the sun only when slathered heavily in high-SPF sunscreen. Celia's attackers show her a holograph of a powerful but evil mage who claims that a seer has predicted that his latest project will fail because of Celia's intervention, so his solution to that problem is to kill her. Celia's severe injuries force her back to the early stages of her vampire transformation (i.e., uncontrollable blood lust), but she gradually recovers and helps the police find a connection between her attack and Abigail's murder. When a seer prophesies that Celia's involvement in the case with save the daughter's life, Celia becomes even more determined to figure out what's going on and put a stop to it.

     The primary plot follows Celia as she tries to protect Abigail Andrews' daughter and finds herself in the middle of a long-term blood feud between two mage families. But that's just the tip of the iceberg because the holographic mage who ordered Celia's attack is currently imprisoned in a high-security prison. How could he be practicing his dark magic while under magical restraints? Who is helping him? Is the family feud just a cover for a "project" that is even more deadly?

     For Celia, the horrific sun attack is a real setback because she was just beginning to get her vampire nature under control. Starting all over again is depressing, but she does her best, with the help of her many friends. (In this book, she has more friends than enemies for a change.) Celia is also in the middle of some extensive family therapy as she tries to deal with her difficult mother and to repair her shaky relationship with her beloved grandmother. Early in the story, she loses her link to her dead sister, Ivy, after she finally accepts that Ivy's death was not her fault. That epiphany breaks Ivy's connection with mortal life, and Ivy finally goes on off into the light. Although Celia realizes that this is a good thing, she still misses Ivy. Needless to say, her mother's reaction to Ivy's disappearance is much more virulent and violent.

     Celia's love life is going smoothly, for once, except that she and Bruno DeLuca (a powerful mage) aren't seeing much of each other because both are caught up in their own careers: Bruno's as a university professor and Celia's as an up-and-coming security expert. When Celia chooses Dawna as her partner rather than Bruno, he reacts with anger, and things get a bit bumpy for awhile. As the plot approaches its violent resolution, Celia and John Creede (her former lover) repair their broken friendship, leaving the romance situation in a somewhat ambiguous state.

     The theme of this book deals with friendship: that Celia's friends stand by her through thick and thin; that some relationships have changed from adversarial to friendly (i.e., Heather Alexander, a police detective); that Celia's friends are finding love (and sometimes marriage); and that Celia's friends are helping her to survive. Among the romantic pairings are Emma Landingham and Matteo (Matty) DeLuca (Bruno's brother); Dawna and Chris; and Fred and Dottyall of whom have been playing key roles in the series. By the end of the book, even Emma's werewolf brother, Kevin, may have found a lover.

     This is another solid chapter in a strong series. Both the main and supporting characters are well-developed, and the suspense-filled plot moves along at a compelling pace. The ending leaves Celia with some new enemies (nothing new about that), and we'll probably see them make some moves against her in the next novel. I'm hoping that Celia's romance with John Creede will pick up once again because I think that he's a better match for Celia than Bruno is.

          WORLD-BUILDING          
     In this series Celia Graves is a personal security expert (aka bodyguard) for the rich and famous in coastal Southern California, specifically in Santa maria de Luna. In this world, mages and witches practice their magic openly, shape shifters are dangerous animals to be feared, and vampires (aka "bats") stalk the city's alleys at night. Law enforcement agencies have magic users on staff to help track down both human and supernatural criminals. 

          BOOK 1:  Blood Song          
     Early in book 1, Celia is bitten by a master vampire while she is guarding a rich Eastern European prince as he visits a sleazy strip joint. The vampire's bite awakens Celia's hidden siren heritage (of which she was totally unaware), and when Celia awakens, she finds that she is now an Abomination—the official term for her part vamp, part siren, and (tiny) part human condition. The pros: She can day walk and has super strength. The cons: she has fangs, is extremely sun-sensitive, and can digest only liquids. She also has a fierce vampire nature and a hunger for blood that she must learn to control.  

     The vampire bite completely changes people's attitude toward Celia. Some humans and supernaturals want to kill her; others want to institutionalize her; and a fewher close friendswant to protect her. Before the bite, Celia had many friends in the local law enforcement community, but now, she is shocked to discover that most of them want to put her behind bars.

     In this book, Celia has two possible love interests: Bruno DeLuca, her mage ex-boyfriend, and Kevin Landingham, a sexy werewolf, but their characters and their relationships with Celia are mostly undeveloped in this bookespecially Kevin, who remains largely in the background.

     Celia has several close friends: her secretary (Dawna Han Long), Kevin's sister (Emma), and her best friend (Vicki). Celia is the usual urban fantasy heroine: brave but reckless; smart but stubborn. She has had the stereotypically unhappy childhood, with plenty of mommy issues. Blood Song ends in a cliffhanger, as Celia's grandmother reveals startlingand previously unknownfacts about Celia's genetic make-up. Click HERE to read chapter one.

          BOOK 2:  Siren Song           

     Celia is still adjusting to her new vampire life style, and it's not always easy, so therapy sessions have become a regular part of her schedule. She is also learning more about her siren heritage, particularly her ability to enthrall men and alienate women.

     The novel has several story lines, two which involve a death curse and a confrontation with Celia's previously unknown siren relatives, some of whom are not at all happy to meet her. The police are still trying to solve the murder of Celia's best friend, and they're pretty sure that Celia is guiltyone way or another. On top of all this, some of Celia's closest, most trusted friends betray her in a way that nearly leads to her death.

     In the romance department, Celia's relationship with Bruno changes (not in a good way) and John Creede, an attractive and powerful mage steps up as a sexy contender. (He was a supporting character in the previous book.) Click HERE to read chapter one. 

          BOOK 3:  Demon Song          
     In Demon Song, Celia is trying to help her friends Dawna and Emma recover from their demonic misadventures in the previous book. In the meantime, Vicki has asked Celia to investigate her reasons for leaving a quarter of her estate to a stranger in Arkansas. (Vicki herself doesn't know why she did it; she had a vision that told her she should.) Before Celia can get too far into that investigation, she gets dragged into a rescue attempt in which Kevin and his girlfriend are the victims. Since Celia still hasn't forgiven Kevin and his family for what they did to her in Siren Song, she's not too happy about being coerced into helping them. 

     Eventually Celia discovers that her two tasks are intricately connected and that, once again, a demon is out to get her. Celia's love life is picking up, but she's not sure if it's because of her personality or if it's just her growing siren powers. Now she has three romantic possibilities: Bruno (the ex-boyfriend); John Creede (the sexy mage); and Christopher Gaetano (the weird medic, who, so far, has just asked her to give him a call). 

     Demon Song has other story threads involving the siren royal family as well as Celia's mother and grandmother. Also in this third book, Celia is continuing to learn how to handle her vampiric emotional fluctuations, even as they grow stronger. She can be very scary when she's hungry.

     I enjoyed Demon Song. Adams and Clamp tell a compelling story and do a great job of weaving the love interests into the plot. Celia can be a bit of a drag when she insists that everything bad that happens to anyone she knows is always her fault, but that seems to be a common problem with urban fantasy heroines. I particularly like the way that Celia has grown and changed over the three books. From her panic after the vampire bite in book 1 to the revelation of her siren heritage in book 2 to her growing problems dealing with her vampire side in book 3, Celia is always an interesting character, and I'll keep following her as this series continues. Click HERE to read chapter one.

          BOOK 4:  The Isis Collar          
     In the opening scene, Celia is trying unsuccessfully to convince an elementary school principal that the students are in danger. Celia's favorite clairvoyant, Dottie, has called her with a warning, and Celia is desperate to save the kids. Although two supernatural bombs detonate and two magic-related perpetrators are caught, the children are saved and the building doesn't explode...so all's well that ends wellright? Well, no. Those bombs set off the major events of the primary plot of the book because they contain a diseasea magical zombie plague that soon develops into a pandemic.

     Celia's contact at the FBI
Dominic Rizzolipulls her into the case, and eventually Bruno and Creede also help out as they all try to figure out who is at the center of this disaster. Celia has a personal stake in the outcome because she was injured in the school attack and is in danger of dying from the mysterious plague. She seeks help from everyone she can think of, from doctors to magic practitionerseven a voodoo doctor who wears a feathered headdress of leather adorned with beads and chicken claws. As you can imagine, she's desperate for a cure.
     
     In the midst of all this, Celia's alcoholic mother breaks out of her imprisonment on the sirens' island and heads back home, where Celia must track her down. In addition, Celia's younger (dead) sister, Ivy, (who is now an annoying ghost) is so frantic to help their mother that she possesses a young girl. Then, to top things off, John Creede goes missing.

     There are a few bumps in some of the story lines and some gaps in the action. For example, when Creede runs into Celia at Isaac Levy's shop, he tells her that he knew she was there because he saw her car outside. But Celia didn't drive her own car; she came with Dawna in Dawna's car. Then, Creede and Levy meet for the first time, even though Creede has seemingly been in Levy's shop numerous times beforeat least once with Celia. (pp. 116-118) In another scene, Celia has a knock-down, drag-out battle with a zombie and winds up covered in zombie goo. This happens in a hospital corridor, and after the fight she doesn't bother to scrub down and sterilize herself. Instead, she goes off to visit her mother, who is a patient in that same hospital. Then she has contact with several more people and doesn't clean up until she gets back to her office. Now this is a potentially fatal virus, and everyone who comes in contact with it is at risk of infection. So this kind of behavior on Celia's part borders on negligent manslaughter (either that or inattention to details on the authors' part). Another problem: 
We don't hear anything about the titular Isis Collar until the story is 87% completejust 50 pages from the end. 

     One last suggestion: Please, please, please, cut way back on the amount of print dedicated to Celia's constant need for meat broth and bloody smoothies? We get it: She needs to eat often and she can only drink liquids. We don't need the constant descriptions. 

     Even with its faults, this is a solid, action-packed addition to the series. Celia is an appealing heroine who does her best to hold back her vampiric blood lust and live as "normal" a life as she can. Her relationships with Bruno and Creede are interesting to watch as she has deep feelings for both of them: lusty passion for Creede and easy familiarity with Bruno. But can Creede get over his alpha-male superiority complex? And will Bruno defy his mother's hatred for Celia? Which one will win out in the end? Click HERE to read an excerpt.



          BOOK 5:  The Eldritch Conspiracy          
     The big news in the siren world is the upcoming marriage of Princess Adriana to Dahlmar, King of Rusland. Unfortunately, a terrorist group is determined to prevent the wedding from taking place, and they don't care how many innocents die in the process. After her two assistants are murdered, Adriana hires Celia to make sure that she and her bridal party are kept safeand aliveuntil she and Dahlmar are officially wed. This means that Celia becomes Adriana's maid of honer and must handle all of the duties and responsibilities that come with that positionlike dealing with two snotty Ruslandic bridesmaids who are determined to sabotage the wedding in their own mean-girl manner. 

     Celia is still dealing with the bitter feelings that developed between her and her former boyfriend, John Creede, but she has found some happiness in the arms of Bruno DeLuca, the mage who has been in and out of her love life since her college years. When an old girlfriend of Bruno's annuls her marriage and makes a play for Bruno, the consequences have a direct and dangerous effect on Celia's life.

     The primary plot follows Celia as she tries to protect Adriana, but finds herself on the terrorists' target list as well. Adding to the chaos is Celia's old nemesis, police officer Richard Clarke, who is still trying to kill her. As the story plays out, Celia must deal with an attack on her grandmother, the disappointment of having a few friends pull away from her in fear of the violence that surrounds her, and the realization that some of her siren-related actions during a demon-takedown in an earlier book have come back to haunt her.

     In a related subplot, Okalani (the young siren woman we met in a previous book) runs away from the sirens' Isle of Serenity to the mainland to find her father. We learn the shocking truth about her father's identity and watch her play a heartbreaking part in the murder and mayhem of the primary plot line.

     We also get a new piece of interesting siren mythology when Celia's Aunt Lopaka, the siren queen, is severely injured in one of the terrorist attacks: As Celia analyzes the attack she remembers that "the only things that can actually kill a pure-blooded siren are weapons wielded in jealousyan emotion that is a poison to usor certain specially made magical artifacts." (p. 117) 

     Eventually we learn the motivations for the attacks on Celia and Adriana and the identity of the terrorist leader, both of which are relatively unpredictable. The big showdown scene is brief but powerful as Celia relives the terror of being caught up in demonic forces and fighting for her life. (That demon who marked her in her childhood just won't give her up.) Once again, (as in the previous book), the titular object (the Eldritch Crossis not mentioned until the book is nearly ended, and it has little to do with the main plot. 

     This is another action-filled story in a strong urban fantasy series. My only nit-pick is that day in and day out, EVERYONE seems to be after Celia, either to persecute her or to kill her outright, including the local police, siren haters, vampire hunters, drug lords, and a tenacious demon. She can't relax for a moment without someone attacking her. Although this makes for compelling action and lots of drama, it doesn't leave much time for introspection or for the development of personal relationships. Click HERE to read an excerpt.

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