Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine

At book 13 of a planned 15 book series I'm definitely in the home stretch of Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires with Bitter Blood.

The previous book in the series (Black Dawn) had a lot going on and while it wrapped up the draug storyline it also had a number of loose ends that needed to be tied up. Bitter Blood was the pay off for some of those.

Bitter Blood has a lot of issues to cover and I feel it may have had more story lines than it really needed. We had to deal with the growing animosity between Morganville's vampire and human populations. The fall out from the marriage between vampire Michael Glass and his human girlfriend Eve Rosser. The growing instability of the computer that controls a lot of Morganville's infrastructure because of the brain of the former vampire that controls it; Frank Collins. The fact that unbeknownst to Morganville founder Amelie, her evil sister Naomi is still alive and capable of controlling both humans and vampires alike to to do her bidding.  There's also the relationship between Claire Danvers and Shane Collins, which was damaged at the end of Black Dawn. The deaths of Morganville mayor Richard Morrell and teenage seer Miranda also had to be dealt with.

As if all that weren't enough a couple of side stories came into this one: the crew of a ghost hunting reality TV show blow into town and there's a race to see who can become the new mayor. In one of Claire's sillier moments she actually got her sworn enemy mean girl Monica Morrell to run for mayor. Myrnin's pet spider Bob would have been a better candidate. In fact I think more people would have voted for Bob than Monica.

The technique of using various characters to narrate the book, rather than all from Claire's third person perspective, continues, although the amount of narrators is cut down (I think Black Dawn suffers from a bit of overload on that front) and most of it is seen from Claire's eyes.

With all this happening the mayor storyline, the reality show and even Miranda to a lesser extent kind of fell by the wayside. I think Bitter Blood is actually the longest Morganville book thus far and dropping a storyline or two may have tightened it up and improved it was a whole. It was the first time through the series I've ever found myself wishing one part of the story would be resolved so I could move onto something more interesting.

One thing Rachel Caine has done very well at various times throughout the series is draw realistic and frightening scenes of bullying or mob mentality. This happens again when Eve suffers at beating at the hands of a hate and fear filled gang of vampire hating teens. What makes this scarier than an attack by a vampire is that it is very real. Both Eve and her attackers are human, the injuries she suffers make sense (she wound up having her appendix removed due to the attack) and you could imagine this happening in real life.

I felt the escape from the cage scene stretched credibility to breaking point. I fail to see how a pair of shoelaces and the metal rod from a hairband can actually bend the metal bars of a cage constructed to hold vampires enough that it's occupants can escape. As my wife commented: "they 'MacGyvered' it." I guess it's similar to the fairly flimsy equipment cage in Buffy the Vampire Slayer being able to hold werewolves and vampires when they wanted it to and other times not being sturdy enough to do this, depending on what the storyline called for. It's a minor nit to pick, but it just bugged me.

The ramifications for the actions taken in Bitter Blood (Claire is basically ordered by Amelie to go study at MIT, Michael and Eve's relationship is badly damaged, Oliver is exiled) will resonate through book 14 (Fall of Night) and are setting the blocks for the series final end in book 15.

Although I did feel that certain things in Bitter Blood 'jumped the shark' I'm pretty hooked on these and there's not long to go, so I will see it through to the end and don't think I'll have too many regrets about it. It's largely been a fun ride thus far.

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