September 27, 2011

Review: Blood, by K.J. Wignall

Author: K.J. Wignall
Title: Blood     
Series: The Mercian Trilogy, book 1
ISBN:  9781606842201
Publisher: Egmont USA (2011)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“I do not remember being bitten. I wish I did, for then I would know the creature who did this to me and I would have a purpose, to track him down and repay him for the poisoned gift he gave me. Back in the Thirteenth Century, Will was destined to be Earl of Mercia, although he never lived to inherit his title. In the centuries that follow, Will has led a lonely life, learning to deal with whatever the present day throws at him, always searching for answers but never finding any. Until this time, when he awakens after a 20-year-slumber, hungry for the blood that sustains his undeath, when it appears that he is finally getting a glimpse at why he exists. He does indeed have a destiny, and an enemy, but revealing that fate will be a matter of trust... GoodReads’ blurb


I love vampire stories. It is true that, as of late, there seems to have been an overkill in the genre, but I still keep reading and trying to find new, original and compelling takes on my favorite supernatural creature. And I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for the Mercian trilogy.

One of the things that actually caught my attention about Blood is the setting – and that links with characters, one of the first points I always address and the most and least intriguing part of this first volume. The story this time takes place in England, which is a welcome change of pace, and because if there’s one thing available in Europe it happens to be time, our hero has been dead for six hundred years. This concept opens a lot of possibilities, but it also might present a problem for the writer: people change and adapt. They must do so to survive. And sometimes, it’s difficult for us to remember how we changed from our adolescent to our adult years, is it not?

So, how difficult must it be to portray the way a person has changed in six centuries?

K.J. Wignal has found an interesting way to explain this away and cope with the character’s development in a controlled manner: Will, the hero, spends long periods of time asleep, completely unconscious, but awakens from time to time for a few days or even a month or two, which allows him to keep up with the world’s changes without allowing him to change or mature much. I liked that. I also liked his voice when the text was in first person – there are journal-like entries throughout the book wherein Will tells us about his past, his life, his.. illness.

However, I must point out that I found a big change between this voice and the one predominant through the book, in a third person point of view following Will. Still, it was well written and did not truly bother me – at least not to the point that I could not get into the story or enjoy the character. What did rankle me a bit was how... modern Will was. At times he was old-fashioned enough to belie his real age, but other times he was just a normal, albeit mature, teen. I kept thinking, “this young man is six hundred years old and he has not been awake long enough to truly understand himself so... shouldn’t he feel a bit more like a thirteenth century young man?”.

The understanding of himself was, by the way, the motion wheel behind Blood and I must say that I enjoyed it very much. Fiction has accustomed us to all-knowing vampires who hide and impart they knowledge to a few chosen ones when they get lonely, but Will is truly alone. He has never seen another vampire. For centuries, he didn’t even know what he was. He does not quite understand his limits, where his powers come from, what he can do with them. But suddenly, a final piece has fallen into place and he must act, blindly, if he doesn’t want to lose – even though he does not truly understand what losing might mean, who his allies are or who he’s up against. I found this aspect original and thoroughly enjoyable.

The final piece, and perhaps not-so-original, is a girl. A runaway goth girl Will meets on his first night awake in this new era, and with whom he immediately feels a connection. However, and although the romance bit was predictable and a bit too hurried for my taste, there seemed to be a hint of an explanation – or at least, the promise of one. Towards the end of the book, if feels as if the girl is chosen for a reason beyond Will’s feelings. I’m going to hold my final judgement on them until that’s cleared. However, I can say now that I did like the obstacles to the romance – Will can’t even kiss her, not because he fears his own strength but because of an overwhelming urge to feed when the smell and feel of blood and life is so close. And yes, he kills when he feeds. I thought that was quite refreshing.

All in all, Blood was a very entertaining read. Will’s attempts to make sense of what was happening kept me turning the pages and guessing at every new development – guessing wrong as a general rule, by the way. I mean, the book’s over and I still can’t be sure of what we’re up against, or why. I feel like there’s a deep conflict, a conflict that goes all the way back to Will’s living days, that’s been brewing and is about to explode. While there were aspects I could have enjoyed more if they’d been handled differently – the two points I mentioned above, mostly – there were also aspects that thrilled me – like the whole mystery of Will’s existence, and the fact that I’m not sure at all about whether we are the good or the clueless bad guys yet.

If you like vampire books at all, I am quite confident that you will enjoy this one. Why not give it a shot?

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