Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blood and Kisses by Karin Shah

It isn’t easy being the Witches’ Champion, especially when it’s a hereditary position and you’re hardly the most powerful witch of your line.

Thalia Kent has managed to cope so far with wit and nerve and every ounce of magical ability she possesses, but now her cousin, who wasn’t a witch, is dead — murdered by a rogue vampire — and if she’s going to hunt him down and survive, she’s going to need all the help she can get. She needs Gideon Damek, immortal vampire, but vampires shun witches for good reason, witch blood is poisonous.

Gideon Damek has fought his predatory nature for thousands of years and the last thing he wants is to team up with anyone, least of all a beautiful young witch. Still, something about Thalia compels him to agree.

Soon, Thalia must deal with a reluctant partner, a rebellious witch community, interfering police, a healthy dose of self-doubt, a raging passion for the forbidden Mr. Damek and an enemy who’s following an ancient prophecy that requires both their deaths, all without losing her neck, or her heart.

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I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly when I started reading this, but what I found was a unique and interesting world populated with intriguing characters. While the idea of different "races" of beings co-existing with humans isn't really new, Shah puts her own spin on things such that nothing seems cookie-cutter or borrowed here. A forbidden and seemingly impossible romance story paired with a light mystery with plenty of suspense, the varying storylines weave together into an truly captivating whole.

While Thalia manages to perform her duties well as Guardian despite being somewhat magically challenged, she suffers from deep seated self-esteem issues, many of which stem from the birthmark that denotes her as the guardian. While she lets her insecurities stifle her in her personal life, she's never let them stand in the way of doing her job, whether it be her position as Guardian or her more mundane job as a private investigator. Her cousin Lily was the one person she trusted in the world, the one person who didn't make her feel like a freak somehow, and when she is murdered Thalia treads a fine line for awhile to keep her sanity. Still, she sucks it up and does her job, seeking out Gideon as the clues have directed her to, hoping that he'll be able to help find Lily's killer.

Gideon has kept himself largely closed off from those around him for a very long time, and keeps his inner demon tightly leashed lest he inadvertently harm anyone. While it's never exactly described, one imagines that he performs his duties regarding enforcing The Code with cold efficiency, eliminating offenders dispassionately, keeping himself removed from it. He's as disinclined to trust Thalia as she is to trust him, and yet he can't shake a certain protectiveness he feels toward her almost from the beginning. Ironically, though he arguably the most repressed of the two of them, he is the first one to warm up to having at least a friendship with Thalia. As events throw them into closer and closer contact, and they find themselves under attack on several different fronts, he has a harder and harder time denying his growing feelings for her.

It's easy perhaps to sum this up as a story of two broken people who manage to come together and find healing in one another, but the story is a lot more than that. For one thing, while they are arguably both quite broken in many ways, neither has been letting it hinder them too much really and both have been living productive lives. Their emotional insecurities might keep them crippled on a personal, social level, but they are both vibrant and courageous people who don't hesitate to step up to the plate and do their duty when called upon. You can't but admire them both for that. Even more admirable though is the way they manage to overcome those insecurities to find their way to each other despite all the odds against them. Still, for all the progress they make in slaying their personal demons and overcoming the doubts and fears that have held them captive most of their lives, it is hard to see how they will make things work between them right up until almost the very end. The solution, when it comes, is somewhat predictable and yet also a bit surprising, and while it might be just a touch cliche it is handled well and is quite believable.

Overall I found this to be a very engaging read, and one that I would recommend to anyone who likes paranormal romance, or is a fan of romantic suspense stories. There certainly is enough here to please both crowds. If there is ever a direct sequel to this, I'll definitely be interested in reading it. 4 solid stars to this one.

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