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Friday, May 21, 2010

'Blood Trail' Blood series #2 by Tanya HUFF

From the BLURB:

When a pack of werewolves is discovered on an Ontario farm, Henry Fitzroy, a Toronto-based vampire and writer of romance novels, calls upon private investigator Vicki Nelson to help him trace the trail of destruction to the killers.

I did enjoy this book, to an extent. In this novel Vicki and Herny travel to London, Ontario (I did not know there was a London in Canada!) to investigate a slew of werewolf deaths. The ‘whodunnit’ is intriguing and well-crafted, the werewolf mythology is smart and fresh, and some wonderful secondary characters are introduced…
BUT, there was one minor point I had a big problem with, and that’s what is influencing this entire review.

In ‘Blood Price’ a character called Tony Foster was introduced. He is a nineteen-year-old ‘street kid’ who Vicki knew in her previous life as a cop. She first met Tony when he was 15, and has used him as her eyes and ears on the street, while also trying to look after him. Many times Vicki laments Tony’s situation, especially because he’s been prone to hooking when money is tight and she’s concerned about AIDS. In ‘Blood Price’ Vicki was forced to introduce Tony to Henry… and when ‘Blood Trail’ opens we learn that Henry has gone beyond that initial meeting to become Tony’s lover, landlord and employer - all in exchange for Tony’s blood donations.
Ummm… I wasn’t okay with that.

For one thing: Tony and Henry having a sexual relationship before Vicki and Henry sort of deflated the sexual tension for me. Especially because for the five months between ‘Blood Price’ and ‘Blood Trail’, Henry has been refusing Vicki’s advances – blaming it on the injuries she received at the end of ‘Blood Price’. Henry claims he is waiting for Vicki to recover from her blood loss… yet for five months he’s been (presumably?) having sex and taking blood from Tony?

The other ‘ick’ for me was the fact that Vicki and Tony are friends – but their friendship borders very close to a maternal relationship, at least according to my interpretation. Vicki has been looking out for Tony since he was 15, and Tony has likewise looked up to Vicki as an icon of sorts.
At one point Vicki muses on the fact that Tony has matured since meeting Henry, and that her and Tony’s dynamic feels less child/adult and more adult/adult in recent months. And yet, it’s still a case of (for me) one of Vicki’s friends screwing around with the guy she’s had her eye on. Not cool! True, in ‘Blood Trail’ Vicki and Henry have not had sex yet, so Tony was technically there first… but Tanya Huff set Vicki and Henry up as the main focus of the series.

I was further frustrated by all this Vicki/Henry/Tony stuff because Tanya Huff mentions it in passing, and so casually. There’s a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ scene in which we learn of Henry and Tony’s sex life – and I had to go back and re-read because I was so shell-shocked by it.

I was even less okay with Vicki’s reaction to the news. It was the sort of bomb that once dropped I wanted Vicki to deconstruct and analyse, but she didn’t.
Vicki, remaining true to her character, is less upset about Tony and Henry’s sexual relationship, and more insulted that Henry has done what she couldn’t … get Tony off the streets.
It got to the point where, the Tony/Henry revelation was so fascinating to me, and I felt such indignation on Vicki’s behalf, that I desperately wanted Vicki to address the issue and get properly annoyed with Henry. But she didn’t. And the more the topic was avoided and never again alluded to, the more frustrated I got… to the point where I think I kept reading, purely in the hopes that there would be a huge explosive confrontation… But there wasn’t. Huff does not address the pink elephant/vampire in the book.

Perhaps I could have dealt with my Henry/Tony issues if it became glaringly obvious that any relationship with Tony wouldn’t get in the way of Henry’s feelings for Vicki… except, the opposite happens in ‘Blood Trail’.

I was let down by Henry and Vicki’s first lovemaking. They finally have sex halfway through the book, Huff having masterfully built up tension and attraction – but it’s a very slap-dash coupling that feels almost seedy;

Her fingernails traced intricate patterns along his spine. “You feel great. This feels great.”
“Feels great,” he echoed, “but I’ve got to go.” He said it gently, as he sat up, one hand trailing along the slick length of her body. “The nights are short and if you want me to solve this case for you...”
“For the wer,” she corrected, yawning, too mellow to react to his smart-ass comment. “Sure, go ahead, eat and run.” She snatched her foot back, away from his grab, and watched him dress. “When can we do this again?”

To be fair, it’s not in Vicki’s character to be all gooey and sentimental, not even post-coitus. But Henry is a romance writer, and he’s from a time when there really were knights in shining armour. Sure, four hundred years may have hardened him to the world and being undead would certainly impact his personality… but this scene just felt so mechanical and unemotional.
Nor did it help that in the lead-up to the sex, Henry’s sole motivation was hunger. He needed to feed, and since he can’t feed from werewolves Vicki was meal… he makes no mention of wanting her for her, but only for her blood supply. I know vampires are cold, but that is just ridiculous.
Honestly, I thought Henry and Tony’s post-coitus talk was far more romantic. But if Henry and Vicki are supposed to be the main attraction, (of *this* series) shouldn’t it be the other way around? At this point I am actually wondering why Tony and Henry aren’t the HEA of this series?

With ‘Blood Trail’ I came to understand those modern reviewers who warned people off this series for its lack of smut.
I don’t like smut for smut’s sake (hello Laurell K Hamilton!) but sex scenes can often communicate a deeper attraction between characters than can be interpreted from dialogue, interaction etc. I think this book really would have benefited from some descriptive sex scenes. Because reading it, I thought; ‘Henry only wants Vicki for her blood. Vicki only wants Henry for his body. End of attraction’ – and I’m really not sure if that’s what Huff intended? And if it is… then why do I care about these characters and their relationship?

To be fair, I am only 2 books into this series. Henry is still very much the mysterious vampire – though we do garner a few more bits and pieces of his life (like his time as a spy in WWII). Henry is still developing, and Vicki and Henry’s relationship is still fresh… I’m sure there’s more progress to come.

Furthermore, I think Huff is trying to avoid clichés. Typically vampire characters fall into one of two categories – monster or lover. Writers either go the route of blood-sucking fiends, or neck-sucking Lotharios. I can appreciate that Huff is writing in Henry a vampire who is a bit more grounded in reality. He’s not sentimental – he has numerous lovers and doesn’t really intend to get too close to any of them. But still, when Vicki is already such a hard-nut character, equally allergic to ‘relationships’, it’s too much cold indifference for one coupledom. Especially since this is a series, and as readers we’re supposed to root for Vicki/Henry enough to want to read more of them, see if they get a happy ending etc, etc, etc.

I wasn’t particularly fond of this book, which is a shame after ‘Blood Price’ impressed me so much. The ‘whodunnit’ of ‘Blood Trail’ is brilliant. The werewolf mythology is wonderful and unique, and I enjoyed the introduction of some new secondary characters. But the big pit-fall for me lay in the development (or lack thereof) of Vicki and Henry, both as individuals, and as a couple.



  1. As I'm currently reading the last book of this series and it's the only book of the series I own I already know how things are developing further and I can only say I'm glad of that as this sounds like it would truely frustrate me too.

  2. Argh! thats sounds weird... the whole Henry, Tony and Vicky thing... I'll follow your reviews and see if it gets better LOL =)

    Great review!


  3. I'll follow your reviews too - the series sounded so promising!!!


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