Blood Bargain: Darn good paranormal mystery

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book review Maria Lima Blood BargainBlood Bargain by Maria Lima

It took me a little while to get fully engrossed in Blood Bargain, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. Maria Lima’s second Blood Lines novel is even better than the first, a fun and sometimes poignant paranormal treat.

Once again, there’s trouble in Rio Seco, and Keira Kelly finds herself embroiled in it. Her vampire boyfriend Adam is showing alarming signs of weakness, and at the same time, Keira is drawn into two missing-persons cases that seem unconnected on the surface but may in fact be linked. I think the reason the story didn’t take off for me at first was that I was exasperated with Adam, who appeared to have brought his problems on himself by doing something stupid and unnecessary. I should have had more faith in the author. Even this situation is more complicated than it looks.

As the various plots began to converge, I was hooked. I read most of the second half of the book in one sitting. I can’t say much without letting a spoiler slip, but I will say that the secret behind the mysteries is a haunting one, rooted both in old folklore and in disastrous family relationships. I will also say that I loved the setting of “La Angel,” an enigmatic statue around which much of the story revolves.

Along the way, we learn more about Keira’s past and family background. Matters of the Blood whetted my appetite for Keira’s backstory; Lima didn’t disappoint in this area one bit.

I also have a deep appreciation for any urban fantasy author who can write female friendship. Too often, urban fantasy novels feature queen-bee women who can’t stand any other females on their turf; secondary female characters tend to be either spineless ciphers or jealous harpies. Lima has avoided this cliché by creating a delightful “best friend” character in Beatriz Ruiz, and exploring the realistic effects that Keira’s burgeoning power has on the relationship between the two women.

For those who are wondering about the fantasy-to-romance ratio in Blood Bargain, this is more toward the fantasy end of things. There is some romance at the beginning, and a little bit at the end, but the fantasy and mystery elements are predominant for most of the book. Matters of the Blood is far more focused on romance than Blood Bargain is.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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