Blood Price, the first of Tanya Huff’s Blood Books, is about Vicki Nelson, a private investigator, and Henry Fitzroy, a five hundred year old vampire and illegitimate son of Henry VIII. Clichéd urban romance story, right? Well, there are a few things about this novel that piqued my interest and guaranteed I’ll be reading the rest of The Blood Books.
In a genre that is crowded with books about vampires linked with strong female characters, a novel would need something extra to make it stand out. Huff provides that in the form of Vicki — a woman who leaves the police force when she is diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition that will possibly render her blind. Vicki is strong, obstinate, and bitter in turn. Her self-pity at times becomes a little tiring, but it’s completely understandable for someone who has seen her life turned on its head. She is irascible, spiky, and, above all, real. You can imagine going for drinks with this woman who has retained her dry sense of humour despite her circumstances. It is refreshing to have a heroine who is not all-powerful and frighteningly capable of taking on the creatures that go bump in the night. In fact, Vicki is quite the reverse: positively handicapped when out at night.
Henry Fitzroy is another well-written character, and his dynamic with Vicki is done with humour and warmth. I love that Henry is actually shorter than Vicki (thanks to being born in an earlier century) and that Vicki is a snob about the height of a man she considers dating. The little excerpts showing Henry’s court life before his change are interesting, but a little lightweight.
The nature of the detecting and the crime itself was not massively interesting or tension-filled, although I did find the criminal Norman Birdwell to be amusing and abhorrent in equal measure. Also, Huff has done little to change the traditional vampire mythology in Blood Price. Sure, crosses don’t affect these vamps (in fact, Henry is Catholic), but they sleep through the day and there is not a hint of sparkle. I haven’t decided whether this is good or bad — on the one hand, I like reading about traditional vampires, but on the other, I feel that Tanya Huff has the imagination and writing skills to change things up.
The relationship side of things is where Blood Price fell into clichéd romantic nonsense. Henry is drawn to Vicki despite the fact that he knows relationships with mortals will never end well. She starts to want him when his blood taking raises her lust. Blah blah blah — nothing new here! It might have been more interesting to keep this relationship on a partnership level. I preferred the rich pickings between Vicki and Mike Celluci — their arguments and bitching and angry sex was funny, a little bit sad and, again, very real. One point I will note about the sex — it was kept neatly off-screen (thank you).
Blood Price’s strength lies in Tanya Huff’s characters. I like them enough that I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, Blood Trail.