The Sweet Scent of Blood: Too confusing

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Suzanne McLeod The Sweet Scent of BloodThe Sweet Scent of Blood by Suzanne McLeod

Genevieve is the only sidhe fae in London and has a traumatic past involving vampires, which we readers learn about in flashbacks throughout the story. She works as a spellcracker, removing hexes from objects. There are two ways she can remove a spell. She can “crack” the spell, thereby destroying both the spell and the object, or she can absorb it into herself, which carries its own problems. As the story begins, a celebrity vampire stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, Melissa. The vampire’s father hires Genny to examine Melissa’s body for evidence of magic. His theory is that someone killed Melissa with a spell and then made it look like a vampire attack.

Or at least that’s the ostensible plot. As it happens, Genny never does examine Melissa’s body, instead becoming embroiled in a tangled power struggle among several powerful vampires. Any of them could be a suspect, and all of them crave the rare, tasty sidhe blood that runs in Gen’s veins.

The Sweet Scent of Blood has a promising beginning. Suzanne McLeod introduces several original concepts. One is her version of the vampire creation myth, which is unique and yet slots so neatly into classical mythology that it feels like it was always there. Another is the connection between magic and diet. If a witch eats too much salt, it blocks her powers, but eating sugar enhances them, to the point that many witches gain large amounts of weight trying to boost their abilities.

Unfortunately, it then devolves into a middle that is both sagging and extremely confusing. One (lengthy) scene in particular stands out, in which a huge number of just-introduced characters engage in a posturing contest using magic that isn’t clearly explained to the reader. Just trying to figure out what’s actually happening is hard enough. When trying to keep track of all the new characters at the same time, it becomes a huge headache. One is left with the feeling of having picked up book three by accident, rather than book one. In fact, I have started series in the middle and been less confused than I was by The Sweet Scent of Blood. I spent much of this book not knowing what was going on, or how Genny drew some of the conclusions she did.

Some — but not all — of the confusing elements are explained at the end. It was too little too late for me, though, and didn’t quite make up for the feeling of being lost for several hundred pages. Sadly, I cannot recommend The Sweet Scent of Blood.

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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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