They call it Deadtown: the city's quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its borders - but Victory Vaughn, Boston's only professional demon slayer, isn't exactly human...
Boston's diverse South End is known for its architecture and great restaurants, not its body count. So when mutilated human corpses begin turning up in the area, the entire city takes notice. The killer-dubbed the South End Reaper-uses a curved blade for his grisly work. And even though there's no real evidence pointing to a paranormal culprit, the deaths are straining the already-tense relations between Boston's human and inhuman residents.
As the bodies pile up, Vicky, her formidable aunt, Mab, and her werewolf boyfriend, Kane investigate, only to find that the creature behind the carnage is after something much more than blood...
Nancy Holzner’s Bloodstone is not a breakout novel. This is something literary agent, Donald Maass describes in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel. It is a novel that breaks a writer into the publishing world and gets them noticed by a large audience. Holzner has written her breakout novel. She did that when she wrote Peace, Love, and Murder. Now, in Bloodstone her main character wields a sword meant to entice the most bored of crowds not just draw a little attention. Her name is Victory Vaughn, and she carries a generous sword that can take down a demon as wide as car, or as tall as house.
She’s a shapeshifter, which means she can become anything, anytime, but it has serious consequences. It means Victory has to be one smart lady. She is, because she has been trained by the best, her Aunt Mab. This sweet aunt is a favorite character of mine in the book, because not only could she kick some serious demon butt, but also she has time to be classy. Listen to this comment she makes to Victory in the book.
“That’s no excuse. Character shines brightest when no one’s watching.”
I have an aunt like this, and she is still trying to out smart demons, except she has some notion about a bible and Sunday school with her plan. Holzner continues to breathe fire into all of her characters. Victory has a handsome werewolf boyfriend, named Kane whose powerful forest scent stayed with me long after the moon was full. Her roommate and apprentice could be either a zombie, or a vampire. I won’t say which because it was too much fun for me when I found out. However, there was both a vampire and zombie friend in her life. As for her family, other than Mab, her sister (Gwen) led a normal life, which made a great Shakespearean dynamic contrast to Victory’s ‘other’ life fighting demons.
As for the bad guys, and I can’t say a lot about them without giving too much away because revealing who they are does give the plot up. I will say this, they are dark and whenever one of them stepped into a scene the tone changed to deep baritone. They felt like something drawn out of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. They were that scary to me. The balance between the good guys and bad was one between the hyperreal (good) and the unreal (bad – what you REALLY didn’t want to believe). Holzner is a master of characterization, and the Reaper is a real surprise.
So, characterization works, but other things worked for me. For example, believability is a huge factory in making this story work. This is urban fantasy with zombies, vampires, werewolves, demons, trolls and wizards. On one side of town live the normal folk, us and on the other, the weirdoes, the fun folk – or not so fun, if they start turning all reaper-like as in this book.
In the end, there isn’t one stone left unturned, where I’m now asking questions like if there are zombies running free in Boston why aren’t they eating brains? Holzner took care of that for me, and you won’t believe how little it resembles the Walking Dead. That might be my favorite show on TV right now, and I loved Holzner’s zombies as much as theirs. And it wasn’t just the little things she paid attention to like the zombies, the final act was mesmerizing. She had an incredible twist of history to her main plot at the end. It unfolded centuries of time. Holzner weaved them into present day Boston with a flawless seam. The detail involved in the ending blew me away.
After believability, another thing that worked for me was her ability to never lose tension. It was everywhere, in the dialogue, exposition, and even in Victory’s dreams. It just kept coming at me - fire-breathing brilliance. It’s one of those books so rich you want to read it fast, but you don’t want it to end. I had to force myself to take a week to read it.
I highly recommend it!
I like to also mention that Holzner is a personal favorite author of mine and she has moved to a larger publisher. I want to wish her a big congratulations and a well-deserved success. You can find Nancy at http://nancyholzner.wordpress.com/.
You can find Bloodstone at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.