Blood and Rain opens in present day with Adrien Gilbert mourning the loss of his missing love, the vampire Nicholas Lambert. He knows Nicholas is out there somewhere, but they have been unable to find their way back to each other.
We then jump back to 1896, where Adrien’s brother Francois has fallen in love with vampire Charles Duvalier. Charles cares for Francois as well, but his blood lust is getting stronger and he knows it is time to leave Saint-Gervais before he hurts someone. But Francois is unwilling to lose the man he loves, insisting Charles take him along. When the blood lust overcomes Charles and he ends up turning Francois into a vampire, their lives all change.
Francois and Adrien are hunters from a long family line sworn to help protect the world from vampires who break the uneasy truce between vampires and humans. With Francois’ death, the hunter council taps Adrien to step into his place and to kill Charles in retribution. Adrien doesn’t realize Francois is not dead, but in fact a vampire, and he sets out to carry out his duty and avenge his brother’s death.
Months pass and Adrien is no closer to finding Charles, until he meets Jean and Nicholas Lambert. Nicholas is to be married to a member of the rival vampire clan as a way to forge peace between the feuding families. In exchange for helping get Nicholas safely to his new home, the brothers will help Adrien finally track down Charles.
But all is not what it seems, and certainly not what Adrien first believes. The relationship between Charles and Francois is truly one of love. The hunters he has always believed in and trusted may not all really be on the side of peace. Jean’s motives for seeing Nicholas married may be different than he has said. And in the meantime, Adrien is falling for Nicholas, a vampire he knows he can never have. War is clearly coming, between the vampire clans as well as between the vampires and the hunters. With nothing quite as simple as it appears, Adrien must fight for his life and the lives of those he loves.
Blood and Rain is the first book in Shira Anthony’s new Blood series and it is a really interesting take on the vampire story. This is obviously a genre that has been done many times, but Anthony has a really creative approach to her world building here. The vampire mythology, the connection between the hunters and the vampires, the role of the ancients, all of these elements are really cleverly built and we end up with a world different from any I have read. The various powers and abilities, the origins of the vampires, and the different roles of hunters, vampires, and immortals were all quite interesting. I particularly liked the vampire/hunter link and the way this connection plays out in their powers, in their politics, and their relationships.
As well done as I think this world building is, I did struggle a bit with the complexity. There is so much going on here as we follow the journeys of both Nicholas and Adrien, as well as Charles and Francois. This story is just dense, filled with politics and schemes and various vampire/hunter lore that I didn’t always totally follow, to be honest. I sometimes felt overwhelmed with just the sheer volume of information and detail and there is just a lot going on here. As I said, we follow the stories of both of these couples (despite the blurb, Francois and Charles get almost equal time in the book), and we are given viewpoints of all four men. We jump around among them frequently, sometimes within very short periods as their stories intersperse, which at times had me needing to reorient myself a bit as to whose POV we were in. There are also many side characters with various connections, and it was sometimes hard to keep track of who knew who, how they were connected, and who were allies or enemies. I think this is a side effect of the really creative and detailed world Anthony has built, but I did find it overwhelming at times.
My bigger issue here is that I had trouble really connecting with these couples, especially Adrien and Nicholas. When the story starts, Francois and Charles are already in love, so we don’t ever really see their relationship develop. They are separated a lot in the story, and there is a lot of emotional distance at times when they are together. However, as they go through their various trials, I could see the love between much more, and they were the couple that felt the strongest to me.
We start the story in present day where we learn about Adrien and his lost love. To be honest, I was expecting something really sweeping and romantic based on this start, but it never really comes. We jump immediately back to the past and it takes a while for the men to even meet, and once they do, we see no relationship development between them at all, beyond acquaintances. We are told at one point about Adrien’s attraction to Nicholas, and that Nicholas has grown to care for Adrien. But we don’t see it at all — no building of friendship, no romantic tension, no sexual heat. It isn’t until close to the end that we even see these men as a couple, and by then I just couldn’t connect with them because I never got the build of their feelings for one another. It probably doesn’t help that Adrien was hard for me to like. He is petulant and stubborn and thinks he knows everything already, even as it is clear that he is very sheltered and naive, both about his abilities and what is really going on between vampires and hunters. I just kind of felt like we were told these men were in love, but I could never feel it.
The story ends kind of abruptly for all the slow build and I found myself confused about what was really happening at the end. We see everyone apparently settled, or at least a temporary resolution to the conflict. Then we are back in the present and get vague references to the fact that Nicholas is lost (in time?) and that he and Adrien had been separated, but it is not made clear what happened after we leave the 1890s to cause the separation between them. This is the first book of the series and I assume those answers will come. But it was frustrating to go through the entire book and have the separation happen essentially after the story ends and never learn what caused it.
So I found myself with really mixed feelings here. There were elements of this story that I really liked. I found Charles and Francois really sympathetic and sweet, and I was happy to see them make it together. And I really enjoyed Anthony’s world building and think she brought a lot of creativity and cleverness to the vampire story. But I found the book very dense and complex, almost overwhelmingly so at times. And I really didn’t feel a connection between Adrien and Nicholas, the two men meant to be the stars of the show. So some positives and some negatives here for me, but overall an interesting story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.