Blood Shade (aka vampire) Reylan has had a hell of a time recently. Jorgas, his lupine lover, has abandoned him without so much as a by-your-leave. Ross, another lupine, died saving Reylan. And now, the zealous Scimitars of Light are out to destroy Blood Shades, Flesh Masters, Shapers, the Mutilated, and all other manner of supernatural beings. Reylan ranks high on the list of “most wanted” for his romance with Jorgas and finds extremely powerful and deadly adversaries literally popping up out of nowhere.
Seriously outgunned, Reylan has no choice to but seek the help of a powerful organization called the Arcadia Trust. As he tries to piece together how the Scimitars are executing their attacks, he manages to get one of their own fighters to cooperate with his effort—a young man named Luca, who just happens to be a relation of Ross’ with a powerful mix of supernatural powers. Even with the cooperation of the Arcadia Trust, the Scimitar attacks grow in frequency and intensity. Reylan finds the most unexpected help: a priest named Iain. But there is far more than meets the eye with the curious, collected priest, who takes the revelation of supernatural beings roaming the streets of Sydney with aplomb. Despite the danger, Iain proves handy in tracking down Luca when the youth runs away…not to mention a powerful distraction from the Scimitar attacks. Just as Iain gains Reylan’s trust—and perhaps a whole lot more—the truth about his supernatural origins begins to slip out. Reylan and Iain will have a lot to discuss, provided they can survive the onslaught of Scimitar forces.
First, a few housekeeping notes. Sins of the Son is the third book in the Arcadia Trust series; per the author, this book can be read as a standalone novel. Having not read the previous books myself, I can attest that there is plenty to enjoy about Sins of the Sons without having any prior knowledge of the characters or their world…save, perhaps, a firm grasp on what kind of being everyone supernatural actually is. The three major categories are eventually cleared up: Blood Shades are vampires, Flesh Masters are werewolves, Shapers are warlocks. There are a couple others, but if there is a common name for them (chiefly Mannequin and Cloak Walker), I am at a loss for what that might be. Plus five points for creativity, minus two points for poor execution.
The highlight of the book for me was the relationship that develops between Reylan and Iain. Baines makes it clear that Reylan had a lover, a werewolf named Jorges, who abandoned him and that Reylan clearly still has deep feelings for the MIA shifter. This is part of the reason I was so rapt with the way the relationship between Reylan and Iain develops. Reylan initially sees Iain as someone needing help and Reylan, despite his coolly aloof attitude, is a sucker for a guy in need. What starts as a cautious offer from Reylan to help Iain develops into something more. I found this particularly riveting because it feels like Reylan is never going to give up on Jorges, but he might lose his heart to Iain. For fear of spoiling things, let’s just said there is far, far more to Iain than merely being a magical priest—it’s both scintillating and a little heartbreaking. It’s a long, slow build up, but I know I’ll be mulling over Reylan-Iain-Jorges for a while.
More than just about anything else, Sins of the Son offers action. Much on-page time is dedicated to describing battles between Reylan and various “baddies” sent by the Scimitars. As a newcomer to the series (and jumping in at book 3), I appreciated how Baines structured the first-person narrative. Reylan’s comments during the battle helped me understand what is and is not deadly to Blood Shades in this universe. A side effect of the commentary on what weapons/attacks would cause Reylan serious problems, however, was a seemingly constant stream of baddies with weapons that wounded Reylan in unexpected ways. The first few comments from Reylan about “geez, that wounds not healing like it should, this fight is going to be hard” ramped up the drama factor. Unfortunately, these types of injuries happen constantly and there is little follow-up about if/how/when the wounds heal. Ultimately, this had a desensitizing effect. By the time the Really Big Battles roll out at the end, I had a hard time judging just how much trouble Reylan and the others were having.
The frequent fighting in the book serves not only as a way to escalate the action (the baddies get increasingly more powerful/increase in numbers), but also a way to grow the supporting cast. The sheer volume of violence forces Reylan to seek help from more and more places—an estranged friend, his former Blood Shade mentor, the lady from the diner… With each addition to the cast, we get a little hint of what transpired in the previous books. Personally, I thought this approach to filling in backstory was hit or miss. The estranged friend worked well enough because the attacks brought Reylan and his friend back together. The lady from the diner worked just fine because she occupied only a minor role in the story. Ross was a miss because there was nothing to demonstrate the depth of friendship Ross and Reylan shared (Ross apparently died to save Reylan…but that’s literally all we know about it) or to flesh out why Ross’s association with Reylan so angered his Scimitar family. That said, for those who have read the previous books (and assuming the whole Ross thing is laid out in detail there), I think limiting the mentions of Ross to “he died to save a friend” would be pretty effective at evoking all the emotions of his arc (note to self: read books 1 and 2).
Overall, I would agree with the author’s opinion that it can be read as a standalone and still be plenty enjoyable—especially for fans of action and paranormal/vampire stories.