Taken in as an orphan, Hiro considers himself lucky to live in relative comfort as a geisha. Yes, he must sing for men he would rather not, but he doesn’t service them further and his talent brings honor to his okiya. And then he meets samurai Hideyoshi, a seemingly cold man about whom dark stories are told. Hiro finds himself intrigued by Hide, but his well ordered life is destroyed by a cruel man determined to claim Hiro for himself.
Driven by the need for revenge, Hiro becomes a youkai, a monster to some, granted an immortal life at a terrible price. With Hide at his side, Hiro must navigate the world anew and discover the truth of himself. But with their enemies growing closer, Hide and Hiro must become leaders in a time of lawlessness.
I think in some ways I enjoyed Blood Pact more than its predecessor. The story felt more defined and purpose driven and certainly Hiro was a compelling protagonist. His bond with Hideyoshi doesn’t always seem fully developed, but I think a part of that stems from how many changes both characters go through during the book.
The author doesn’t shy away from the darker side of who and what Hiro and Hide are. They’re monsters and they do monstrous things, but neither of them has completely sacrificed the last of their humanity. That kept them from becoming so alien that I could no longer connect with their struggle to survive.
I do wish as readers we knew more about the Youkai and what specific powers they have. It’s one of those things that seems nebulous and not particularly well defined, so it can be hard to fully understand them. They’re vampire-like, but I think that’s probably too simple a designation for them. I hope this is something author continues to explore as I think this area needs fleshing out. The overall world building is muddled as well. History overlaps with fantasy and occasionally they blend, though not always as smoothly or effortlessly as they should. Still, there’s enough to make sense of most things so while I wanted more, I didn’t find myself overly confused. There is a dictionary in the back of the book that helps with translation of the many Japanese phrases and honorifics and I found myself referring to it more than once.
Blood Pact was a more than worthy successor to Bloodlaced and it sets up what could be a very interesting third novel. There’s a lot to like about Blood Pact and, while it wasn’t perfect, I think if you enjoy unusual twists on the paranormal, then you’ll find this one worth your time.