Before I get into my review, I have to be up-front and admit that Cherie Priest and I entertained a strangely dysfunctional author-reader relationship with Bloodshot. I went into it extremely excited by the concept, but fully expecting to be disappointed. Not having read any of her previous work, I’m not sure why I felt such conflicting emotions, but it was a weird way to begin a read.
Although the book started off well, and seemed nicely paced, I found myself impatient with the narrative. Cherie’s writing has a very clean style that lends itself particularly well to the genre, and I quickly found myself engaged by the ‘voice’ of Raylene. Yet, at the same time, I found myself frustrated with the literary device of a first-person narrator.
After the first few chapters, I was sorely tempted to just put the book down, move onto something else, and then come back to it later. I knew that if I did that, though, I’d likely never come back to it – and as much as my subconscious was inexplicably sabotaging my own expectations, I really did want to read the story.
Anyway, I persevered, and finally realised what was bothering me about the novel – I simply liked Raylene more as a narrator than I did as a character. Fortunately, I also realised what it was about the novel that ultimately managed to draw me in and keep me reading – the supporting characters ultimately ganged up on my subconscious and won me over.
The blind vampire, Ian, seems like little more than a plot device at first, but he is slowly and subtly developed into a sympathetic character. For all his superhuman strength, his mental powers, and his immortality, his blindness makes him human. Our sympathy for Ian even extends to his ghoul of an assistant – a character who could have better developed (he only really begins to develop a distinct personality towards the end), but who still works to remind us that Ian is NOT human, no matter how sympathetic he seems.
As for the homeless children squatting in Raylene’s warehouse, I was initially annoyed by their presence. The last thing I figured this story needed was a pair of brats who would serve only to get into danger and allow Raylene to betray the human compassion beneath her vampire exterior. Much to my delight, Pepper and Domino turned out to be decent characters on their own, and while Cherie uses their situation to heighten the tension, she never succumbs to the temptation to exploit them as a plot device.
What really sold me on the novel, though, was the introduction of Raylene’s drag queen sidekick. Yeah, I know, are you really surprised? Both an ex-Seal and an ex-son (his parents disowned him out after discovering a feather boa in his closet) who is looking for answers in the disappearance of his sister-turned-vampire, Adrian is by far the most complex and most interesting character in the novel. We first meet ‘him’ in full drag mode, bitchy and catty, and read to take the stage. We even get to enjoy a bit of his show, before he’s forced to lead Raylene on a crazy high-heeled escape through some of the nastiest back alleys in fiction. It would have been far too easy to play him as a caricature, but he’s as nasty as a man as he is naughty as a woman, and there’s a clear distinction between roles/personalities.
I think the plot could have benefited from a little less CIA silliness and a little more vampire nastiness, but that’s a personal preference. There is nice twist at the end when it’s revealed who is behind Project Bloodshot, but I think exploring that a little earlier on would have really given the story some edge. As it is, we’re left to ponder that twist and wonder how Cherie will tackle it in Raylene’s next adventure.
As for a next adventure, so long as Adrian is along for the ride, I just might be willing to entertain a sequel . . . but I’m not so sure Raylene could carry it on her own.