FLESH AND BLOOD
(House of Comarre #2)
Adult Urban Fantasy
Orbit/Hachette Book Group
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Those born into the comarré life produced blood in rich, pure, powerful abundance...
With the Ring of Sorrows still missing, and the covenant between othernaturals and mortals broken, Chrysabelle and Malkolm’s problems are just beginning. Chrysabelle still owes Malkolm for his help, but fulfilling that debt means returning to Corvinestri, the hidden vampire city where neither is welcome.
This second installment in the House of Comarre series builds beautifully on the events of the first book, returning us to a blindingly gorgeous pair of opposites who, for all their differences, are both struggling to escape the confines of a life not of their choosing. Ms. Painter is extraordinarily aptly named–an artist exquisitely capable of crafting characters who are carefully rendered studies in contrasts–wielding black type on a white page as opposed to brushstrokes on a canvas but creating a work of art just the same. In this tale we begin to see some interesting shading take place, where Chrysabelle and Malkolm were pretty clearly delineated light and dark in book one we now begin to see them blend, highlights and lowlights combining to create a picture with more depth and detail than we saw previously, and we stand back appreciatively to search each new shade of gray for meaning we know is there waiting.
For all that Chrysabelle is glittering gold filigree to Malkolm’s tortured blackness, we get the pleasure of watching them tentatively step away from their opposite ends of the spectrum and hesitantly move toward middle ground and perhaps the comfort and sanctuary for which they’ve both long been searching. They are such stunning contradictions: the purity of the comarre versus the perceived stain of a cursed vampiric soul, with Chrysabelle's air of royalty and desired rank versus Malkom's displaced nobility making their pairing all the more fascinating to read as they slowly try to shed the roles that have defined them previously and find a new beginning. Watching as Chrysabelle flounders a bit trying to figure out who she is if not wholly and completely comarre and as Malkolm dares to put his faith in someone else when all the hands that received his love and loyalty previously have spread their fingers wide to let those gifts sift through is both exhilarating and painful, but their difficult journey ensures our unwavering interest through to the very end.
The introduction of a new possible romantic interest is initially a bit of a detraction to the overall story, our love for Malkolm based the time spent with him already as well as our knowledge of the brutal betrayals that make up his past forcing our hackles up as though he and Chrysabelle are ours to protect from any unwanted influence. Vampire slayer Creek is nearly impossible to dislike however, and Ms. Painter does an admirable job of not turning this story into a competition for Chrysabelle’s affections, but rather she works him into events in a way where his importance extends far beyond that of mere romantic foil character for the main couple. We know some things about him but certainly not all, and there is enough about him left in the unknown category to keep us on our guard and suspicious of his motives despite his status as an ally to both Malkolm and Chrysabelle.
As with Blood Rights, Flesh and Blood is teeming with interesting twists and turns, alliances made and dissolved quickly and easily to keep our minds churning as to exactly who we can trust, who could be playing us and those we care about, and who is the biggest bad of them all. Ms. Painter has a gift for writing characters who epitomize both good and evil but who also prove there are varying degrees to such categorization, making each classification far broader in scale than we might think before reading. We are left with not a cliffhanger per se, but definitely with events left unresolved and some very large questions looming so that our need to pick up the next book and start it is one that will not be ignored.