Review of “Blood Tears,” by Denise K. Rago

Amazon/Barnes & Nobles/Goodreads

   ***I received a complimentary copy of this novel, in exchange for an honest, fair, critical review of the book. Please look into reading this book, if you’re interested in this genre of fiction, and do not allow my review to monopolize your own interest in the story. This is only one subjective perspective of the story among many different perspectives and reactions other readers will have***

Written with finely detailed, mostly competent prose, the sequel to Immortal Obsession, Blood Tears, serves as a continuation of this theme of exploring the mysterious relationship vampires can share with certain types of human beings.  The main romantic relationship in this novel that is mostly focused upon is the strange romantic relationship the vampire Christian shares with mortal Amanda, who from the first novel we learn has a very special type of blood, offering a rare immunity to a certain detested affliction of theirs (sorry, no spoilers permitted in this review). The story picks up right away, with the repercussions to what occurred in the first novel’s action-packed, dramatic conclusion. Pacing-wise, the story moves along fairly quickly, and it is definitely a very engrossing tale, with a few interesting reflections on the strange enigma of human and vampire relationships. In novels like Twilight, this dynamic became hackneyed, and just a disposable Harlequin plot device. In Blood Tears, the relationship these vampires have with certain types of mortals, endowed with psychic abilities of some kind, offers a more feasible reason, as to why vampires like Christian or Michel, and many others, may find themselves letting certain humans into their world of sorts.

Sadly, all the intriguing insights that this novel presents is the one redeeming factor of a story that otherwise falters with both its fairly vapid female characters and mostly formulaic, trope-recycled plot line. Many of the male characters are enigmatic, captivating, even if the main vampire character Christian sometimes does come across, increasingly, throughout the pages of your typical vampire, fixated on their morose ruminations about their life, and the way they recklessly feel love for a mortal being. Christian also has the same predictable hangups about this neurotic need to protect Amanda at  all costs. In the first novel, these things were fine, as these elements felt more like they were a natural part of a beginning of a difficult relationship between a vampire and a human being. Yet Amanda comes across as rather petulant, whiny, as she incessantly harps on wanting to get into danger, and Christian just obstinately refuses to put her in the line of danger. For any veteran to the vampire genre, this far-too-common plot contrivance is overused these days in vampire stories, from Joss Whedon’s television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books, to even Deborah Harkness’ Discovery of Witches. 

In defense of Deborah Harkness, she uses this trope as a way to expertly strengthen the main character’s relationships, providing a means to create very dynamic characters, who begin as traditional archetypes, only to grow beyond them in the last novel. Both Diane (a witch)  and Matthew (a vampire) actually have to examine these behavior types, while in the midst of several well-developed arguments between both of them, as an important element of any romantic relationship is using disagreements in the relationship as a plot device to hopefully allow the characters to progressively grow beyond their initial archetypal roles. Also, their clashing personalities, which could have been kept to their archetypal molds, allow their relationship to further deepen and become truly alchemical, in the way they forge trust and deep love/admiration for one another.

Within Buffy, Joss Whedon and the team of talented writers for that show were always conscious of the way that a plot, involving a romantic relationship of some kind between a vampire and human, can quickly become very silly and cloying, if the writers don’t inject some needed humor or witticism at the right moments. In Anne Rice’s novels, the relationship between vampires and humans, as a whole, are hindered by the fact that vampires often are unconsciously drawing the human victims to them, in order to make them into their next blood kin. Most of the time though, Anne’s vampires want to imbibe that person’s energy, feed on that person’s memories, to allow for the transient experience of feeling human.

The problem with this trope, though, as with the case of Blood Tears, it can quickly become fairly uninteresting in the course of the story. This same problem plagued another vampire novel, entitled The Raven by: Sylvain Reynard, where the same overused tropes were used for the main characters, who were romantically involved  with each other. Of course, my larger problem is that many of the female characters in this story have fairly stereotypical personalities. For example, Amanda comes across sometimes as stiff, petty, vapid, even though she supposedly is a well-educated woman, who happens to have a very good career at an art museum. Same thing goes for Gabrielle, who is meant to be seen as a rather beguiling, imposing personality, who you’d think could be a fascinating female character with power and potential, but she comes across as not just petty, but predictably spiteful and vindictive. If you are a good woman in this story, you are just mildly petulant and stubborn, but if you have a past of being a bit more morally complex, or a woman with some definable strength of some kind, or position of power, you are spiteful and vindictive.  In sequels, you’d expect just a bit more character growth, and many of these character traits felt at least more like flaws in the first novel, but the fact that these traits remain for the female characters without any sign of growth beyond them, at any point in the sequel,  felt very disappointing.

Also, the novel had potential, with its focus on the art of the French Revolution and even the history of the events preceding it , and a story-line involving an ancient class of vampire royals (cloaked in mystery and secrecy) to really offer something fresh,interesting to this genre of storytelling. I really hate being critical in reviews, but I feel that you cannot just write purely effusive reviews, when deep down that is definitely not what you’re feeling, as you read the book.

In order to make sure, I remain slightly more positive by the end of this review, I wanted to thank Denise K. Rago for again permitting me the opportunity to both read and review this story.  The prose is very competent for the most part, and the story is both very readable and engaging. I think many readers, who have not read the wide array of vampire stories I’ve read in the last decade may be much more forgiving of the glaring flaws I saw in terms of a plot and set of characters who feel disappointingly flat and stale. Many of these elements are really very easily recognizable tropes, and I do feel that the special quirk of Blood Tears and its first novel was the interesting dynamics of the mortal/vampire characters, which did sometimes have some interesting deviations from what is normally seen in many other vampire stories. The humanity of all the characters of the story, for that reason was a refreshing change from the typical overly stiff, regal, or flagrantly impulsive vampire character, or the timid/carefree/ largely stupid human character.

Nonetheless, I still recommend this book for readers, who are newcomers to this genre of fiction. You may find something more riveting or fascinating than I was able to, as a veteran to this genre of fiction, who has read far too many vampire stories to be able to read without feeling circumspect, and just generally picky about the story. I was expecting something more philosophical, cerebral, experimental, progressive than this. Perhaps, I have been spoiled by authors like Deborah Harkness and Anne Rice, who have been able to use tropes, as a means to deepen the development of their characters, and not as a means to easily find a workable plot for a vampire story.

   Due to the length of the above review, I will be posting my interview with author Denise K. Rago tomorrow evening, as a separate post, along with important information about the next Lestat Book Coven chat.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Marianne says:

    you may be a great recent, and a great writer,but hopefully you know that some readers will not agree with you, and i can say that i read books from a real young age, and my taste goes out to all supenatural, sience fiction to simple romans, and raving madness, but i do know that Denise.K.Rago will write a super novel!!


    1. That’s fine, Marianne, I always make sure to remind people that my reviews only represent one perception of a book among many. Glad that you really enjoyed the book! It was very entertaining, for the most part!


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