Last of the Backlog
Clearly, I'm going to have to step up my short story game. I'm almost out of material after only five posts. So I'm going back in time, to January of 2009.
I picked up First Blood just about this time last year, but I was pretty burned out on anthologies after my big antholopalooza event, so it took me awhile to get around to reading it. Even then, I homed in on the Meljean Brook story and just skipped the others. Maybe I'll cover one of those next week....
Anyhoo, Meljean's short stories were some of my favorites from last year's event. Between "Falling for Anthony" (Hot Spell) and "Paradise" (Wild Thing) Brook made a huge leap in the art of the novella. FFA wasn't a bad story by any means, but as I said in my review, there were places where it felt a bit like stuff was missing, like it had been intended as a full-length book and then stripped down. And the series proper seemed to depend more on events that happened in FFA which left me a little confused, because I read the full length books first and then caught up on the shorts.
Paradise, on the other hand, was a tight story that not only stands on its own, but if you skip it, the full length books don't contain confusing references either and that's a lesson learned that carried on over into "Thicker Than Blood."
Thicker Than Blood
You don't have to be a Meljean devotee to enjoy TTB. Although the story fits seamlessly into the series arc, the world-building is just enough to set the scene for this story, and if you only like the full length books, and skip it? You won't be left wondering about references.
While this story is full of details about what it's like to be a vampire in Brook's world, the really stunning part is the romance. Like most novellas, the conflict is simplified: how do you make it work between a "normal" human (whatever that is) and an undead vampire? TTB is an intensely emotional story about love lost and then found again; about how to be strong and how to be vulnerable; and-- since it's a paranormal-- also about kicking some powerfully evil ass against staggering odds.
Annie is a character I fell in love with. She needs to protect the human family she loves but aches every day for what she lost with them. She faces the Really Big Bad with no real expectation of surviving, but has a powerful need to protect others weaker than she is. It's hard to explain, but my heart just broke for how sad and lost she was at the beginning of the story.
If you like Meljean Brook, or good short fiction, or fun PNR/UF stories--and of course, wonderful romance-- this one has you covered on all fronts.