Book Review: Blood Rights (House of Comarré #1) by Kristen Painter

9571401Title: Blood Rights (House of Comarré #1)
Author: Kristen Painter
Genre: Young Adult, Vampires, Paranormal Romance, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: October 1st 2011
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Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.
Rating: 4 stars

The lacy gold mapped her entire body. A finely-wrought filigree of stars, vines, flowers, butterflies, ancient symbols and words ran from her feet, up her legs, over her narrow waist, spanned her chest and finished down her arms to the tips of her fingers.Born into a life of secrets and service, Chrysabelle’s body bears the telltale marks of a comarré—a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. When her patron is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect, which sends her running into the mortal world…and into the arms of Malkolm, an outcast vampire cursed to kill every being from whom he drinks.

Now Chrysabelle and Malkolm must work together to stop a plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds. If they fail, a chaos unlike anything anyone has ever seen will threaten to reign.

Blood Rights is a classic example of excellent worldbuilding. The world Kristen Painter presents to her readers is very similar to our normal, everyday word, yet very different as well. There is a covenant in place protecting ordinary humans from seeing othernatural creatures like vampires, fae, shapeshifters and the likes. This book focuses mostly on the vampire part of this new world, although it occassionally mentions the other supernatural races as well. In the vampire world there are noble vampires, with some very prominent families whose names might ring a bell: the house of Tepes, the house of Bathory, the house of Rasputin, etc., all named after notorious bad guys everybody knows. These noble vampire houses each have a Dominus or leader of a house, in almost all cases a male, and an Elder, two very important positions each ambitious vampire wants to get their hooks on. There is also a class of non-noble vampires called fringe, who are looked down upon by all nobles. Although human blood is appealing to these vampires, what is even more appealing is comarré blood. Comarrés are a special race of people looking much alike humans but different in a way as well. For instance, they gain excessive amounts of blood in their body and can suffer from blood fever when not drained occassionally. They live extraordinary long lives much like vampires and they are stronger and faster than ordinary humans.

Chrysabelle, the main protagonist of this extraordinary book, is a comarré. She served her patron well for over a hundred years but yet when they found him dead, decapitated with a sword no vampire can touch and she has gone missing, all suspicions went straight to her. Although Chrysabelle admits to finding the body, she didn’t kill her patron. She ran away to escape him when he refused to even offer her the choice to leave at the Century Ball – a custom that’s been in place for over a millennium – but she never wanted him dead. As a runaway in a human world, Chrysabelle has no or little means of survival. Luckily enough her long-lost aunt Maris, who once was a comarré as well but fought for her freedom in an ancient ritual called libertas looks out for her. As Chrysabelle looks for aid at an address given to her by a trusted friend of her aunt, she runs into the vampire Malkolm, an outcast noble. Malkolm’s tale is probably as intriguing as Chrysabelle’s as she finds out that he is cursed. Double cursed, actually. He is forced to kill everyone he drains blood from and additionally is haunted by their voices inside his mind. All of the names of his victims are tatooed all over his body, and the constant struggle not to hear their voices is working on his sanity.

But as luck has it, Malkolm is exactly the one vampire on this entire world who could possibly help Chrysabelle as things turn from bad to worse. A powerful and ambitious opponent in the form of vampire noble Tatiana of the House of Tepes has set her eye on finding Chrysabelle, and more importantly, on finding the object she stole from her patron’s house on the fateful night of his murder. This object is the ring of sorrows and it is both notorious and feared as an object of great power, and a possible way to break the covenant. Tatiana will not stop at anything to retrieve this object, not even if that means killing everyone that stands in her way.

Along with Malkolm’s friends, the ghost Fiona – a girl who Malkolm killed and who reappeared as a ghost afterwards – and the shapeshifter Doc – who can only shape to a kitten – and some notorious members of the underworld, Chrysabelle must find a way to stop Tatiana, before she loses everything she holds dear and the world erupts into total chaos.

As I already mentioned, the worldbuilding in this book is nothing short of spectacular. That said, besides the main characters, we don’t get to know a lot about the other character’s personalities. I especially would have liked to learn more about Doc and Fi than their simple in-short life story. The main characters do have compelling personalities though. On the one side we have Chrysabelle, who reminded me of a calm river in spring time. She has a calming and soothing presence even when in the face of danger. Although at first-hand she appears to be pampered, being a comarré, living in a mansion and spending most of her days worrying about being entertaining, beautiful and pure of blood, but that turns out not to be the case. In fact, all comarrés are trained in secret to become powerful and strong enough to take out their masters when necessary. I have the feeling that this is towards a greater good or some goal, but as to what purpose we will have to wait till book two to find out. Chrysabelle is not only a skilled warrior, she is also the purest blood of her house, and her house is the purest of them all. So yes, when it comes to purity, Chrysabelle pretty much has got it all. But she’s not a Mary Sue character at all. Chrysabelle has a great many flaws as well. She trusts the wrong people, she lived a sheltered life that left her oblivious to human emotions such as love and attraction, and she spills around secrets like a highschool teenager. She practically spilled half of the century-old comarré secrets to her newfound friends in the course of only a couple of days.

Malkolm on the other hand, our resident vampire and love interest, is a different case alltogether. With his double curse weighing down heavily on him, he is dark, moody, mysterious and evidently attractive. It’s sad to say, but Mal really carries this book. Without him or his dark and haunting past, Blood Rights wouldn’t be have as interesting since Chrysabelle isn’t the most likable or entertaining character ever. Mal has very few people he trusts and enormous issues with getting a decent blood supply. So when a comarré – the purest blood imaginable – shows up at his doorsteps, you would think that he would be thrilled. And even if he couldn’t drain her like any decent vampire, because that would result in him killing her, he could at least drink her blood when served in a glass. But it’s more complicated than that. Her blood makes him more powerful and soothes his bloodlust alright, but it doesn’t last very long. The continuous battle between Chrysabelle and Mal about whether or not he should drink her blood makes for a lot of sexual tension. Did I also mention that afterwards they have to kiss, since Chrysabelle needs Mal’s saliva to remain powerful and young? The kisses are quite a dissapointment though. I was hoping that they would both at least enjoy it, but the first time all Mal feels is anger and the second time they both find the experience awkward. Pleasant, yes, but awkward. Not exactly the feeling I was hoping for.

What I do like about Mal and Chrysabelle’s relationship is that they step out of the regular patron-comarré submissive relationship, but that Mal threats her as an equal. Additionally, their relationship doesn’t develop at lightning speed, something that always annoys me. Main protagonist meets love interest and they hook up twenty pages later. Uh. Well, if real life worked that way we sure would have a lot of deep, meaningful relationships in our lifes…Sarcasm much, yes. Anyways, this is definately not the case in Blood Rights. The relationship between Mal and Chrysabelle builds up slowly and gradually, although the underlying tension is there from the moment they meet.

Now let me get to the two strong points of this novel, and the very reasons why I gave it a four star rating, besides the outstanding and original mythology. The first comes in the form of the book’s main villain, Tatiana. My god, does she make an intriguing and interesting villain. At least a fifth of the book is written in Tatiana’s point of view, and although I’ve heard some reviewers complain about this, those parts were actually my favorite parts of the book. Tatiana has a deep and dark past filled with guilt and shame and to get over that, she does with every self-respecting villain does. She aims for power, the highest power imaginable, and she’s willing to go through great lengths to achieve this, even putting herself in excruciating pain at the hands of immortal demons. She is a tragic character indeed. It is as if to get over her painful past she has to put herself at the top of the pyramid, as if so many wrongs have been done to her that’s the only way to make it right. As we learn more about Tatiana and the ruthless, cruel woman she is, we also learn more about why her greatest goal in life is the ambition to become the most powerful vampire of all. I have to say that by the end of the first book, I was both cheering for her and feeling sorry for her. Of course I’m not a fan of killing people or torturing them, like Tatiana occassionally does, but I am a fan of her personality, and in terms of villainy, she simply rocks.

The second strong point of this novel is the way it is written. I have difficulty describing the way Kristen Painter works her magic with words and sentences, but she turns them into this large flow of words that work perfectly together. She has a very distinct writing style that I could probably tell apart from other authors in a minute. I found her writing style very entertaining and enthralling, and it pulled me right into the story.

On the downside, as I already mentioned, some of the characters lack personalities or quircks that set them apart from others. This book is mostly plot-driven, but that doesn’t mean that some characters should behave or be portrayed like cardboard figures. On top of that, the storyline is pretty predictable. There are some twists and turns I didn’t see coming, but I knew the end result from halfway through the book. However, that didn’t keep me from reading though. Additionally, the setting is in the distant future, 2067 or something, and although some electronic devices of our nowadays world are still in use like cellphones and elevators, some stuff has been updated as well. However, the fact that this book is set in the future added little or nothing to the story. The characters still fight with medieval weapons like swords and crossbows, whereas they could be shooting high-tech pistols with silver bullets, or some originally devised weapons that could blast vampires into a million pieces. I did like the clash between vampire society – based on ancient rituals, alchemy, magic and powers, obviously still stuck in a world of centuries ago – and the human world, updated, new, fresh and advanced.

As a sidenote, I did put this book in the young adult category, since it can be read perfectly well by young adults. However, I have a feeling that this might not be the case for the other books in the series. The relationship between Mal and Chrysabelle is practically non-existent now, and besides some sexual tension and kisses, nothing more has happened, but I have a feeling this migth change.

Blood Rights is a perfectly enjoyable book for fans of urban fantasy or paranormal romance – although the romance isn’t that pertinent in this book, the fondation of romance is clearly present. The mythology and worldbuilding is nothing short but amazing and the plot is entertaining enough to keep you turning page after page to the end. Add a kick-ass heroine, a tormented, dark and mysterious love interest, some interesting side characters and a villain who could give Cruella DeVille a run for her money. I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good vampire story, and I’m definately looking forward to reading Flesh and Blood, the second book in the series.

This book counts towards the TBR Reading Challenge, Horror and Urban Fantasy Challenge and Immortal Reading Challenge.

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