Reviewed: November 17, 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: World of the Lupi, Book 3
Rating: 4.5 stars
Length: 338 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Magical Crimes Division FBI agent and touch-sensitive Lily Yu and her Chosen mate Rule Turner, Lu Nuncio of the Nokolai lupi clan are in Washington DC as Lily works with the Secret Service to identify potential demon possession following the events of Mortal Danger (The World of the Lupi, Book 2). It's been five weeks since Lily got Rule out of Dis and brought dragons back to the world, not that the dragons stuck around once they returned. Rule is still struggling with an imbalance between he and his wolf and dealing with latent emotions over failing and losing the Other Lily, but as Christmas approaches, Lily has sprung an early present on Rule and takes time out of her handshaking duties to take him to the symphony. Cynna Weaver is also in DC, between cases at the moment but driven by a sudden sense of disquiet to get out of her hotel room and wander the cold city streets. Cullen is further away, off...doing whatever it is Cullen does when he's traipsing around the world, but mostly trying to find those ever elusive dragons. He has so many questions!
Each of them, and the whole of the rest of the world, are minding their own business, doing their own thing, living their own lives, when a powerful magical wind blows across the planet, surging from the nodes to whirl through and stir up all manner of magical phenomena before disappearing again with nary a whisper. Leaving everything in its wake changed.
Before Lily realizes the scope of what's happened, there's a large demon coming out of the shadows intent on killing Rule. A demon that shouldn't be able to be there at all. Soon it becomes clear that surviving the demon attack, while preferable to the alternative, is fraught with its own difficulties, and the four friends will have to come together not only to help out as the world starts to tip out of balance, but to stop Cynna's old mentor Jiri from using the increasingly strong magic winds to power a demonic army against the enemy of She who will not be named, the Lupi.
Eileen Wilks continues to amaze and astound with her World of the Lupi series. Fraught with peril, littered with danger, steeped in mythology and history, this series is setting itself far apart and above most in a well-populated genre and doing it with exceptional, twisted, complex plots full of originality and detail, and likable, three dimensional characters who are rich and real and full of culture and personality, driven by fierce pride, love, and honor, and ripe with their own foibles, peccadilloes, and damage.
Unlike the first two books in the series which dealt primarily with Lily and Rule, Blood Lines is more evenly balanced between the four characters, with an alternating third person point-of-view narrative that smoothly transitions between scenes and characters. Primary focus for the series are the female leads in the book, and while this one has been touted as more Cynna and Cullen's story, I actually felt that Cynna and Lily both were well represented and saw fairly equal page time, with their individual strengths and independent - though not necessarily mutually exclusive - plot threads supporting them. As in the first two books in the series, Rule and Cullen had scenes in which the narrative focused on them, but they tend to be fewer and further between than those of Lily and Cynna. I love Cullen, though, and beyond Grandmother Li Lei Yu, he's my favorite character in the series, and this book provided more of him than in the one previous, and offered up less damage to him than the first.
I continue to admire the blending and masterful weaving Wilks does with her plot threads, and the adept way she continues to define and explore her world for the readers, providing characters who are learning along with the reader and allowing more and more of the mythos and history of her world to come into focus as the story progresses. There were things in this book, plot threads connecting to things I'd forgotten about and accepted as unimportant from the first book, that started to fall into place in this one, issues that I hadn't thought to wonder about now being shown to be important. I love that. It's an amazingly unique and incredibly impressive skill to be able to weave a comprehensive story arc with that much attention to detail and it gives this series a very epic feel - something more often found in high fantasy books than in urban fantasy. Each of these books feel like another step up a giant and as yet not quite fully visualized (for the reader - I get the impression Wilks visualizes it just fine) staircase leading towards the enlightenment of the series arc and as I progress up the stairs, I become more and more anxious to reach the top. Even as I am more and more impressed with the journey and want to slow down to savor it.
I still have a few issues with the book and the series. At times the exposition and weighty history of the clans and the explanations Lily and Cynna always ask for (about every little thing) do the pacing of the books a slight disservice. There's so much glorious information and such fantastic culture, spirituality, history, and even religion to impart in these books that it does occasionally overwhelm me as a reader. Wilks is extremely conscientious about her characters, and through them her readers, learning and understanding her created world on a very visceral and real level. I can't say I'd change that, even if I had that sort of mystical power, but it does present moments when I feel almost buried under it all.
And I admit, once or twice I wanted to throttle Lily and Cynna and yell at them to shut up with the darn questions and just go with it. Because their questions are always answered. In detail. And they ask so darn many of them.
As I mentioned in my review of Tempting Danger (The World of the Lupi, Book 1) and now notice as more of a stylistic choice, Wilks tends to delve into the greatest and most minute detail when it comes to information but skims over the action, or cuts away as it commences and returns after it's done, only to explain it to the reader through - again - information exchanges instead of writing it for the readers to experience as it unfolds. My reading preferences lie with reading about it as it happens, so I'll never be totally thrilled with that aspect of this book or the series.
I'm more than happy with everything else, though. The characters, the plot, the amazing world building, mythos, and history of it all completely bowls me over every time I pick up a book in the series and start reading. It's not always the most comfortable read, and I can't say I love every little thing about it (beyond what I mentioned above, there are also a few more minor issues that I had with this book) but I deeply admire and respect Wilks for her ability to create it and thoroughly enjoy every delicious hour spent reading it.
Note: If you're new to the series, I strongly suggest you not start in the middle. I believe that you could, because certainly enough exposition is given to draw a reader into the series even with this third book. I read the letter to readers at the very beginning of the book, a letter from Lily Yu that reminds readers familiar with the series of the previous events, and also dips new readers into the world with a brief synopsis. A new reader could start here and at least have the facts of the previous books. I wouldn't recommend that, though. These books are full of the sort of details, layers, and connections that can only be truly appreciated if you start at the beginning and savor each piece as you go along, experiencing it with the characters you'll come to love. Trust me on this one.
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