Queen of the Blood by Jill Myles
Description From Publisher:
For one hundred years, Seri’s people have lived under the thumb of the Blood, the cruel and mysterious rulers of Athon. Seri wants nothing more than to put food on the table and marry the hotheaded but handsome Rilen come spring. But when a noblewoman asks Seri to be her handmaiden, Rilen insists she move to the enemy’s castle . . . and spy on the newly arrived prince.I picked up an e-arc of this care of netgalley.com. I have mixed feelings about his book. I saw the description during class and it really hit all of my cat nip points. I love a brooding hero, I like vampires, I like fantasy, and I love a weird religious structure. This book had all of those. In the end I absolutely could not put it down. I downloaded it when I got home from class and started reading before bed. I stayed up til 2:30am finishing it.
After a century, Prince Graeme has grown weary of his family’s curse. The Blood are powerful, but doomed to live in the shadows, flitting from lover to lover, always in search of the mythic Eterna—the one woman who will sate their hunger. Now his father has sent him to the outskirts of the empire to stamp out a rebellious Vidari faction. But when a wild and alluring Vidari girl shows up at court, he finds himself torn between following his father’s orders and following his heart . . .
A war is brewing between Athonite and Vidari, between Blood and man. As uprisings sweep through the land, Seri and Graeme find themselves at the center of a storm with only one choice: betray each other, or betray their people.
While it was a bit heavy handed, I really enjoyed the structure of this world. Essentially the rulers of Athon are cursed with "The Blood" which makes them vampires. But they aren't really "undead" they just drink blood, don't age and can't go into the sunlight.
The Athonians have a high court of bitchery and scandal, in that respect this book was similar to other high fantasies and romances with a lot of haute ton drama. There are an assortment of courtly ladies vying for the prince's affection. One of them, Lady Mila, decides to hire a goosegirl from the impovershed and oppresed local people to act as her handmaiden. It's a callous attempt to gain stature in the court. Unfortunetly for Lady Mila, she gets our heroine Seri, who is actually destined to be the first Eterna.
This is where some of the mythology gets heavy handed. Essentially the princes of the Blood are cursed with a hunger for women's blood (it's always that they feed from women lovers, I don't know what would happen if they just had feeders or were in love with men). After a few months he becomes "immune" to her blood and it doesn't taste good any longer. I disliked the title "Eterna" as in eternal mate, it just seemed needlessly heavy handed. There is also part of the mythology where none of the men of the blood can have daughters, they can only have sons. The Eterna is supposed to have daughters to save their race? I was unclear about why this would happen or what the point was.
The thing that kept me reading was the romance. The plot reminded me a bit of a marriage of convenience. Neither Graeme nor Seri had any romantic attachments before the Goddess signaled that they were to be married. Because of that we have two people from very different backgrounds, she is very poor, trying to make something about of this new forced circumstance. This is complicated further by the fact that they have a "bond." As in they can feel each other's emotions. I thought that this would be really annoying, I have read this trope before, but I actually thought it helped with the will they won't they aspect of the book. Each one is pulling away from this forced marriage, but they have this inescapable God-forged emotional bond. They also can't keep their hands of one another as well. The intense sexual attraction, augmented by the emotional bond and his need to feed on her blood created a really interested romantic entanglement.This is what kept me reading.
What almost had me stop was two things. The first was that I felt like Seri could not do anything right, she was constantly making the wrong choice. Now I don't mind a heroine who makes mistakes, but I felt that all the characters around her were being very harsh on her for making this mistakes. As a poor country girl who has been forced to marry a blood drinking prince whose father really is oppressing her people, I wasn't sure what they wanted her to do? Just instantly trust her new husband and all of the terrible Athonian nobles?
The second thing that I didn't like was the way the revolution was depicted. There were times when I was sympathizing with the "bad" rebels far more than the "good" rulers. I think that the author was trying to show the worst of each society and that the couple would need to come together in order to rule. It was only when they worked together respecting each other's customs that they could forge a sucessful peace. I'm not sure all of the pieces of the plot worked together to communicate that.
Regardless, I would recommend. It was a fun quick read and a really solid re-imagining of the vampire myth.
3 out of 5 Geese