Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
Released: October 1, 2011
Series: House of Comarré #1
Source: Orbit / netGalley
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.
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Blood Rights is the first Kristen Painter novel I’ve read. Her work has been published as e-books since 2009 but I’d never heard of her until the blogosphere started buzzing about Blood Rights, the first book in her House of Comarré series. After reading a couple of reviews, I was intensely curious about the series and was fortunate enough to get an e-galley from Orbit.
The world of the House of Comarré is fantastic. The author has done a wonderful job of infusing politics and intrigue into a supernatural setting while creating a mythology that feels really fresh. Set about fifty years in the future in a world where the supernatural are hidden from humankind, rich members of vampire nobility can purchase the blood rights of a comarré, a human from a special race who’s been prepared from birth for the role. Vampires get fantastic, pure blood and the comarré stop aging as a result of vampiric saliva, resulting in some incredibly long-lived characters. Despite this, the relationship between patron and comarré is remarkably non-sexual, and this is one of the features that really intrigued me. A lot of series out there have feeding be sexual and it’s cool that Kristin Painter decided to go in a different direction and have sexual relationships between vampires and their lovely food sources be unusual.
Another aspect of the mythology that I really liked is that there are five main houses of vampires. Named after famous historical figures (some believed to be vampires, some not), each House has its own special gift based on their originator. The House of Tepes heralds back to Vlad Tepes, the original Dracula, and are based in Romania. They’re a pretty darn bloodthirsty group. Their gift is hypnotic persuasion, but it only works on humans and other vampires, not other species like the fey or the varcolai. Members of this family are often allied with the House of Bathory, descendants of Elizabeth Bathory. Their gift is black magic, making them a powerful house. Another family, which factors less heavily into this book, is the House of Rasputin, who have the power of sight or mind reading. Most other vampires are wary of them. Members of the House of St. Germain are gifted in alchemy. The final house, the House of Paole, is named after Arnold Paole, are completely undetectable by other vampires (or any other creatures). This one is the most mysterious and I look forward to learning more about them.
Of course, nobles aren’t the only kind of vampires out there. There are two other groups: those that are fringe and those that are anathema. Being fringe lacks benefits but being anathema really sucks since it results in complete exile, something Mal knows all about.
Chrysabelle and Mal are great characters. Mal is exceptionally tortured and not just because of the curse that means (a) he’s haunted by anyone he kills now and (b) the names of everyone he killed before being cursed are etched on his body and he can hear all of their voices. He’s committed not to drinking from people, even though it leaves him weakened, and he’s trying to cope with his curse. When Chyrsabelle shows up in his life, Mal is immediately drawn to her because of her comarré blood and because she’s much tougher than she appears. In fact, Chrysabelle is on the run, unsure of who to trust. She ends up in New Florida because her aunt lives there, and that’s how she ends up in Mal’s world. Chrysabelle is pretty mysterious, as is the comarré lifestyle, and it’s very satisfying to slowly learn more about both Chrysabelle and her upbringing. Her relationship with Mal is layered and constantly evolving, which is part of what makes Blood Rights such an exciting read.
The political intrigue is one of the other aspects of the novel that make Blood Rights so thrilling. Tatiana’s machinations are very Machiavellian and her endgame is revealed slowly over the course of the novel. She’s super evil but still has a couple soft spots that keep her from being a caricature. She’s a suitably formidable opponent for Chrysabelle and Mal and I can only imagine the havoc she’s going to wreak in future novels.
There’s one downside to an e-galley (or e-book in general): You can’t really appreciate an awesome cover. Blood Rights has an eye-catching cover that really captures comarré traditions but my reader renders it in black and white and it’s just not the same. One day, I’ll upgrade to a colour reader but it’s low on my Want list since my trusty Sony reader gets the job done. For now, I’ll just have to admire it when I visit the bookstore.
The next two books in the series — Flesh and Blood and Bad Blood — are already out since Orbit decided to do a rapid release, much like Del Ray did with the first three books in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid chronicles. I hope this is a trend that continues because I’m loving it. I can’t wait to see what Kristen Painter has in store for Chrysabelle and Mal!
For more information about the House of Comarré books, you can check out the series website.