Kristen Painter

House of Comarre, book 3

Orbit (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-971-0

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Bad Blood is the third in the House of Comarre series; there are at least four books in the series. Book two, Flesh and Blood, is reviewed here. Like book two, book three is challenging to follow if you haven’t read earlier books in the series. Although there are strengths to the books individually, I would strongly recommend that intending readers start with book one.

In this volume a spate of violent serial murders are striking fear into Paradise City (a renamed Miami). All of the girls bear a resemblance to Chrysabelle; a real Commarre – a human bred to provide blood to vampires. As well as bearing a superficial resemblance to Chrysabelle herself, each victim was a fake Comarre, who sold their inferior blood to vampires who either didn’t know better or didn’t have access to a real Comarre.

The murders are only one sign of a breakdown in the centuries old covenant which has enabled humans to live in blissful ignorance of the supernatural world right under their noses. With the breakdown of the covenant, it’s getting harder to ignore. And with Halloween coming, it’s likely that human noses will be well and truly rubbed not only in the existence of the supernatural, but in how dangerous it is.

Meanwhile, Chrysabelle is distracted. Attempting to fulfill her promise to try to lift the curse the vampire Malkolm suffers from has had a high personal cost for her. She needs to repair some of the damage, not only for her own sake but to increase her chances of fulfilling her promise. It looks like the Ring of Sorrows is necessary to give her a hit of extra power, but it was hidden in a place so safe that Chrysabelle and Malkolm are now having a bit of trouble getting it back.

Like Flesh and Blood, this volume pretty much just starts where the earlier volume left off, and eventually just ends on a cliffhanger. This would be intensely frustrating for readers who hadn’t read either of the earlier books; I think they’d have a lot of trouble following significant parts of the plot. I’d read book two, but not book one, and I was still finding things in this volume which were tricky to follow because they’d (evidently) been explained in book one. For example, I am not clear exactly what the Ring of Sorrows is, how or why Chrysabelle obtained it, or exactly why everyone else wants it.

However, it is increasingly clear that Painter has developed quite a complex, well thought out world. I don’t think I fully appreciate it, having missed some of the introductory worldbuilding, but I’m sure others are finding it an interesting world. It is not easy to be original when writing (in part) about vampires, and Painter hasn’t really tried to be in this regard – she’s very much adopted the common mythologies around vampires. However, the world is not quite what you might expect and that does provide some interest and originality.

The characters are again a strength. Painter has a diverse cast, and is good at making them come alive. I found it hard to empathise with any of them – and I didn’t really care much about them – but I was very interested to see what happened to them next.

This is really not a book for anyone who hasn’t read at least one of the earlier books. You’ll find it hard to follow plot wise, parts of the world won’t seem to make complete sense, and there’s an awful lot of character development and background that it’s just assumed you already know; and it’ll be very hard to fathom the relationships between characters.

That said, continuing readers are likely to think this a good novel. The characters do engage your attention. Painter writes action well, and this is a fairly action oriented novel. Her world is well constructed and believable. Importantly, she does seem to have an overall plot goal in mind and is not just stretching this out book after book. I do find the lack of even a small resolution in each novel a little frustrating. I suspect that this is one of those series that is good when you look at it as a whole, but doesn’t quite connect when you try to read the instalments separately. So: recommended for readers of the earlier novels, but not for new readers.