BOOK REVIEW: Blood Oranges by Kathleen Tierney (Caitlín R. Kiernan)

REVIEW SUMMARY: A kick-ass opening to what I hope will be the first of many featuring Siobhan Quinn.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Siobhan Quinn is a junkie with a reputation for supernatural badassery that exceeds her actual skills, but after she’s attacked by a were and a vamp, she’ll have to pull together whatever skills she does actually possess if she’s going to keep her life (or unlife) intact.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Quick and dirty urban fantasy with a very flawed, but very likable, anti-heroine.
CONS: While quick and dirty can be fun, sometimes things went a little too quickly for my taste (the ending was rather abrupt).
BOTTOM LINE: Quinn’s voice is no-nonsense and angst-free, and Blood Oranges shoots a big dose of adrenaline into a genre that’s been in danger of going stale.

Her name is Siobhan Quinn, but don’t call her Siobhan. Quinn will suffice. She has a reputation as a pretty fierce demon hunter, but that reputation isn’t altogether true. The truth is Quinn is a heroin addict who’s been rather lucky when confronted with supernatural baddies. Most times, when they’ve died, it’s been quite by accident, but some well-timed, and well-placed, PR by her dealer Mean Mr. B has given her a fierce reputation, and has also served his purposes quite well in the process. Not many folks are going to mess with someone with a ferocious demon hunter in their pocket, right? So, it’s a win/win. Unfortunately, the crappy apartment he rented for Quinn isn’t exactly a win (it smells pretty bad, and there’s a hole in the kitchen floor big enough for a couple of bodies), but the bags of heroin that he keeps her supplied with are, and that’s really all she cares about at the moment. Anything else is icing.

Things soon take a bit of a turn for our heroine when she decides to shoot up one night in the middle of a werewolf stakeout. Most logical-thinking folk would see that this isn’t wise, but her gear is calling to her and a bush is as good a place as any. Unfortunately, the loup gets the jump on her and takes a bite out of her backside. Luckily for Quinn, another baddie is waiting in the wings to take out the were, but who? And more importantly, why? When Quinn wakes up on a filthy mattress, jonesing for a fix, she’s confronted with one of the most terrifying things she’s ever seen: The Bride of Quiet. This is the vamp that “saved” Quinn from the were, but The Bride has her own agenda, and it includes taking a bite out of Quinn. See, The Bride needs a weapon, and Quinn will fit the bill nicely, or so she thinks. Either way, it’s not a good day for our intrepid junkie, and it’s about to get so much worse.

Blood Oranges, where have you been? I’ve been, and still am, a fan of urban fantasy for quite a while, but since it’s become so popular, the market has been flooded, and while there are still standouts among the usual suspects (and some new stars), it’s getting harder to find the gems. Enter Siobhan Quinn. The quality didn’t surprise me at all, since Caitlín R. Kiernan is a talented, and well established pro, but I didn’t expect to like Quinn so much, especially since, frankly, she’s kind of a brat. A runaway at 12, she’s spent about 7 years on the streets, and after she got hooked on heroin, there’s not much she wouldn’t do for a fix. She’s pretty frank about that, though, and makes no apologies, which is one of the things I like about her most of all. Quinn is a bit of an unreliable narrator at first, too, and she certainly doesn’t apologize for that, but she definitely makes up for it. She’s pretty content with her existence until one day, when a girl she’d run with for a while, and maybe even loved, is attacked and killed by a ghoul. It’s then that Quinn realizes that there’s more to the world than meets the eye, and sometimes even the shadows have shadows, and they bite.  Boy, do they bite. After she’s bitten by the were and the vamp, she becomes something new, something that may even be taboo, and she is indeed a pretty effective weapon. Once she realizes she’s being used as a pawn, it’s on, and hey — a werepire’s gotta eat.

Quinn’s world is a little to the left of our own, and along with Quinn, the author has populated it with some pretty fascinating creatures. Trolls lurk under bridges (even some that speak in riddles and have a weakness for Three Musketeer bars and girlie mags), demons offer their considerable talents in dim brothels, and hillbilly loups are out for blood. Don’t forget the vampires. They aren’t your momma’s vamps, either. Quinn is pretty tough, but as a runaway who has spent the better part of 7 years on the street, she’s pretty unsentimental, but there is a good heart (even if it’s no longer beating) under that bitter shell, and she even shows that vulnerability at times, in spite of herself. Keep in mind, at only 19, with all of her streetwise moxie, she’s still a kid, and the author captures her voice perfectly. The magic of Blood Oranges is sometimes subtle, a little crass, and even lovely. If you find beauty, and even a little humor, in the dark, as Quinn certainly does, you’ll love this one, and it’s a must for urban fantasy fans. I’d especially recommend it for those that like Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series, and even Steve Niles’s Cal McDonald series. Also, when I say this one is quick and dirty, it comes in only a bit over 250 pages, so you can, um, devour it pretty quickly. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.)

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