Lindsay Anne Kendal
Book Guild Publishing (2011)
YA / Magic / Paranormal
Over the course of reading independently published authors' works, I've found one thing that nearly all of them (that I have read, of course) have in common - a lack of cohesiveness. Perhaps that comes from not having a professional editor with a lot of experience involved to provide guidance and advice. Or maybe it stems from the author being so excited at finishing a manuscript that they publish it as an e-book before taking time to seriously go back for heavy editing. Or maybe I'm just a snob after years of being forced to read so-called "classics". I don't know. It's just an observation, but it's an observation that applies to Bloodlines.
Outside the lack of cohesiveness, Bloodlines has two things that regularly pushed me out of the story:
1. It was obviously written by a Brit because there are a number of Brit-isms and the characters drink an excessive amount of hot tea for early 20-somethings that live on the East coast. The only people I've ever spoken to that regularly used the words "rubbish" or "bloody" (as a pejorative, not as in "uh oh, I sliced my hand open again") in every day conversation are a) British or Australian or b) Americans who watch too much BBC America (I'm guilty of the later).
2. All the pitfalls of first person narration. It often prevents supporting characters from ever becoming more than interchangeable faces and creates a need for more verbal exposition. It also makes it a bit jarring when the narrator is having a phone call and you only can read one side of it - hers. As the narrator, she would experience the other half of the call and, therefore, so should the reader. It also caused a sudden and abrupt change in the tone and flow of the narration when the point of view shifted to a secondary character late in the book because our heroine became unavailable.
Bloodlines is about Keira, a young 20-something girl, who discovered at the age of 10 that she had magical powers though she's unclear about why or how she has these powers. After hearing strange voices, she and her friend Lily take a trip to Salem, MA, in hopes of finding answers. Instead they find a group of four attractive 20-something guys, who also have magic, and a mystery involving a prophecy of impending doom unless they all stick together. Cue musical montage of bonding moments and battles.
Keira, as the main character and narrator, was far too powerful and often completely unlikable. She was wishy-washy with both her affections and her decision-making all the while being able to solve any jam the characters got into through her epic magic powers. While scenes involving her testing out the limits of her powers were exciting and engaging, it prevented the story as a whole from ever gaining momentum or building up suspense. The most appealing of the male characters - the mysterious demon guy who probably has quite the story to tell - rarely ever appeared. Instead we had a group of interchangeable rich guys, who seemed to only hang out all day. They never became much more than token characters - the funny one, the moody one, the one dating her best friend, the one who seems out of place because he's not romantically interested in a female character.
Kendal has some great ideas that just don't seem to be fully developed - the mysterious demon bodyguard, the circle of witches suddenly finding a woman more powerful than them (and the potential resulting rivalry), the mystery behind the powers, pulling Lilith* into the story (at least in the background). All these ideas, focused on and grown, could have created a far more entrancing novel. Instead there were chapters devoted to fixing up and decorating an old house, going out to clubs, immature lover spats that felt more high school than adult, and some losing bet that ended with one of the guys in drag painting the previously mentioned house (I'm still not entirely clear how or what was happening with that).
Interesting events happened too fast. Within a few paragraphs something exciting would happen and then pass, never built upon to create any urgency. Add in that lead character Keira miraculously had the power to solve any problem and suddenly there's no danger. No one is really going to die or even remain injured for very long. The final battle really shows off the potential Kendal has to write a great paranormal/horror YA title. It was well-paced and felt as though there was actual danger, though it was obvious Keira would swoop in to save the day. A previous incident, where Keira gets revenge on individuals who attacked her friends, was dark and creepy. More of those types of things, less Sabrina, the interior decorator witch. I don't really care about the type of furniture going into rooms that never have any significance to the plot; I want creepy adventures and encounters with dark forces.
In the end, if I looked past the grammatical and technical errors, I still feel as though Bloodlines lacked the heft needed for a solid novel. It had a strong general idea with some interesting story points, but the narrative connecting the events didn't hold up most of the time and the crazy powerful Keira seemed wasted on what little did happen. Then again, I often find myself in the minority opinion when it comes to paranormal YA titles. If you'd like to give Bloodlines a shot and see what you think, go enter our Bloodlines Experience giveaway to win an e-book copy of the book.
Overall, Kendal has some great ideas in Bloodlines, but the execution needs a lot more work. I hope that future volumes in the trilogy show the growth and excitement found in the later parts of the book with additional, deeper character development.
Interesting idea populated with flat secondary characters and a too-powerful main character; potential for a more engaging story shown towards the end; heavy editing needed
* I might have clapped my hands and said, "Yay, Lilith!" out loud when this occurred. I wanted her to show up in the guise of a creepy young girl.
Secondary sidenote: Outside research informed me that part of Salem, MA, is referred to as Witchcraft Heights. This is kind of awesome. Other awesome things, according to Wikipedia (so you know it must be true):
Police cars are adorned with witch logos, a local public school is known as the Witchcraft Heights Elementary School, the Salem High School athletic teams are named The Witches, and Gallows Hill, a site of numerous public hangings, is currently used as a playing field for various sports.
Though the more research I do on current-day Salem, the more I wish Kendal had utilized actual places and cultural information about the town to make it feel more grounded in reality. For example, incorporating "The Witch House", which is apparently the only remaining building that was tied to the witch trials, instead of non-descript churches. Though this really has nothing to do with anything.
An electronic copy of this book was provided by the author in return for an honest review. All mistakes in logic, persuasion, and common decency are my own.