(Vicki Nelson Series, Book 1)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
Date: 7th October 2004 (First Published 1991)
NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE
A series of brutal murders in Toronto gives rise to sensationalist reports about a vampire terrorising the city; all the victims had their throats torn out and their bodies drained of blood. Of course, nobody―not even the headline writers―believes that vampires are real, and one man in the city has a vested interest in ensuring this remains the case. Henry Fitzroy sleeps during the day, works at night, and hasn’t noticeably aged in four centuries. Joining forces with a former detective turned private investigator, Vicki Nelson, he sets out to eliminate a supernatural killer before anyone discovers there is more to him than meets the eye.
Blood Price is book one of Canadian author, Tanya Huff’s 1990’s urban fantasy series that was more recently adapted into the television series, Blood Ties, a decade ago. It is a book that hasn’t really been helped by the passage of time, and that’s not so much because of any perceived outdatedness, but more because the huge increase in the popularity of urban fantasy since the turn of the century, and the subsequent saturation of the market that has seen the arrival of numerous superior offerings.
Where Huff’s story differs greatly from more recent urban fantasy books is in how Blood Price reads more like a crime fiction novel, albeit with a supernatural veneer. The lore created for the world isn’t very deep, nor particularly compelling in comparison to a more recent urban fantasy series such as The Hollows by Kim Harrison. In fact, other than one of the protagonists being a vampire, the supernatural elements of the plot and narrative never feels truly essential to the story which could work just as well without them; even making Henry a human character wouldn’t drastically alter the book.
The investigation central to the story is very run-of-the-mill and easy to follow. There is no real mystery to be had given that it’s made clear very early on who and what is responsible for all the grizzly killings. Any reader hoping for a good whodunnit will not find it in the pages of this novel. Where Blood Price’s true strength lies is in the characterisation of the protagonist, Vicki Nelson. Huff’s depiction of the detective turned private investigator is excellent―undoubtedly the highlight of the book. Vicki is a genuinely compelling personality with an intriguing backstory. And more than anything else, it is her actions, and her interactions with other characters (be it a former colleague or a former lover; a friend or a foe; a client or a suspect) that carries the story.
Readers who appreciate strong characterisation may well get more out of the book than anyone else if they become invested in Vicki as a protagonist. She is an impressively three dimensional, fully fleshed out character. The author’s decision to give Vicki a degenerative eye condition that is slowly robbing her of her sight was an inspired creative choice. Her resentment about her burgeoning disability adds much to her character, as well as the narrative.
All in all, Blood Price is a book that probably only merits a library loan. If not for the inclusion of Vicki Nelson it would be an entirely forgettable affair that would be difficult to recommend to anyone. As the first book of a series it’s just about adequate enough to provide incentive to read the next instalment, in the hope the author can improve upon what she has established in this book.