Jen reviews Bloodlines, the first book in Peter Hartog‘s sci-fi/UF series, The Guardian of Empire City.
I was so interested in this book, that I requested a copy from the author, totally forgetting I had entered the contest that was going on during the Storytellers on Tour book tour, and ended up winning a physical copy as well (I feel a little greedy). It’s beautiful and looks amazing on my bookshelf!
Thank you so much to Peter Hartog (and Storytellers on Tour), apologies for the huge delay in getting to this review.
|Series: The Guardian of Empire City #1||Genre: sci-fi, cyberpunk, fantasy, mystery, detective|
|Date of Publishing: December 29, 2019||Trigger Warnings: Peeping/blood/gore/ violence/crime scene depictions|
|Page count: 446||Publisher: Self-Published|
When former hotshot homicide detective Tom “Doc” Holliday is recruited to join Special Crimes, he trades in his boring desk job for a second chance to do what he does best, hunt down killers. And his first case doesn’t disappoint: a murdered woman with a bogus past, her body drained of blood, and two eyewitnesses wasted on the designer drug goldjoy claiming a vampire did it.
For Holliday is no stranger to the unusual. He wields the Insight, a fickle clairvoyance that allows him to see the dark and terrible things that hide upon his world. After all, when you live in Empire City, where magic and technology co-exist, and humanity endures behind walls of stone and spell-forged steel, anything is possible.
Saddled with a team whose past is as checkered as his own, Holliday embarks upon an investigation that pits them against bio-engineered vampires, interdimensional parasites and the magical masterminds behind it all.
From nightclubs and skyscrapers, to underground drug labs and coffee shops, Holliday’s search for the truth will uncover a shadowy conspiracy that spans the ages, and forces him to confront a destiny he never wanted.
“And with a roar and a rush, the Insight was there.
Everything slowed to a crawl. I made out individual raindrops as they scrawled down from the darkness
above, each one unique with its own shape and texture. The light from my badge lying on the wet pavement became a collection of thousands of tiny dots strung together by gossamer threads of ghostly brilliance.”
Backbone by Kaleo
Oh, I don’t know where you’ve gone
You used to be the heart of this town
Wasted all your tears on someone else
I don’t know where you are now
You used to have a heart of gold
Only trust yourself and no one else
Ok, so Bloodlines was super fun!
I love detective stories, especially when they do something a little different. Bloodlines borrows a little from noir, and a bit from sci-fi/cyberpunk with a touch of fantasy, and well you get the picture. It’s a here and there, of a host of different genres. Taking the stuff that works and grafting it together with a lot other fun ideas, making Bloodlines into something fresh and exciting.
It’s a really cool future-our-world, that feels a little crowded at first, with all the goodies. But because the stuff we recognize does some of the heavy-lifting; it’s easy to understand and follow.
Nuclear war has changed the landscape, and lowered the population down to just a few enclaves – one of which is Empire City (where this story takes place), and made it possible for the advancements that we see in the story; like cleaner energy, parallel worlds, and AI advancements – including implants that let you download information to just about anywhere, even your own head.
I could spend most of my review talking about this world because it’s so interesting and well thought-out and I loved the ideas, and how Hartog reworked them, creating new from the old.
Our characters come together to form a newly formed specialized crime unit:
Thomas Henry Holliday (Doc) feels like he’s going to be one of those gumshoes in a hardboiled detective story but just. Doc is lot more likeable, than most of the unredeemable types that usually come with the tag. He has a PHD in classic lit and occasionally spouts out quotes to fit the scene, and I very much liked his friendship with Leyla.
Because he has less of that self-destructive feel to him (at least now, his past is something of a different story) and obvious caring friendships with some of the peripheral cast, the story isn’t as bleak in tone and feels more hopeful than I would generally find in this genre. I liked that a lot.
Holliday has the Insight which is a type of magic, and when it decides to do its thing, it’s almost like a homing beacon directing him to the pertinent clues. Or it lets him see stuff that he really doesn’t want to- like fetch’s and other thing that aren’t seen with the naked eye.
Filling out the rest of the team
Deacon Kole – the protector. A confederate that once worked for the church of Tribulation but had a falling out (I can see why with his personality). He has some pretty cool magic with his blessed oak baton but a lot of the times I forgot about him being there.
Besim Saranda – A Vellan consultant and popular musician. Her race was on the verge of extinction when the nexus opened gateways to their world, allowing them to take refuge from their dying planet on earth. She is going against her caste and their beliefs, by helping the police with their investigation and comes across as a little uptight.
Leyla – The thief and hacker of the group. Street-smart and spunky, she has a magic talent that allows her to make things very cold. I liked her a lot, she added some fun to the mix. Keeping the jaded uptight pov’s of the others, from being too much.
And finally, EVI – who technically is an AI- a centralized virtual network that is everywhere, and anyone can use it. She is kind of a JARVIS idea but not sentient or that intuitive. Holliday talks to her like she one of the team – similar to that love you show your old car when you’re trying to coax her to start on a cold day, and you grow a little attached to her because of it.
The whodunit is twisty and complicated and boils down to motives we all know and understand, despite the weirdness of the crime. I won’t go into too many details but let me just say, that this world has enough fascinating stuff going on, that when vampires became one of the possibilities of the perpetrators to the crime, we don’t even blink an eye or feel that they don’t belong.
Bloodlines does a good job of catching that gloomy crime feel in a futuristic setting, while not pushing the envelope too far – letting it be a little more hopeful, colourful and fun. I enjoyed the story and especially the world. There is a lot of room for new and exciting crimes, and our team’s pasts, have only just been brushed upon, giving lots of room for them grow, and the mysteries within them to be expanded on.