Sunday, May 26, 2013
Bastard Reaction: Hot Blooded by Amanda Carlson
"Well I'm hot blooded, check it and see. I got a fever of a hundred and three..." sorry, couldn't help myself with a little bit of Foreigner, and I'm sure I'm not first one to lose control like this. I don't sing or dance, but I have a weak spot for 80s music. Much like a werewolf, I transform myself and this overwhelming urge just takes over. Which brings us to this novel, Jessica McClain is back and kicking ass as usual. Hot Blooded is the second novel in Amanda Carlson's urban fantasy series, and it doesn't disappoint.
The novel picks up right were Full Blooded left off. While Jessica's dad and Alpha goes to investigate the nature of a werewolf rebellion, she and a small group of old allies, new acquaintances, and one stubborn jackass go on a journey to save someone dear to her from the grasps of a powerful witch; a goddess. A female Lycan foreseen to create havoc in the supernatural world, her werewolf twin brother and a loyal werewolf friend, two not-so-friendly vampires, and the aforementioned jackass human detective...what can go wrong?
Hot Blooded was not what I was expecting. It's quite different in plot and structure to the first novel Full Blooded, which is good. I mean good because it conveys that Amanda Carlson is not afraid to do her own thing, and it alludes that she'll be keeping us on our toes on what to expect in future novels while keeping each installment unique and refreshing within her universe.
With a genre littered with mystery and thrillers, Hot Blooded was an invigorating Action-Adventure Urban Fantasy. It's the type of tale which we might find frequently in secondary world fantasies, the quest to save someone from the clutches of evil who is sequestered in a lair and the journey to surpass all the obstacles thrown in their way as they make progress to the destination. It had plenty of action, and as I've suggested previously, I really believe that Carlson has a knack to write good physical action sequences. It helps having a character that kicks ass and is not shy of meting a good dosage of extreme violence. And it worked.
It had a really straight-forward plot, and in this particular regard I liked the first novel better. That said, I enjoyed Hot Blooded more as a whole. I felt the characters came off as more comfortable in this world, the flow felt improved, and in all I thought it was better written. Plus there was a bigger focus on action this time around, so right up my alley. It helped set a brisk pace, but at the same time interposed with what I find to be long scenes.
The scenes are characterized by having an abundance of dialogue, something I always champion. I'm not entirely sure if the "correct" balance is there, but so far it's working for me, so I hesitate to encourage a different approach. I just can't help shake the feeling that if Carlson shortens some of these scenes a bit, particularly cutting a bit on some dialogue that can become a bit circuitous, that it'll provide other, and hopefully better, opportunities.
The pace doesn't seem to be affected much by it, so who knows. There was only one particular scene which I recall where the forward momentum of the novel had going for it just stopped as they reached a certain trap with some beings behaving like flying piranhas. At the same time, it was during this portion that most of the important plot elements that would increase the intrigue and tension of the story occurred. It's also during this portion that most of the character development flourished, so it doesn't feel like a wasted opportunity at all. So the only conclusion I can come up with is that I'm a bit of a walking hypocritical contradiction. Just hope that something in this babble makes a semblance of sense.
Going back to the action, this time around there was a bigger focus on magic clashes. Depicted more as a battle of wills rather than physical and explosive type of spells, not that it was absent of the latter. I wouldn't go as far as say that it became too magic focused, but it became quite apparent that it took the spotlight in this novel. Considering the plot, it fit. We're dealing with a powerful witch after all, it is my hope though that it doesn't become as common place in the future as I think it takes away some of what makes the Jessica werewolf an awesome character to read about. I mean, there's just some quite awesome of seeing Jessica take care of some of her opponents with quiet violent efficiency; a broken neck here, an armed ripped-off there. There are some hints about Jessica's potential though that sounds promising, so will be looking forward to how the character adapts to each new circumstance.
The journey to the evil lair was defined by a few traps with "random monsters". Personally, I'm not a big fan of them, as they usually seem a bit impersonal to me, but I know plenty of people love them. But once again, for this novel it worked, in particular because it enhanced the world-building immensely, and the action was good too. I particularly like some creatures that were water based, and I hope we can see them in some fashion in future novels.
There really wasn't any romance in this one at all, to the delight of some (me) and the chagrin of others. Well, can't please everyone, but I'm not complaining. I was more excited about the fact that the author appeased some of my concerns about how Jessica would react to certain developments. It had the potential to become a very angsty story, which I thought would have really ruined Jessica as a character for me, but this wasn't the case at all. I don't know what the future will hold on this regard, but I think Amanda Carlson is doing a very good job so far on balancing all the different potential elements this series has. I know some are fond of the love interest in this one, but I'm not convinced I like the guy all that much yet, so we'll see.
The novel ends with another cliffhanger, in many ways quite similar to the one which ended Full Blooded. I'm a fan of cliffhangers in a series though I'm quite aware that some have a strong dislike for them. The good thing is that the next novel is coming out within a few months, so the wait won't be long.
Considering the cliffhanger, Amanda Carlson is keeping Jessica quite busy with no time to breathe; jumping from one thing to another, solving one crisis just to jump into the next one. I don't see that changing any time soon considering how the novel ended and other set-ups that have been made. At some point I hope we can slow down for a bit because there's a lot of Jessica's life that I'm eager to find out about, and I think that can only be accomplished if we slow the action down for a bit, which goes against all my instincts of what I enjoy reading. But I'm very interested in seeing Jessica, even if it's for a short while, in a normal daily routine, and seeing her surrounded by her dad's pack, and see the different interactions and interplays that could go on in that environment.
Hot Blooded was a great follow-up to Carlson's debut. It showed us a different side to the series, and together with the highly energetic narrating style from Jessica McClain to go with the reliable violent action, it just provides a winning combination that should be sustained for the rest of the series. Keep an eye out for Cold Blooded coming out soon, I know I'll be reading it as soon as I can get my hands on it.
Buy Hot Blooded from The Book Depository.
For more information visit Amanda Carlson's website, blog, or follow her on Twitter @AmandaCCarlson.