Synopsis from Amazon:
Judah Black’s been assigned a new partner just in time to solve a grisly double homicide. Trying to navigate suddenly being the junior agent is bad enough. Figuring out who—or what—crushed a vampire and his prey to death before freezing them solid in the back room of a fae-owned nightclub might as well be impossible.
When one of the victims is identified as vampire royalty, vampire prince Crux Continelli declares a blood debt, vowing to punish the killer himself. But Crux’s brand of justice could spark violence between the fae and vampires.
Caught up in a struggle between two vampire factions, Judah races against time to bring a killer to justice before war breaks out. With her friends in the crosshairs, the stakes are even higher. If she fails this time, more than her job is on the line. Paint Rock and everyone she’s come to know and love could be next.>>>>>>>>>>>
I'll admit, it's been far too long since I read a Judah Black novel.
Of course, before this, I only read the one, Guilty By Association--but I did read another E. A. Copen tale (Beasts of Babylon) and it was brilliant and spooky and marvelous... but it wasn't Judah Black, and it only took cracking the cover on this one and diving into the first couple chapters to remind me how much I missed this enjoyable take on the whole "paranormal investigator" (more like "defender of the supernatural", actually!) type of novel.
The beauty of sequels is that the really good ones can make you feel like you're picking up right where the last one left off, can give you a whole new set of scenarios and challenges--and also take the time to dive deeper into the characters to which you were only just getting introduced the first time around. In the first book, we were seeing a new person in crisis mode, a new environment with its fresh set of rules, so there was a lot to take in, and even Judah herself and her own past and her struggles might have gotten lost in the allure of the new and exciting thrill ride that is those particular scenarios at Paint Rock.
Now that we've moved on into a second adventure, we are treated to more and more of Judah's past--her pain, her regrets, the things that stick with her through it all, the choices she made that led to the circumstances under which we met her the first time around... Copen presents it beautifully, with a raw vulnerability that has us coming alongside Judah, rooting for her, empathizing with her in a very real way. Some of it is obvious--especially when a past choice comes back to haunt her and ties directly into the thing she's dealing with now--but there are subtle moments, too... references to earlier experiences that Judah carries with her, that extend far beyond the bounds of the actual series itself. Paint Rock isn't just a convenient fabricated backdrop for an exciting story featuring werewolves, zombies, Fae, and vampires--it really feels more and more like a real community, with its own unique rules, rhythms, and overall vibe. It might not seem like much because it's not an entire planet or nation like some fantasy concepts are wont to imagine--but at the same time, Copen builds it well, so that it fits within the real world, while becoming an honest-to-goodness location in its own right.
Copen's sequel does exactly what a sequel should do: build upon things that were set out in the first novel, while also presenting a unique story in its own right. It's because there are things we already know about the characters that we can delve deeper and understand them more without a whole lot of extra explaining, or taking things at face value--and the changes we see as the characters have matured and evolved that lead us to be more thoroughly invested in their struggles, and emotionally impacted when they start to deteriorate. The sequel, too, paves the way for even more possibilities of conflicts and struggles with adding in more involvement with the Fae characters, namely an Irish-"sounding" (at least, the way the lines are written kind of gives a certain "lilt" to the mental voice I had running!) Elf character who shows promise of being a recurring character in future books!
BLOOD DEBT does it all: hits the high marks, carries a well-rounded story, introduces new characters to love and hate and everything-in-between, and contributes to the ever-growing list of "What Makes Judah Black So Freaking Awesome." I had my suspicions about the outcome early on in the book--but that just means she played her cards and laid out her clues just right, to lead us to the "correct" conclusion, doesn't it? I still found the "twist" ending immensely satisfying. Plus there's a sword duel between vampires at one point, and that is definitely not to be missed!
I give the book a solid *****5 STARS***** and the series maintains its Upstream Writer Certified Recommended endorsement. The world of literature needs more vulnerable, insightful, loyal, and stalwart heroines like Judah Black!
Further Reading: (Paranormal Investigations/Urban Fantasy Mysteries/Crime)
Stories of Togas, Daggers And Magic--Assaph Mehr
-Murder in Absentia
-Murder in Absentia
The Runespells Series--Sarah Buhrman