Blud Series Book Two
Genre Steampunk romance Published 30 April 2013 Publisher Pocket Books
When Blud princess Ahnastasia wakes up, drained and starving in a suitcase, she’s not sure which calls to her more: the sound of music or the scent of blood. The source of both sensations is a handsome and mysterious man named Casper Sterling. Once the most celebrated musician in London, Sangland, he’s fallen on hard times. Now, much to Ahna’s frustration, the debauched and reckless human is her only ticket back home to the snow-rimmed and magical land of Freesia.
Together with Casper’s prickly charge, a scrappy orphan named Keen, they seek passage to Ahna’s homeland, where a power-hungry sorceress named Ravenna holds the royal family in thrall. Traveling from the back alleys of London to the sparkling minarets of Muscovy, Ahna discovers that Freesia holds new perils and dangerous foes. Back in her country, she is forced to choose between the heart she never knew she had and the land that she was born to rule.
The Urban Book Thief Review
Have you ever finished reading a book where you’ve raised a fist, shouting in a mocking plaintive: “if only I had thought of that universe first, world domination would be mine – muhahaha!”
No? Well, for me this is one of those books. The Blud series encapsulates an utterly unique universe which is heavy on the steampunk, contains a splash of paranormal, is mixed with a time travelling twist and served with a dash of romance. Oh la la.
Wicked as She Wants carries on a couple of months after book one left off, returning to Sangland and revisiting our cheeky harpsichord playing Maestro – Casper Sterling – and boy, is this poor man in a bad, bad way.
But, in order to understand a little about this crazy cool world, here’s 10 important points on all things Blud related.
- Here, steampunk is King. So expect corsets, fascinators, top hats and animals made out of mechanical parts.
- Bludmen and Bludwomen are one of three races of people. They are similar to vampires, but don’t have the same affliction to sunlight, garlic and stakes like they do in our world.
- London is the steampunk capital of Sangland (England): dirty, smelly, full of doxies and creepy shops selling all manner of dark and dangerous items.
- Unicorns are evil.
- Travel options include: zeppelin, submarine, steam train and mechanical horseless coaches
- Humans are referred to as a ‘Pinkies’ and cover themselves from top to toe in order to stave off the evil attentions of Bludmen.
- In Freesia (similar in geography and culture to Russia), Pinkies are blood slaves.
- 90% of the animals in this world will try and eat you. Even bunnies.
- People from our world mysteriously end up here, naked and confused – they’re called ‘Strangers’.
- Here, there be monsters and other wee magical beasties.
Our main man is Casper and he’s a Stranger. In the first book he is spurned by fellow Stranger Letitia, so off he flees in a lovesick tizzy and makes his way to London to seek his ‘umble fortune. Back in our world, Casper was a world class pianist but here we find him a broken shell of a man, addicted to bludwine and playing his trusty harpsichord in some of London’s worst dives. He’s described as a fairly pretty man, with bright blue eyes and dimples; all wrapped up in the soul of a poet. So it’s a shame that he’s such a pitiful drunk. But it was his soulful music that stirred the beautiful Ahnastasia back to life. The Blud Princess had been drained of her blood then jammed into a bag and posted from her homeland of Freesia to London – and with compliments to a shoddy postal system, she had been travelling for the last four years via most of Europe.
Upon waking up, Ahnastasia tears herself out of her suitcase and tries to attack Casper. Fortunately, she fails miserably and so bargains with him to help her get home to Muscovy and overpower the evil gypsy Ravenna who has stolen her family’s throne and kingdom. In return, Casper will become her royal court composer. Though, the scrumptious musician isn’t 100% sure that he’s getting a good deal here. Especially, seeing as the whole journey and subsequent murder of a powerful sorceress will pretty much mean his almost certain death. Hmmm…
Casper is an enigma. Time and time again, Ahnastasia swears he doesn’t smell right – and the princess is certainly not wrong about this. He has a box which contains a red feather and a copper coin – but refuses to talk about it. He also has a dark past that has killed his zest for life – and again, refuses to talk about it. I must say that I simply love the alpha male change that comes over him in the last quarter of the book. It is worth the read just to stand in his awesome presence and swoon. Plus he can waltz. The damnable man. And! he’s not above a pretty piece of prose:
“I didn’t expect you to give in so easily, darlin’. I wanted to torture you for a while, like you’ve been torturing me all along. I want to make you ache like your heart’s going to burst in your chest. I want to be the only thing in the goddamn world for you.”
Their relationship doesn’t start off on the right foot. Not at all. Both characters are very flawed. Ahna is a spoiled young woman used to getting what she wants and Casper spends a lot of time sulking about the way his life has turned out. Their relationship is based on playful mocking, scathing sarcasm, violent ravings and snarky princess comments. Oh be still my beating heart – this was fab-u-lous!
“No one,” I gasped, “has ever touched my ankles.”
“No one has ever threatened to kill me ten times in ten different ways in one day.” He neatly snagged my feet and wound my ankles around a wine-coloured length of silk. “But I need this job. I’ve drunk my way through every theatre and bar in the city, and it’s Deep Darkside and Beggar’s Row after this. I won’t let myself fall that far.”
When we first meet Ahnastasia, she is a pompous whiny princess, expecting Casper to fulfil her every whim. Innocent to the ways of men, she is pretty clueless. Ahna sees him only as an attractive Pinky servant whom she must pretend to befriend. She finds it hard to see past the blood to the person beneath.This is until the reality of her situation catches up with her and she realises that to survive she needs his help. It probably helped that she didn’t want to end up like her sister, stuffed and mounted in a London shop (too gross for words). The Princess undergoes a dramatic makeover, firstly paying for her new identity with her own beautiful white-blonde hair (one criticism I do have is that the disguise couldn’t have been all that as pretty much every other Bludman recognised who she was straight away).
The adventure really starts to hot up about 1/4 way into the book when Casper, Ahna and their little street urchin Keen manage to receive passage on the worlds biggest and only floating brothel. While on board the air ship, there’s also a very sexy scene where Ahna and Casper get freaky over a bottle of Blud spiked wine. But mostly, I enjoyed how they use violence as a form of foreplay.
“it’s endearing how often you threaten to kill me. That’s practically flirting to you, isn’t it, darling?”
I leaned closer, wiggling just a little and lowering my lashes. “I’ll threaten anyone. But I only bite the pretty boys.”
Near the end of the novel they attend a ball together dressed as a pair of peacocks – which pretty much sums the pair up perfectly. Like too preening animals, they start off fairly self-absorbed but morph into two courageous characters, willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for one another.
In my opinion, Keen is the best character in this story. She’s hilarious! A pretty 14 year old girl with enough gumption to fire a rocket ship. Keen is brave and beautiful and endearing, with a tear jerker of a back story. A Stranger, just like Casper, the pair of them have been learning this strange world together and their dependance on one another is truly very sweet. When Ahna joins their little duo, the animosity Keen feels is painfully evident. She thinks that Ahna is going to tear Casper away from her and does her best to manipulate their friendship. This triangle reinforces the notion that all three of them are like little lost children – each one dying inside for a friend. Watching the friendships blossom is a heart warming addition to the book.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It was a rip-roaring bodice ripper of a story, featuring a traditional action and adventure plot line, full of snarky asides and fascinating secondary characters. Fun, fearless and full of sexual tension this was a great break away from my usual diet of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. You can read Wicked as She Wants without having read book one – which makes a nice change as so many series these days require you to have read the cliff notes version in order to understand its complicated universe… Plus! the Gypsy King himself, Criminy Stain also makes a brief appearance (woo!). Ms. Dawson has created such an enjoyable universe that I for one will be eagerly awaiting the next in the Blud series with pleasure in Spring 2014.