Title: Blood Rock
Author: Anthony Francis
Series: Skindancer #2
Pages: 210 (NetGalley uncorrected ARC)
Published: August 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Picking up in the same narrative and stylistic vein of its predecessor Frost Moon, Blood Rock is an action-packed if somewhat overwrought adventure following the one and only Dakota Frost of Atlanta, Georgia. Once again running around her turf of Little Five Points, Dakota is exposed to brand-new, and admittedly, cool magic: animated, violent graffiti tags have been popping up all over the city. . . and killing humans, weres, and vampires alike. Once again Francis was not content with run-of-the-mill magical abilities and talents steadily used in UF/PNR genres, instead creating his own unique and potent systems of "mana". Similar the Dakota's tattoos lifting off her body to attack or defend their creator, the deadly graffiti are multi-dimensional and actively prey on passersby. Creating innovative magical ideas and systems is definitely a talent of the author's and the unpredictable paths such talents will take is one if the highlights this book has to offer.
Contrasting with such an epic supernatural problem (one of the many such problems that Dakota faces over the short 210 page length) is the epic domestic problem of Dakota's adopted daughter, the weretiger Cinnamon. While Cinnamon's slang ("I knows.. We knows... We says...") can truly drive me up a wall in the first chapters, it's been around from book one so I think I have adjusted and hardly noticed after a time. I like Cinnamon perhaps the best out of everyone in the novels: she has edges and a chip off her shoulder, but valid reasons are given, and the motivation and actions of the character often ring true when other characters do not. She also continues to change and become more of a character and less of a caricature each appearance. The relationship between the two adopted family members also brings out the best in each: Dakota is a softer, less
wannabe bad-ass version of herself and Cinnamon is more human than tiger when with her mother. Cinnamon grounds Dakota in a way she was not in Frost Moon: she's less objectifying and in-your-face, and doesn't think she's invincible as a human in a world of supernaturals. Dakota continues to change and grow each novel: I liked her personally much more the second time around. I found her less "preachy" about the environment, and she is even shown to have opened her eyes to others views in politics - a far cry from her derision at Republicans in the first.
In addition to Cinnamon, much of the rather large background cast is shown once again. Familiar and beloved characters are seen again, often in new roles or with a new flair not seen in the first book. Even old villains are given a second chance, and are not as black-and-white as previously painted. I am getting quite weary of the back and forth between Dakota and her exgirlfriend, the Christian lesbian vampire queen Saffron: either be friends or don't. The constant drama between the two distracts from the main story without being interesting enough to validate that much time and attention. While the author kills off more than a few (and several of which I did not anticipate at all) to add gravitas and emotion to the danger, I found myself a little bored throughout the narrative. I cared about these characters certainly, but their deaths lacked any pull to make me desperate to solve the mystery of the graffiti. The frenetic pace that worked so well for the first seems to suffer a bit, and may also partly be to blame for my partial apathy: one event would happen and then the book was rushing on to the next page with hardly a fullstop. While the novel feels and reads just like the first in tone, the lack of pacing for certain important plot points detract from the overall takeaway from the story.