Pros: Fascinating story; wonderful characters; intriguing world
Cons: None for me
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
Federal agent Lily Yu plans to marry the lupus Rule, but not everyone accepts the union between human and were. Lily’s car has been vandalized; she’s received hate mail and threats; and now a lupus has gone on a killing rampage that’s entirely out of character. There’s also a little matter of a lovely, awkward young woman that Rule’s brother Benedict has stumbled across—first sneaking around the home of Robert Friar, leader of Humans First, and later sneaking around the Nokolai Clanhome. She’s clearly up to something, but she won’t—or can’t—say what, even though she claims to be helping.
To make matters worse, there’s no evidence of the use of magic in the case of the killer, so Lily is pulled off the case and can’t investigate what happened. When she starts to put the pieces together anyway, she might be forced to do something she abhors—act outside of the laws she swore to uphold.
Eileen Wilks’s Blood Challenge (The World of the Lupi, Book 7) does an unusually good job of seamlessly integrating world background—which is great, since I seem to end up reading these books all out of order somehow. Thus, while you’re definitely better off starting at the beginning, I don’t think it’s impossible to dive in at a later point. I’m particularly impressed by this given that this is book seven of the series! (Of course, having a series of such length makes it all the more important that the books be able to stand alone, since it becomes less likely that new readers will happen to pick up the first book.)
Blood Challenge is a fun and engrossing read. Lily’s thrust into some new situations that force her to develop in interesting ways, as is Rule. Arjenie is one of my favorite characters in a long while; she seems at first to be the stereotype of the awkward, geeky girl with odd social manners, but we quickly discover that she very much defies the expectations of that mold. Benedict doesn’t feel quite as well-developed, but he’s still an enjoyable character. I love seeing more of the interactions between the lupi in this volume, particularly since those interactions shed rather fascinating light on various aspects of lupi culture.
The plot itself is intriguing and has plenty of twists and turns. The bad guy could have a little more depth, but since we don’t deal with him all that directly in this volume, that isn’t really a complaint; I expect we’ll learn more about him later.
One particular thing that I loved was the way in which Ms. Wilks handled several conventions that have become staples of the genre. For instance, the mystical “mate bond” that attaches Lily and Rule at the hip doesn’t feel like a bald plot device, which is what most of the “one true mate” plots have come to feel like of late. Instead, it becomes clear during the course of Blood Challenge that the Lady the lupi serve has very particular reasons for creating such bonds and choosing the people she chooses.
Another plot convention that has long seemed rather arbitrary is the idea that the demi-gods present in various books conveniently act through their servants and not directly, although very little reason is given why they wouldn’t be able to act directly. Here we find out exactly why the Lady can’t simply reach into the world and make things happen of her own accord, and it’s an explanation that makes sense.
These additional details, together with the rather dark feel of the world, the interesting characters, and the lack of several other stock and stereotyped elements (such as the now nearly-requisite snarky young female narrator), allow Wilks’s world to stand out from its contemporaries despite the surface similarities. I very much enjoyed Blood Challenge, even though I haven’t kept up with the series as a whole.