Review: “Blood Ties,” Skyla Dawn Cameron

Rating: 5 out of 5

Skyla Dawn Cameron’s Blood Ties (Elis O’Connor Book 1) is an intriguing start to a new series. 22-year-old witch Elis O’Connor is a serial killer. She kills “garbage men”–men who molest, abuse, and terrorize their victims. In-between she plays private investigator. Just after wrapping up a killing (and cat rescue), someone new shows up on her doorstep: a part-demon, part-witch named Melinoë Takata. She’s looking for Elis’s older half-brother Dev, who is also Melinoë’s cousin and who is apparently missing. After getting off on the wrong foot, the two women decide to look for Dev together. When the police come looking for Elis regarding the murder she committed, the two decide it’s the perfect time to follow up on an out-of-town lead. They find themselves in a very strange little town where they quickly run out of leads. Just to keep things jumping, they keep getting chased by a demonic swarm of rat-tarantulas!

There’s some nice queer content in here. An ex-girlfriend of Elis’s, Tanvi Chaudhary, warns her when the cops are looking for her (she’s a police officer herself, in the Ontario Provincial Police, Occult Department). And Elis finds herself attracted to Melinoë as they work to find Dev. The characters are wonderful. Elis’s vampire father is charmingly bookish (he’s almost 60 but looks late-twenties). Elis absolutely owns her identity as a serial killer. Melinoë balances tough-yet-vulnerable remarkably well. Tanvi seems like a hard-ass who’s going to come down on Elis’s activities, but it’s more complicated than that.

There are some dangling threads, but not in the unsatisfactory “hey, they forgot this” vein. Instead, there are just some things that will obviously be longer-term plot arcs. Such as exactly what Elis is, since apparently she isn’t supposed to exist; her father is a vampire, and her mother was… something. Her father is doing magical experiments that aren’t explained here, but are clearly relevant to the arc-plot. There’s a creature (one of the Aanzhenii, Ashur) who wants Elis to be indebted to him. Melinoë also has a few secrets of her own.

The two women get into heaps of fascinating trouble as they search for Dev. They find out the secrets of a strange town, go dimension-hopping, and get into some nasty fights. This is a fun, exciting world with all sorts of interesting characters and plots going on. I look forward to reading more!

Note added later: Since reading this book I have read the 5-book “Demons of Oblivion” series which is set roughly 25 years earlier in the same world. You do not need to read that series first–I hadn’t and I really enjoyed this book–but you’ll get a whole extra layer of meaning if you do. I re-read Blood Ties after reading the Oblivion series and loved it even more! Start with Bloodlines [review].

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