Blood Bound
by Rachel Vincent
(Mira, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-7783-1255-0
****
Bound by blood with two of her three closest friends before she even knew such a thing was possible, Liv Warren is thrown headlong into a world she's intentionally been skimming the edges of by a visit from Annika Lian six years after they had all lost contact. Blood Bound, Rachel Vincent's first title in the new Unbound series - her first foray into a fully-adult series - is action-packed, clever, and full of twists that make the nearly 450 pages fly by.

In Olivia's urban fantastic world, people with magical talents are called Skilled (as opposed to unSkilled) and have only within the last few decades come out of the so-called closet. Their skills - there are a handful, including Jamming, Tracking, Seeing, Reading, and a few others - are not considered quite legal, however; this leads to a fairly lucrative black market. Liv is a very successful Tracker, someone who can find other people. Liv Tracks by blood; her ex-boyfriend, Cam Caballero, uses names.

Six years ago, when her world fell apart, Liv walked away from Cam, their future, and all of her friends because of a prophecy by one of said friends, Elle. She thought by going to the city that she would be well enough away from him. Liv is more than a little surprised to find him in her office one day with another friend from the old days, Anne. Annika's husband has just been murdered, and she wants Cam and Liv, together, to Track his murderer.

Because of this oath to help each other, Liv cannot refuse Anne, though due to another binding to crime lord Ruben Cavazos, she has some stipulations that must be met. Almost immediately, as they wade through their history, Cam and Liv discover that this wasn't a simple murder by any means - and that the man they're Tracking, though he started the day with a Skill, is losing it. This opens an entirely different can of worms, and confronting the hired murderer gains them precisely nothing except the very important knowledge that Anne's husband wasn't the target; her daughter, Hadley was.

Hadley is a little person with a long string of secrets of her own, as it turns out, and she is the cornerstone of the entire plot, though it takes some time to get to that point. Keeping her safe proves more difficult than Liv and Cam had either one thought, and they pull yet another bound friend, Kori, into the mix.

The reunions prove bittersweet at best, though Liv and Cam make some headway in smoothing out what's left of their relationship after six years of separation. Readers will strongly feel for both main characters. The point of view is a rotating first-person, which can be a little baffling at times but nonetheless gives insight into to pretty closed-mouthed group of people. Rightfully so, considering the number of secrets they have personally and the sneaky way Skilled peopled have learned to live their lives just to stay alive.

Blood Bound is a fantastic start to a series, one that will drag readers in both romantically and suspensefully. My four means a lot in this situation, since I had given up on Rachel Vincent several years ago. Some of her old rigidity remains, but I'm sure that as the Unbound series continues, the characters will become more clearly defined, though the author did a fantastic job of outlining the tension between everyone. This is not an easy or simple book despite its genre. Each person in the story is somehow at odds with every other character. Everyone has a secret, sometimes ones that the reader isn't ever brought up to speed on.

The plotline seems pretty straightforward until you're dropped into the middle of a spiral twist. Thankfully, for those of us who don't look for twists, a lot of the plot-related confusion is explained away, but readers will definitely have the taste for more. And thankfully, Rachel Vincent, whose ideas always seemed intriguing but whose writing talents always left me a little cool, has stepped into the grown-up world now and hit us with a series into which everyone interested in the paranormal genre can sink their teeth.

--Sarrah Knight


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