I was lucky enough to win a copy of Aurora Whittet's Bloodmark and Bloodrealms books in a giveaway, and now that I've finished the first book and let it simmer in my brain for a few days, I'm ready to review it.
I'll start with the cons, because let's get the negative out of the way first and save the good stuff for last.
There was so much potential to this book, but I was disappointed by what should have been a powerful main character. Ashling is described as a defiant, strong young woman, where in the beginning of the book she stands up against her father, the king of a werewolf clan, and defies the centuries-old tradition of arranged marriage- without being nasty or disrespectful. Good job for taking a stand! But almost immediately after that, she becomes wishy-washy to the point of boredom. She can't make up her mind about how she feels - or should feel - about Grey (the other main character and obvious love interest), She even changes her mind three times in the same paragraph. What? Some indecision is normal, understandable, especially when it's her first love and she's not sure how her family will react and even what exactly is going on with Grey himself. But there was nothing to merit the whiplash-inducing ride she took us on.
Probably because of that, Ashling sort of fell to the wayside in my interest. Grey was far more compelling as a character. Maybe if the book had been written from his perspective, or in third person limited from Ash's perspective, it would have been easier to like Ash, but as it stands now, I found myself wishing for Grey's point of view instead.
The ending was also a bit disappointing, mostly because the fight with the Big Bad was over much too quickly considering Ash's entire life had been building up to that moment. I thought I had skipped a few pages by accident, but no, it's just over that quickly. Some more build-up and tension and fighting would have been nice.
There was also some railroading going on at the end. I accepted that Grey could follow Ash's trail because of her werewolfy scent, but how does that explain how he managed to track her from America to Iceland? The only thing that he says is that it took him a while to find her scent. But she got on a freaking airplane and flew halfway across the world. How could Grey possibly track her scent? Him finding a plane ticket stub or a receipt or bribing an airline official would have been more believable.
And finally, there were "relationships" with other characters that seemed to be thrown in just for the sake of having the full gambit of possibilities - Ash's core friends who, though human, will stick with her forever; the inevitable "betrayal" of one friend when Ash makes her decision to stay with Grey (seriously, what was up with Kate? That made absolutely no sense whatsoever. She never gave any hint that she wanted Grey, or that she liked Lacey, or whatever reason she had for not staying friends with Ash.); the ex-girlfriend of the love interest who hates Ash just because; the bad/uncaring/"evil" father who doesn't seem to care about Ash's well-being (she's recovering from a silver attack and he comes in to say "Hey, remember that guy I promised you to? You'd better make good on that." Not a word on how he's glad she's alive. What?)
Ok. Now for the good stuff.
As with most YA novels, there was insta-love in this one, too. BUT- I actually liked how this one was explained. Werewolves look for their actual soul-mates, and when they find them, their souls actually bind together, creating a bond that connects them on a deeper level than regular, plain human love. Nice. Now, when there's an instant connection between Ash and Grey, and we know Grey is going to be the love interest, it's ok. And even though they don't know what's going on, we do, so we aren't left with the usual "I just love him even though I just met him and no one else can ever understand our love!" feeling.
Grey. His character is very cool. He has some very real struggles going on between his mother's side and his father's, and he has to make a tough decision with limited knowledge. Applause for being strong enough to make that choice! Maybe he'll be able to change the Bloodsuckers? (The Bloodsuckers are Whittet's twist on vampires, but instead of the typical undead thing, they're a group of humans who prey on werewolves and drink their blood to gain their powers. More like super-humans than vampires. Very neat.)
Mund. Ash's brother is great. For one, he's willing to go through high school again just to protect his sister (a sacrifice all by itself). :) For another, he's willing to give Grey a chance despite Grey's background and Mund's instincts. His relationship with his wife Tegan is also amazing - I really liked reading their dynamic. It gave a good illustration for how the werewolf-soul-bind worked and what it meant to have that kind of bond.
Overall, the other characters in Bloodmark made up for the frustrating parts of Ash, and as long as Whittet expands on their relationships, the Bloodmark Saga is well worth the read.