The last of the O'Broin psychic warriors (psionicists), Keila saw herself as alone in the world. A failure. With her father already gone, she blamed herself for her mother's violent death, relying on the bottle to ease her pain instead of getting on with her life as it was meant to be. When a pack of dead street kids sense her latent abilities and beg for her help to avenge their deaths and save the latest victim of a serial killer before it's too late for her too, it's all Keila can do to bring her gifts to the forefront to kill what turns out to be a neophyte vampire.
For two months, an unknown rival has been challenging the control of Portland's vampire ruler Varick Eitenhauer. The creature's interloping minions are murdering the neophytes of Varick's vampires as well as human street teens, the last an absolute taboo in Varick's book. When he trails the most prolific of his enemy's killers to an unoccupied house, he finds a woman, bloodied and near death after killing the neophyte vampire he wanted to question.
Minus the answers he so desperately needed, he takes Keila home with intentions of nursing her back to health, but when he discovers that she is both more and less than he expected, he refuses to feed into her continued self-indulgent grief and self-loathing. After all, she's lost him the neophyte he needed to question. But when he puts her to work helping him find his nemesis, the last thing he expects is to fall for her. Their attraction is powerful and intense, but will it benefit or hinder what they must do? Along with Tee, the ghost of one of the murdered teens, they set out to kill the master vampyre who threatens them all.
All Hallow's Blood by Raven Corinn Carluk is a profound and absorbing read from start to finish, with most aspects of the plot and a premise worthy of five kisses. The author provides a rapid progression to the resolution, with thrilling action scenes that are well-placed to further the plot. There was just enough explosive psi-laced sex between Keila and Varick to burn up the pages, but I got tired of Keila constantly referring to Varick as “The German.”
There are several other issues as well, particularly with characterization, that I felt took this book down to four kisses. I found it a bit unbelievable when each time that one of Keila's psi-gifts was revealed, Varick had the exact same one to match it. I get that he is an old and powerful vampire, but this aspect was just a bit too contrived for my tastes, as was Keila's whole woe-is-me state of mind in which she's prone to drunken bouts and fits of self-indulgent tears.
In its own way, All Hallow's Blood is a study in emotional healing and the stages one goes through when grieving a loss of a loved one, especially when guilt supplies a stumbling block. The woman Keila works to become by the book's end – and she does have to work at it – is one who's certainly worthy of the title heroine. Unfortunately, I couldn't understand until well into the last half of the book where she was coming from, acting as if her mother had died a week ago instead of a year ago. I apparently demand more mental strength of heroines capable of killing with virtually the force of their minds, in Keila's case an invisible psi-sword. I was glad when she met Varick and began to work through her emotional issues to emerge as the woman he deserved fighting at his side.
Though a hero in every respect, Varick's dark side, that of a born predator, shines through. I love that dark vampire persona, but his on-again, off-again switches in attitude toward Keila drove me crazy. The author needed to provide more occasions for the reader to see his vulnerabilities through Keila's eyes, perhaps making Varick more likeable. We just don't get to learn enough about him, which is one of the pitfalls a writer can fall into when writing a book in the first person solely from the heroine's point of view. In this case, it left Varick with less than strong emotional appeal, his persona often giving off all the aura of stiff cardboard.
In contrast, Ms. Carluck's secondary characters shine with personality, particularly Tee and Keila's Kiwi friend and pseudo kid brother Simon/Simy, who both stand out without taking over the limelight. Since she supposedly rules the Portland area at Varick's side, I was disappointed that Varick's sister Serilda was not introduced, especially since I have a feeling Ms. Carluk may have a sequel planned for her. An older Simy, with his bi-sexual tendencies well developed, certainly deserves his own book too, as does Tee, who provides a wonderful surprise at the end of the book.
All Hallow's Blood definitely lays the groundwork for an exciting urban fantasy series should Ms. Carluck want to go there with it. I definitely hope she will choose to do so.