by Mari Mancusi, fantasy (2011)
Berkley, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-425-24136-3
Blood Ties is the sixth book in Mari Mancusi's Blood Coven series, but don't worry if you are new to the series. The story line can easily be followed even by newcomers, although reading this book out of order means that you are subjecting yourself to spoilers of those previous books.
It is Sunshine McDonald's turn to narrate the story, and she's not exactly my favorite character as, compared to Rayne, Sunny is whiny, self-absorbed, and annoying. While her twin sister Rayne makes fun of Bella Swan, Sunny seems to aspire to be Bella Swan. In this one, Sunny's inner swan, so to speak, rages forth as her boyfriend Magnus, the boss of vampires, race to attend a war conference with other vampire bosses to figure out what to do with a new threat against them, and Sunny's sole reaction to the whole mess is, "But what about me? Damn it, it's all about me!" She discovers that Jayden, the other guy who loves her, is now some kind of vampire-but-not-quite creature, and decides that she has to save him. Of course, this only means that Sunny will go back and forth between Magnus the Dreamy and Jayden the Swoony. Magnus or Jayden? What, the world is ending? Who cares? Sunny can't make up her mind, and that's when the world is really ending.
Of course, the author is aware of what a silly self-absorbed twit Sunny is being, and indeed, Sunny will realize that she has inadvertently messed things up for everyone by behaving like a petulant brat and wanting everything to go her way. But that doesn't change the fact that, for a long time, Sunny is being so bloody annoying. I'm aware that it could be just me, being cranky and having little patience for the melodramatic antics of young people, and I'm also aware that Sunny's behavior in this book is no different from any other teenager's. But she's still so bloody annoying. I really liked Jayden when he was a nice human bloke, but now that he's a vampire-thing, he mutates into this whiny creature that has lost all his initial appealing traits.
This story is set in a cool version of Tokyo, with blood bars and all, but with so much focus on Sunny's soap opera, the setting doesn't come alive as much as it should have. This is disappointing, as what I can see of the setting is far more interesting than Sunny trying to figure out which vampire she'd like to lose her virginity to.
I actually loved Bad Blood and considered that book the best one in this series, and that one is also about the soap opera called the Dramatic Love Life of Sunshine McDonald. After giving the matter some thought, I believe that what makes that book enjoyable, and Blood Ties not so much, is that, in Bad Blood, Sunny's insecurities about her relationship with Magnus feel real. Here, she's merely going through those very same issues again, nullifying Sunny's character development in Bad Blood and making this book feel needlessly repetitive. Also, Sunny's angst in that book also covers her angst about her parents' divorce and her father moving on with a new family. In this book, Sunny is concerned mostly about her feelings for Magnus and Jayden. In a story where Magnus is trying to save his people as well as his political power, Sunny's petulant whining makes her look like a silly spoiled little girl. What on earth does Magnus see in this little girl again?
Ultimately, it's all about context. Sunny has many good reasons to feel blue in Bad Blood, and I can relate to her there. Here, she's once again going through the same song and dance - shouldn't she have gotten over most of her issues by the end of Bad Blood? And this time around, I'm bored because I've heard everything before, and it was done so much better that first time around.
There are still some laugh-out-loud moments in this book, Corbin is a pretty cool villain all things considered, and Magnus actually becomes a more well-drawn character here. So Blood Ties is not a complete loss. I just wish that Sunny is far less of a broken record in this one. She is such a wet rag, she ruins the party without even trying.
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