On to what you're here for, a review of the dark fantasy murder mystery book, Bloodwalker, by L.X. Cain (even the author's name is scary!)
|Bloodwalker - L.X. Cain|
Let me start off by saying Bloodwalker was my very first murder mystery novel, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I wasn’t expecting to, but it happened all the same. Cain starts with a bang, letting the readers know right away there’s big trouble in the traveling circus of Zorka Cyrka.
Bloodwalker does not disappoint on the gruesome sounding name, for the contents within will fill your mind with waves of crimson and the smell of rot. Throughout the book we follow two heros from chapter to chapter, Rurik and Sylvie. Though both have some of the expected cookie-cutter heroine/hero attributes, Cain sets them apart with rich and unique characteristics stemming from their even more unique pasts.
We know from the first few chapters there are two factions of sorts, the Skomori (Sylvie) and the Zorka (Rurik). Though they work together at most times, the tension is still high, and the Skomori disdained. Cain never fully elaborates on the matter, but I hope to see a second book disclosing more.
Though I didn’t look up every cultural and setting reference myself (and I’m not very familiar with Central Europe), Cain does an excellent job of painting an amazingly diverse and real world. With lines like, “Inch by inch, murk swallowed the tall grass and bushes that marked the boundary...” or, “Silver duct tape fluttered in the wind, peeling from rips and holes in badly-patched canvas. Sloping roofs sagged. Rusty poles propped up lopsided awnings...” one cannot help but fall under the clutches of Bloodwalker, until it begrudgingly sets you free.
Though the wealth of description is often welcomed, there were a few scenes (the two mentioned above) where the character is in some kind of chase, and suddenly we stop to take in the surroundings. That was a minor pacing problem I felt took away some of the tension from these excellently fostered action scenes. There were many other scenes in later chapters that didn’t suffer this at all, and one of the final fight scenes where the pacing was laser fast the entire time. Delicious!
FROM HERE ON THERE WILL BE SPOILERS… You have been warned.
The book opens to Rurik, a former Strongman turned circus security due to an unfortunate lightning incident, chasing a clown through a run down train station and prying, with much difficulty, a child from the man’s grasp. He’s pieced together the string of child disappearances that have been following the circus like the plague, and has finally found the one at fault, but the thief slips through Rurik’s grasp.
Enter Sylvie, frightened, nervous, without confidence, and a bride-to-be. She and two other Skomori girls arrive at the Zorka Cyrka to be married off to their Skomori men, but nothing goes as planned. While preparing for the ceremony in the unused, broken down RV, things go wrong for the girls and Sylvie is left alone, assaulted by a man from the circus who’s taking what we know to be evidence of the clown kidnapper. After a scuffle, a sack of children’s bloodied bones fall into her lap. Being a Bloodwalker, Sylvie does not shy away from investigating, only to find something more horrifying than a corpse. Bite marks–human bite marks, on the bones.
Her mother swears her to secrecy, but Sylvie allows a small peep of information to Rurik just as she’s being married off (with some difficulty) to the worst man from her nightmares. Before Rurik’s able to investigate the RV, it’s burned to the ground, and the new Strongmen of the circus, the Markarov family, are implicated.
As Rurik continues his tireless investigation to save the innocent youth, Sylvie is slaving away for a husband who verbally abuses her, treats her like a prisoner in her own home, and beats her viciously. At this point, I’m angry at Sylvie. It was understandable for her to trust her mother and stay quiet (mostly) but when she’s being beaten and accepting it as “the way things are” I became upset.
I dislike women without a backbone who can’t stand up for themselves, but Cain does the victim mindset well. Sylvie acts as she would: a nineteen year old girl married off to a later twenties-thirties something man after being told Skomori men can be harsh all her life. I suppose it’s in her way to just accept it, and deal with it, but it pisses me off all the same. I couldn’t wait to get to Rurik’s scenes during this part of the book, but never fear, she finds her spine in time.
As we get closer and closer to the truth, characters start dropping like flies. There were two that were quite predictable, but some I had no idea were coming. As we go further and further down the rabbit hole of this gruesome tale, fewer things are making sense without some unnatural explanation.
And then Cain smacks you right between the eyes with a blood chilling description of the monster responsible for the deaths. By this time, we’ve been given many hints and a few bombs, but I was a little surprised by the reveal (which I refuse to divulge!).
To surmise, I cringed, I gasped, I pondered, I theorized, I begged and pleaded, then finally the ride was over, and I wanted more. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Sylvie and Rurik!