I had a hard time collecting my thoughts on Blood, the first book in the new Mercian triology by Kevin “K.J.” Wignall. I re-read it just to get a stronger sense of my reaction. I am biased as I am a big fan of the superbly named (although initialed in this effort) Wignall. I enjoyed this book, and think it will make for an interesting series, but it was hard getting my head around it as it was just so different than his previous works.
Wignall writes psychological novels that have the action, tension and pace of the thriller or espionage genre but the style and depth or more literary works. His sparse and sharp prose somehow adds to both the thriller and literary aspects. His focus on the world of hit-men and his almost amoral perspective add a dark or icy edge; if I may mix my metaphors.
At first I thought he would be taking this same approach to a vampire story – and that would work, right?
But this young adult novel didn’t have that same feel for me (perhaps because of its audience). The lead character, Will, could easily have been that icy cold exterior with the philosophical interior but instead what struck me was this epic sadness coupled with a deep sense of honor and decency. He is trapped in this tragic way and instead of embracing the power and giving into it he seems determined to just endure.
Only his sense of honor and his quest to find out why he has been cursed with this “gift” drive him forward. Once he beings to stumble on possible answers, however, he is entangled in relationships with “normal” people and this brings complications he never anticipated.
Again, this makes him appear thoughtful and conflicted both in his thoughts and his actions – not an icy cold killer.
Another thing that got in the way, IMO, is the nature of these sort of YA series. The first book is often just an introduction to the set up and characters. The action and depth picks up then as the series continues. The first half of this book follows that pattern.
There is also an element of romance which I tend not to read. But as book that should appeal to both boys and girls, I think the romantic elements work. And Wignall works in some philosophical elements as well.
A lot of threads have been introduced – the second half of the book in particular – so there is a lot of potential being built up. It will be very interesting to see how this series plays out. I look forward to seeing where Wignall takes us.