This month’s Mixed Bag has a slightly different format. Decadence has begun yet another series, and this month she reviews the first four books of the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz.
Melissa de la Cruz is a very clever writer. In her Blue Bloods series, De la Cruz has combined the current paranormal romance trends of fallen angels with vampires and set them against the backdrop of New York glamour where she makes her living. The story is mainly told in the third person from the viewpoints of Schuyler Van Alen, an impoverished misfit with an old money ancestry, spoilt It-girl Mimi Force, and Mimi’s friend, fish out of water Texan transplant Bliss Llewellyn.
The story is an intriguing mix of secrets and illusion wrapped up in glamorous privilege and exclusivity. All three girls are students at the prestigious Duchesne college, but have different backgrounds. The only other thing they have in common is that they are becoming vampires. For various reasons, each girl experiences her transformation in a different way. This is actually a characteristic of De la Cruz’s tricky style. She imparts information in such a way that, based on what the reader knows at the time, they might infer a particular reason for a character’s behaviour, only to discover later on that there was a completely different reason that hadn’t been hinted at earlier.
The series explores three distinct layers or issues—the first being wealth, privilege and old money in New York’s upper echelons. The three girls attend a private school with truancy written into the school program, exclusive parties, and they do a bit of modelling on the side as a hobby. Mimi Force is the reigning It-girl, who is friends with Bliss Llewellyn because of their father’s networking. As queen bee, Mimi likes to ensure that she gets VIP treatment at all times and that her friends follow her advice so that they can be cool enough for her to be seen with without seeming to be superior to her in any way.
The second layer is of the beautiful, wealthy and powerful, all of whom are vampires—literally Blue Bloods, with unnatural metabolisms and magnetism. They have past lives as fallen angels and are reincarnated as vampires every so often. Part of a Blue Blood’s transformation is reconciling their old memories with their new lives. A Blue Blood will have a vampire twin or soul mate, whom they must find in each incarnation and renew their bond. Sometimes their other half may be a family member in this life, but as they are not really human and one’s lover in this life could be a twin in the next. It’s not quite inbreeding, although this is supposed to be where the human concept of intermarriage arises—to keep the wealth within the family.
Mimi’s mate is her twin brother Jack, who loves her, yet is drawn to Schuyler Van Alen, his ‘cousin’. Mimi hates Schuyler because of Jack’s interest and because she is a poor relation with a shabby chic style that only she can get away with. Only expensive, exclusive chic has any value to Mimi.
Schuyler has a crush on Jack, but also a close relationship with her best friend, Oliver Perry-Hazard. Warning to Kat: there is a love polygon between Oliver, Schuyler, Jack, Mimi, and eventually someone else who will remain unnamed to prevent spoilers.
The third layer is of the largely unacknowledged threat against the Blue Bloods from the evil Silver Bloods. Many of the Blue Bloods are too arrogant to believe that they could be prey to anything or that their previous victory over the Silver Blood Caligula (reincarnation of Lucifer, the Morningstar) was anything less than complete and permanent.
The series as a whole works through its intriguing blend of secrets, deception of others, self-deception and a paranormal spin on the teenage rites of passage that still makes the characters relatable, despite their world being so different from ours.
Schuyler has a mini crush on the school hunk, Jack Force, who happens to be Mimi’s twin brother. He seems to be unaware of her existence until she sees him get hit by a cab outside a local nightclub. The only thing is, she’s the only one who seems to have seen Jack get hit, but he walks towards her like nothing happened. Even the cab continues on its merry way.
Showing interest in Schuyler for the first time, Jack has a quick conversation with her before heading to the exclusive club, next door to the run-of-the-mill dive where Schuyler, Oliver and their friend Dylan Ward are lined up. Jack meets Mimi, Bliss and Aggie, another Blue Blood. Later, Bliss, Aggie and Dylan go to the alley between the two clubs for a cigarette, and while Bliss and Dylan get to know each other, Aggie is killed and drained so that she cannot be reincarnated.
It can only be the Silver Bloods, but no one wants to acknowledge their existence. After all, there have been murders over the centuries, but they always stop on their own. Jack is convinced that they are under threat and shares his knowledge with Schuyler, who is strangely ignorant of the transformation she is going through.
Through Bliss’s modelling and her growing relationship with Dylan, she becomes friends with Schuyler and questions how much she really has in common with Mimi. She misses Texas and finds Dylan, Schuyler and Oliver more down to earth than snobby Mimi. Her transformation alarms her, but everyone around her assures her it’s normal.
Mimi Force has everything. The paparazzi follow her every move and girls want to be her. She knows she is powerful in both the human and the vampire worlds and has found her bondmate in her twin Jack. When Aggie dies, Mimi is relieved not to have to return the clothing she borrowed and is the centre of attention as the grieving best friend. But why does Jack talk to that nobody, Schuyler Van Alen?
ISBN: 9781905654741 | Release date: March 2010 | Publisher: Orbit | Format: B format
Schuyler and Oliver track down Schuyler’s grandfather Lawrence Van Alen in the hope of getting some help with the Silver Bloods. Her change isn’t going according to plan and she has to take a Red Blood (human) familiar to feed from, but emotionally doesn’t feel ready for the inherent intimacy, which might have something to do with Jack Force, even though he’s playing hot and cold. Even though, as her human Conduit, Oliver knows about Schuyler’s transformation, her vampire commitments help drive a wedge between them.
Mimi is upset over Jack’s attention to Schuyler and Bliss’s rise in popularity since appearing on a billboard for designer jeans with Schuyler, while Bliss is becoming disenchanted with being Mimi’s friend and misses Dylan.
Arguably the best part of the aptly named Masquerade (old souls masked in new incarnations) was the introduction of mysterious and charismatic Kingsley Martin, who is a little bit wicked and stirs the pot. He flirts with and challenges Schuyler, Mimi and Bliss and has his share of secrets, which is why I like him so much.
I received the series two books at a time, so I read Blue Bloods and Masquerade together and later, Revelations and The Van Alen Legacy. I wasn’t ready to write my review after The Van Alen Legacy but I didn’t want to move on and lose my impressions of the series by reading something else, so I returned to Masquerade simply because I like Kingsley, despite him being a minor character.
I have this feeling that there is only one first reading experience for every book. It’s like watching The Sixth Sense. There’s only one first time to note the little signs that something’s not quite right and maybe you guess at the twist or maybe you don’t. But by the end, everything has come together and any time you watch it after that first time, you already know what’s going on and everything you see is coloured by the knowledge you didn’t have the first time around. Maybe it makes you appreciate the story more or by going back you pick up on things that you missed the first time. I treat reading a book like watching The Sixth Sense, and when I write a review, it has so far always been from that perspective, because unless a reader absolutely loved a book, they are likely to only read it once, so that’s how I’ve reviewed.
Armed with a greater sense of the big picture, I found a greater appreciation for de la Cruz’s subtlety now that I could see how carefully she’d sown the seeds for this and later books. Call it forethought or sequel-baiting, but she drops little hints about the Silver Blood conspiracy throughout the story and intersperses the chapters with newspaper clippings and documents relating to the disappearance of Maggie Stanford, a transforming Blue Blood who disappeared about 100 years ago.
ISBN: 9781905654772 | Release date: March 2010 | Publisher: Orbit | Format: B format
Tensions rise between Schuyler and Mimi as they are forced to spend more time together. Bliss finally learns the truth about Dylan and which angel she is.
Oliver wants more from Schuyler than she is able to give him and Jack’s behaviour towards her is more hot and cold than ever, especially when Mimi brings forward their bonding date. The bond is taken so seriously by the Blue Bloods that a vampire who breaks the bond must be hunted down and destroyed by their former bondmate, both of whom are weakened by the breach.
Aggie Carondolet’s murderer is finally revealed.
The writing has developed beyond the sequential layering of the first two books and is more evenly woven together throughout the story. Instead of having the Silver Blood threat only dealt with later in the book, de la Cruz makes better use of pacing and starts pulling these threads together earlier in the book and laying more threads so that the reader has a better sense of what has been brewing. Revelations lives up to its name and feels like less of a world building exercise than the earlier books, having appropriately developed beyond the author’s previous efforts. No stranger to sequel baiting, she leaves some questions unanswered and I’m sure these will be revisited in later books.
To compensate for the lag between reading Masquerade and Revelations each for the first time, I followed up my Masquerade reread with a Revelations reread. This gave me a better appreciation for de la Cruz’s technique of showing one thing to distract from what she’s keeping under wraps. But even if I learn her little tricks, de la Cruz still manages to pull out surprises completely out of the blue.
While the love triangle between Oliver, Schuyler and Jack isn’t as anywhere near as extreme and destructive as a better known relationship between a girl, her friend and her vampire lover, Schuyler’s denial and thoughtlessness at times left a bad taste in my mouth (fuck you very much, Stephenie Meyer!) Despite its occasional and uncomfortable similarities with that other relationship that shall not be named, the saving grace of this love triangle is that Schuyler actually has a life and destiny outside the relationship and her men don’t manipulate her to get their own way.
ISBN: 9781905654789 | Release date: April 2010 | Publisher: Orbit | Format: B format
The Van Alen Legacy
I should almost do a separate review for The Van Alen Legacy because it is a world away from the earlier three books in the series. While it shares the soap opera quality of the others, the surface layer of the privileged life plays a much smaller role and the characters have developed in leaps and bounds since Revelations, particularly Mimi, whose character was the most in need of development.
The story picks up over a year after the events of Revelations and has largely progressed beyond the superficial first layer. We still have the soap operatic romantic entanglements but they are now played out against a more urban fantasy backdrop of hunting and fighting a known enemy.
Schuyler is on the run with her trusted Conduit, Oliver, Mimi comes into her own as the dark angel Azrael, and Bliss struggles with regaining her life after discovering that a year had passed while she was unconscious and is determined not to follow a prescribed path. The Blue Blood world is finally forced to acknowledge that the Silver Bloods are back and still very much a threat to them.
Although this makes the writing less subtle, de la Cruz is still able to pull off enough surprises to keep the story interesting. New revelations are made and the world expands exponentially from the earlier books. It also becomes clearer how much more this series promises, as the world and the characters grow up.
The back of the book contains a deleted scene between Jack and Schuyler and one where Kingsley comes clean. The last page promises more secrets will be revealed in the companion Keys to the Repository, compiled as the series really starts coming into its own.
Told you de la Cruz was clever.
ISBN: 9781905654796 | Release date: April 2010 | Publisher: Orbit | Format: B format
Yay or nay?
There are qualities in this series that aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you can accept multi-book plot arcs and love triangles, the subtlety in the layering and dropping of hints, as well as the compelling nature of the characters, will make it worth your while. And the series deserves a reread.
Review copies of all four books were generously provided by Hachette Australia. These books were first released in the USA. The next book in the series, Misguided Angel, will be released on October 26, 2010.
Other books in the Blue Bloods series