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**WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW THE JUMP!**
(Although, if you read Infected: Prey, none of this will be a surprise to you.)
Here's the blurb:
In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds. The newly married Roan is struggling to balance his work with his home life as he grows increasingly distracted by his husband Paris's declining health. One case with strong emotions attached takes up most of his time: finding the murderer of a missing little rich girl. It's a family with secrets so toxic they'd rather no one investigate, and there's no shortage of suspects. But despite the dangers and obstructions involved, Roan won't stop... until he loses something infinitely precious as well.
I must start off first and foremost by saying that this was a brilliant world with supremely well-crafted characters, the best closing line I think I've read in years (I mean seriously, that could NOT have been more perfect), and enough emotional punch to leave me in tears. I was literally crying hard enough to make reading the last few pages a challenge.
I also want to applaud Andrea Speed for having the courage to end the book the way she did. When you create such lovable characters, treating them like she did can get you lynched by your readers. But this ending was truest to the story and served it best. I think a lesser author might have whipped up a miracle to avoid the hard choices.
For me, this would have been 5-star read if not for craft issues, which were fairly significant in some places. As with Infected: Prey, Infected: Bloodlines has some serious flab. Literally not one meaningful thing happens in the first 16% of the book; it was all backstory and setup, clumsily done and not interesting at all. Had I not already been so invested in the characters, that beginning would likely have led me to put the book down and not pick it back up. And of course there were also the paragraph-long physical descriptions of every character to wander onto the page, no matter how minor, that tighter editorial control would have caught and cut. There were also some strange POV shifts, where she'd head-hop into a minor character for one or two paragraphs in the middle of the scene, and then hop back out again; and some fairly stark factual inaccuracies that I felt there were no excuse for in a book about cat shifters (cougars can't roar, and boy how did that throw me out of the story when one of hers did, but I'll concede that probably not too many people know that). It's hard to reconcile all these craft issues in the beginning and middle with the ending, which was sleek and elegant and beautiful; I'm not sure how they came from the same author.
Despite these things, this was a brilliant, affective read. I recommend this series quite highly, and I look forward to seeing Andrea's next work. (I'd especially like to see her publish at a house with a deeper editorial touch; hands-off editorial can be a joyous thing for those eagle-eyed writers who can really cut their own works to the bone, but most of us can't, and need the editorial assist. I think if she had that oversight, her work would be masterful.) I hope she revisits Roan, because after leaving him bleeding and broken at the end of Bloodlines, I'm desperate to see him find some semblance of happiness again.
And now I need to go watch kittens playing, or something, because this book basically punched me in the solar plexus and then killed my dog. Which is an amazing thing, to be moved like that. But it also kinda sucks :-p
Thanks, Andrea, for such a powerful, captivating read. This one will stick with me for a good long while.