76 points/100 (4 stars/5)
Vicki Nelson used to be one of Toronto’s best homicide detectives. That was before a condition forced her to retire early. Now, she is trying to convince herself being a private detective is enough. Henry Fitzroy is the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, and a vampire. Together, they team up to stop a supernatural killer.
Blood Price is the start to a series with many names. Goodreads lists it as Vicki Nelson (and I go with Goodreads series names because that is where people are likely to look something up at). Amazon lists the series as “Blood Series”. Wikipedia uses “Blood Books”. There is even a TV series that uses the name “Blood Ties” instead. I’ve also seen the variations on the first name Victoria and Victory instead of Vicki.
Whichever name you want to call this series by, it is old for urban fantasy. This book is very solidly urban fantasy and it came out in 1991. It isn’t the first series to be really described as urban fantasy, but Tanya Huff definitely got in early on the craze. This is one of the few urban fantasy series I’ve read that started before 2000, even. Blood Price feels like an older style of writing to me, something that you just don’t really see much nowadays. Urban fantasy is filled with first person perspective stories, but this is not first person. While the primary focus is on Vicki, we jump to random people, sometimes for entire scenes, sometimes for small snippets. Henry is also also a large focus, and it jumps between his present and his past. The writing doesn’t really do it for me. It hops around way too much, and some of those times it feels like for no reason at all. It is even a little bit confusing. It is entirely readable though.
It is all the other parts I like, instead.
Vicki Nelson is awesome. Vicki is the only protagonist I can think of that I’ve read with a physical disability. When authors give characters a personal problem to overcome, it typically comes down to anger or an inability to trust others. Not with Vicki. She has a progressive degenerative disease that is slowly robbing her of her sight. At the start of the series, she has essentially no night or peripheral vision, and she is getting more myopic all the time. This is a problem when we’re dealing with creatures that stalk the night. While Vicki has some anger issues, it is due to grief. She is angry that her body is failing her and she can’t do the job she absolutely loved anymore.
Henry is also pretty cool. He is the bastard son of Henry VIII, and has been around a while. Also, a vampire. Henry serves as our guide into the supernatural. He also is the one to put a human face on the supernatural for Vicki to see. Henry isn’t bad, so the supernatural world couldn’t possibly be too scary. However, he also serves as a potential love interest, someone Vicki has seen as being interesting enough to pay attention to.
Which makes the romance in this series even more interesting, because Vicki Nelson is one of the rarer series where there is a love interest at the start. Which makes we a love triangle brewing! Mike Celluci is a homicide detective who used to work with Vicki. They have the most amazingly angry relationship. They love to fight with the other. Every time they interact, they’re yelling at each other. However, you can tell they have genuine affection for each other. They show their love by fighting. It is actually really cute.
The thing I loved the most was that this was just as much about the human reactions as it was about the supernatural bad guy. Yes, it is a straightforward urban fantasy with a PI trying to solve a crime. However, the supernatural bad guy is…just a human. They have human desires and human thoughts. There is also a public panic because they think a vampire is stalking Toronto. We see the human reactions, and what they can do in the face of fear. Too often, the human element is forgotten in urban fantasy. This is why I loved reading Blood Price so much.
However, the world building isn’t forgotten, either. It is rich in the way I only think about older urban fantasy being rich. Nothing is “unique” just for the sake of being unique, in order to have something about the series to stand out to others. The vampires are vampires (and not just humans who happen to drink blood), yet it isn’t left up to the reader to decide what type of vampires they are. It is explored, not just stated. My only issue is that Vicki accepts the supernatural way too easily. It is actually kind of hilarious how easily she accepts everything that is going on.
Blood Price was definitely a pleasant read. Yes, it felt old. Yes it was kind of boring and trite. Yet that isn’t the fault of the author or the story. This was a trailblazer. It was one of the urban fantasy firsts. It set up the way for the genre to go, the way the genre still follows today. It was really well done, and I absolutely loved the characters.