Tanya Huff wrote a series in the early 90s that has many names: Blood Series, Blood Books, Blood Ties, and the one Goodreads uses: Vicki Nelson. It is one of the early examples of urban fantasy on the market, though there are earlier. It was even made into a TV show under the name Blood Ties.
I wrote reviews here.
The series follows Victoria “Vicki” Nelson. At the start of the series, she has recently quit the force as a detective as her physical disability, namely that her eyesight is degenerating, got too bad to continue to work as a detective. While she doesn’t think she can work as a cop anymore, she is certain she can still work as a PI. Only, she isn’t able to let her job go, and decides to look into a case of a serial killer and finds more than she expected: a vampire, and new friend, and a demon. From there, her new friendship with Henry Fitzroy, the vampire, takes her further into the supernatural world.
I have read a lot of urban fantasy. I have even read this series a few times, though not since I first found the genre. However, last year I reread the series and I couldn’t get over just how good it is when I compared it to more modern urban fantasy. I was continually blown away that Tanya Huff paid attention to thing I consider “core” to the genre, that less well written, newer series seem to lack or overlook entirely.
So here are five things that I think Tanya Huff did well, and should be held up as a shining example for urban fantasy:
1. The Monsters
Tanya Huff created real supernatural creatures, even if they were “basic” vampires, werewolves, and demons. They feel like they have their own place in the world that fits what the creature is trying to be. They don’t stand out like a sore thumb. They aren’t just jammed in there with a hope that they fit and everything works out okay in the end. And they definitely aren’t just tossed in there and completely left unexplored.
They can also be as mysterious as they are known. There is something infinitely creepy about the supernatural creatures of Tanya Huff, because they aren’t known, except to themselves. We know just enough about them that we know what they are, and even some of what they can do, but we don’t always know how to fight them or all of what they can do. The holes in the information are even more terrifying than knowledge can be. Even Henry, one of the main characters, is as much a mystery in the beginning as everything else. It is okay to leave things unknown, especially when it leads to the creepiness invoked here.
2. The Humans
The humans are as much a part of the story as the monsters. In some of the cases, they are the monster. Through this series we can examine the human condition. We see the people who kill a night nurse during the midst of a panic sweeping the city under the belief that there is a vampire in their midst, killing them. We see a devout Christian who believes he is doing God’s work while doing terrible things. We see the megalomaniacs who think they’re “doing the right thing” because they think themselves as a god. We see the boy who was snubbed too many times, and now he wants to make them all pay. Tanya Huff uses the humans as a part of the story, she doesn’t forget about them.
3. The Side Characters
I found myself amazed at the side characters. Every single one of them had their own personality. They had their own lives. Their own beliefs. Their own moral codes. Even if they aren’t going to be around long. Even if they will die in the next scene after they are introduced. They all feel important to the plot, they feel real. We meet people just because there is a world full of people to meet.
4. The Main Character
One of the best parts to the entire series is Vicki Nelson. She doesn’t just exist when the series starts – no, she has had a life that has happened prior to the start of the series. She has friends, she has a lover. She has dreams and aspirations. Her entire life isn’t consumed by some quest or job, though she is incredibly devoted to her work. She is also disabled. Actually, physically disabled. Huff doesn’t use anger as a character flaw! Vicki is only appropriately angry. And for that alone she has my love.
5. The Romance
Vicki Nelson bucks the trends a bit, and she had a lover before the series even started, Mike. He is on-again, off-again, but they love each other, even when they’re screaming at each other. You know they care for each other. Then there is Henry, the new guy, the vampire, the enigma. You can call him an attraction more than a love interest, but Vicki grows to care for him a lot over the course of the series. However, it isn’t all fun. Yes, there is jealousy. And the jealousy builds. But it feels like a natural extension of the relationship where a love triangle forms when before it was just two.
Even the sex life feels more real than normal. It isn’t all passions. It isn’t they find each other and the next night they hop into bed together. They don’t have sex all the damn time, even when they’re in danger. With the lover she had before the series started, it is the kind of sex with someone you’re comfortable with. With the new guy, it is months of learning each other, of buildup and teasing and just plain caring for one another. It just fits the story and the characters.
This reads like a love letter to the series, and it is. But I also found it deserves it.