Of Scions and Men

Of Scions and Men - Courtney Sloan

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

First volume of what seems to be an interesting series. Not the best urban fantasy novel I've ever read, sure, but it has political hooks that could very well lead to a few big bangs in the future.

When the world went to the dogs, vampires revealed themselves and stepped in to keep the cattle, sorry, the humans in check—after all, there's no point in letting your bloodbags kill each other with mass-destruction weapons. Decades later, in the aftermath of that explosive situation, Earth is pretty much governed by said vampires, some of them using more human employees than others, but all determined to keep their own just as much in check. Well, at least in some parts of the world, including the USA, where the DEC (Department of Energy Conservation) sends people patrolling the streets in order to stop rogue vampires from feeding illegally and killing their preys.

Rowan Brady is one such agents, partnered with shapeshifter Lyle, and also the scion of vampire Devon: a human bonded to a vampire, able to use part of his powers, but also never, ever truly alone in her mind anymore. A sure recipe for a clusterfuck, especially since a lot of "purely human" people tend to view scions as blood whores, a lot of scions play the part as well, and Rowan does her best not to become a walking cliché. All for the sake of her little brother Will, after their parents' sudden death in an accident left them orphaned, and Rowan unable to take part in the Cup (a competition that, depending on her final rank, would have opened her a lot of doors... and conversely).

In general, I quite liked the relationships between Rowan and the male characters. Rowan/Devon bordered more than once on the vampire romance-type relationship, but it never become the infuriating kind of romance that makes me roll my eyes. Devon's a pretty decent guy, all things considered (even though his "cherie" speech mannerism was annoying, I guess the French in me just finds this a bit silly), playing the social and power-related role that a lot of vampires thrive in, however he never veered into the territory of "domineering alpha-male who abuses his partner/servant". And when he tries to play white knight and protect his scion by telling her to "stay at home for your own good"? He ends up needing her anyway, and she ends up kicking ass anyway. Then there's the werewolf pack leader and a fellow DEC agent: a positive alpha male, maintaining his position through benevolence and thought-out decisions, and not strutting around being all "me big strong violent male, me is your boss, female". Yeah, I am rather tired and jaded when it comes to male characters acting all over the place in very macho ways (or the "I'm dark and dangerous and I'm seducing you through coercion and being rough" type).

On the downside : some info-dumping, and a tendency on Rowan's part to be slightly exaggerated (too sarcastic and mean at times, too obsessed, too bent on doing things absolutely alone even if it meant running into trouble). Not many other female characters in there either, apart from Nadia who, so there's a risk of having a more typical woman-surrounded-with-male format in later books. I was also less satisfied when it came to Lyle, because I think there's a lot more to him than just "flamboyant gay blue jay shifter"—hopefully there'll be more in the next book ! His relationship with Rowan is sweet, in a "best friend/I have your back" way, and it'd be great to see him more developed: where did he find the strength to make his coming out in a society like his, did anything happen in the past that threatened him or, on the contrary, made him stronger and able to stand up to his peers ? Etc. Finally, I couldn't care less about Curtis. I can only hope he'll remain a secondary character, and that he won't end up being part of some dreaded love polygon.

Conclusion : 3 stars. I found myself wanting to keep reading, and interested enough in the world and its characters. There's real potential for intrigue, in more political ways than is usually found in urban fantasy. Some of the foundations behind that world, though, are a bit flimsy (at some point you need to exert suspension of disbelief and focus on the "now" rather than the "then" and "why"... but I've seen worse), and it could all just as well devolve into cookie-cutter UF. I'll keep an eye on this series, even if I won't buy it.