I was in need of a new distraction so I searched through my TBR pile for something light and fresh to read. I found the first two books in Helen Harper's "Blood Destiny" series, which pre-dates anything else that I've read by her.
Helen Harper is always fun and always a little different. She writes across the full spectrum of Urban Fantasy from the dark and menacing Bo Blackman series, where vampires and demons are built into the British Establishment, through a standalone thriller like "Wraith", set in an alternative Stirling, occupied by one set of goblins and besieged by another, to the tongue-in-cheek fun and foolery of "The Lazy Girl's Guide To Magic" series about the adventures of the laziest (and most powerful) witch in Britain.
"Bloodfire" was original enough and fast enough and funny enough to keep me engaged enough to enjoy shouting at the heroine to wake up and see what's really going on and to have me laughing out loud at some of the oneliners.
The writing is as not as good as in the later books. Sometimes it feels a little lazy, with certain phrases and descriptions repeated often enough to distract me, and sometimes a little breathless, with more adjectives and adverbs than I can digest BUT the characters and the secret at the heart of the story were more than enough to make up for that.
At the centre of "Bloodfire" is Mackenzie Smith, a human woman who has been living with the Cornish Shifter Pack since childhood. She's not supposed to be there. Humans are not supposed to know about shifters and certainly not supposed to shelter them. Mac survives by being good at killing the supernatural nasties that the pack protects the rest of us from and by being able to hold her own in a fight with shifters.
She attributes this to her temper, which she puts down to her red hair, and to her ability to concentrate when she feels the fire in her blood in moments of stress. In her mind, her only superpower is an unrivalled ability to piss off almost everyone she meets.
It's clear from the beginning that Mac's understanding of who she is and why she the pack shelters her is unreliable and that changing that understanding is going to be a key part of the story.
In the first few pages, the pack comes under attack from an unknown nasty that kills the Pack Alpha, who is Mac's principal defender. The attack brings the sleepy Cornish Pack to the attention of The Brethren, an elite group that acts as shifter royalty and lethal enforcers of pack law, who arrive to investigate the attack and appoint a new Alpha.
So now Mac has to find a way to avenge her Alpha's death while hiding both her human nature and her fighting ability from The Brethren.
The story is told from Mac's point of view, which was sometimes wonderfully frustrating as she is impulsive, aggressive, loyal and completely unable either to plan or to control her temper. The action scenes. and there are a lot of them, are well described and deeply engaging.
Although the world being built is intriguing, I found the strength of the book to be in the characters: Mac, a brawling ball of rage a lot of the time; Corrigan, the Lord Alpha, broody and aloof who Mac instantly dislikes and so who is likely to become the love interest; Alex the Mage brought in to sniff out the attacker, who comes across like a new age surfer rather than a fearsome magic wielder, and Anton, a bear shifter who hates Mac and will do what he can to get rid of her.
This was an enjoyable ride if you're in the mood to cheer the good guys, hiss at the bad guys and mentally plead with Mac to think before she acts.
The ending isn't a cliff-hanger but it does leave you with a strong incentive to read the next book.
This is a series I'll be going back to when I need some light but tense fantasy to distract me.