Sunday, 17 June 2012

Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

Title: Red-Headed Stepchild
Author: Jaye Wells
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1-84149-756-3
Pages: 325
Series: Sabina Kane #1
Type: Adult Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Sabina Kane is an outcast in a world where bloodlines rule. Her mixed vampire/mage blood mean she is stuck as an assassin for the vampire council, the Dominae, led by Sabina's grandmother Lavina. So when the Dominae give her the opportunity to gain their favour by taking out Clovis Trakiya a mixed blood cult leader threatening their power base, she grabs the chance and goes undercover. But when Sabina is forced to work with mage Adam Lazarus she soon discovers her past is full of secrets and lies that threaten her very existence...

This is the first book in the now complete Sabina Kane series and is a great urban fantasy with perfect mix of light and funny with dark and gritty. The whole series has a really unique premise where all vampires are descended from Cain and Lilith (yup the ones from the Bible), whilst mages come from the goddess Hekate. They aren't the only two races here though as there are also demons and fairies each with their own unique varieties. Despite the depth to the world building there is no info-dumping and the only sign of this being the first in a series is the sense of opportunity in the ending.

The storyline is tightly plotted with good pacing, a rare factor in undercover books. The book starts with a bang, moving from action packed scene to action packed scene before the main plotline kicks in when the pacing stays pretty solid interspersed with intense scenes. There are a host of unexpected twists and turns and the underlying manipulation adds a high level of tension, especially as Sabina is never sure who is actually manipulating her at any given time. The book has a very low romance level and is more about Sabina discovering the truth about herself and her life.

Sabina is a great lead character and although she seems unlikeable to start, it soon becomes clear that she is a product of her upbringing. This means that the distance from her grandmother and the rest of the Dominae-led vampires leads Sabina to discover a lot more about herself and it's great to have this revealed to the reader as she goes. Adam is the ideal hunky friend/foe and, as a mage, someone Sabina resists her attraction to from day one. Clovis on the other hand is seriously creepy and disturbing with a weird cult-leader-buying-into-his-own-hype vibe making him the ideal villain.

My favourite character though has to be Giguhl who is a mischief demon who accidentally ends up bound to Sabina, and then through a series of mishaps gets turned into a hairless cat. He has some absolutely hilarious lines and quickly becomes Sabina's best friend/protector/foil. I also have a soft spot for Vinca who is an irrepressible fairy Sabina rooms with while undercover. She's girly but with a core of steel and I can see why Sabina finds herself becoming friends with her despite her best intentions.

One really unique thing I love about these books are Sabina's "Things to do:" checklists that look paperclipped to the back covers. This installment has:
     1. Infiltrate rival vampire cult and assassinate leader
     2. Get rid of demon houseguest
     3. Ditch the hot mage stalker
     4. Betray family

All in all, this was a great read and I'm looking forward to The Mage in Black.

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Enjoyment: 10/10
Cover: 9/10

Overall: 48/50

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