Reviewed November 29, 2012.
DAW Books, 2011. 488 pages. Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Fantasy Fiction
It's hard to talk about this book without saying too much about its predecessor. Yes, you definitely should read Coronets and Steel before you read Blood Spirits. When we left Kim, she had found out a world of information about her grandmother's secret life. She'd been kidnapped more than once, she'd met long-lost family, and she'd gotten involved in political intrigue and fallen in love. She'd also discovered that she has the Sight, and she saw some truly strange things in the kingdom of Dobrenica.
But in the end, she decided not to get between the man she loves and his duty to his nation. She fled, expecting him to get married, and wondering if the traditional magic would happen and Dobrenica would disappear from the outside world.
Well, Dobrenica didn't disappear. But Kim decided to get a teaching job and to try not to think about Dobrenica. But it doesn't work, and then Kim has a strange vision of Ruli, her look-alike cousin, the woman who married the man she loves. Ruli is begging Kim for help. Kim decides to go to Dobrenica.
Her timing is bad. Ruli has just been found dead, and even Alec considers himself responsible for her death. Kim's showing up then makes the case against him all the worse.
This story includes political intrigue, a murder mystery, and, yes, blood spirits threatening the kingdom. There's more sword fighting (Kim is a skilled fencer.) and shifting alliances and even Kim's grandmother faces her old love.
Here's Kim talking to a Dobrenican girl and discovering she's not the only one who sees strange things:
Tania refused to sit down, so I collapsed on the bed, as she said without preamble, "When I was little I talked to ghosts. Many ghosts. I see them all around, though most are silent and like fog. But my family, they thought I lied, to gain attention."
I sat up again. "You talked to them?"
She brought her chin down in a single nod.
"But no one believed you?" I began to pull off my boots.
"No one but my sisters. Theresa because she loves the stories about ghosts. Anna because she knew I never lied."...
"First, how do you talk to them, and second, what made you decide to tell me these things?"
"I do not know how I speak to them," she said, her slender hands open as I reached for the wardrobe door. "It happened more when I was small. Rarely since. No one else could hear them. It was not always about things that made sense to me. As for why I'm telling you this, it is partly because of what you said when you came to the lens maker's, but also because of this man." She pointed at the wardrobe.
"What?" I jumped back as if I'd been electrocuted, leaving the wardrobe door ajar. "What man?"
She pointed. "He stands there, with a cigarette."
Sherwood Smith is a master of the fantasy genre, and this book isn't quite like any other. More swashbuckling romance. With vampires. And these ones definitely don't sparkle.