Cursed by Fire by Danielle Annett (book 1 of the Blood & Magic series) explores a world in which human society has collapsed and vampires and shifters rule the former United States. The subtlety to this environment is amazing. Most of the time, I simply forgot that this was more post-apocalyptic-paranormal and less urban-paranormal. The way Annett handled to difference between a post-apocalyptic landscape where the apocalyptic event was military or medical and her own where it was more of societal shift was brilliant. Everything is the same, yet it isn’t. Cell phones and cars are readily available, yet medicine is scarce.
Her emphasis on racial stress is also something that gets effortlessly woven into the fabric of the story. While the races are now species, the familiar conflict between those on top and those that are suffering from their neglect is something that Annett manages to seamlessly insert into the daily lives of her characters. When things like acetaminophen are luxuries because the ruling classes don’t have a need for it, you can see just how far the ‘superior’ Western world has fallen. Along those lines, it feels like a natural progression to have the supes fighting each other over territory while the humans are forgotten, ignored and used. They are supposedly left to carve out their own existence while the regular infrastructure of state-run schools and hospitals are things of memory. The mystery surrounding the psykers (humans with supernatural abilities) is something that easily carries you from the first book to the second. The question of how they came about and what their place is in a world ruled by bigger and stronger is something that Annett only begins to address in this first book of the series. The conflict between the psykers and the other supes is something that I’m interested in seeing expanded. The psykers’ role as a seemingly conservative entity wanting to eliminate this new ruling class feels unnatural, so I’m eager to see what part their origins play in this.
Annett doesn’t shy from showing how relationships can be skewed by people’s interactions, either. Aria’s interactions with humans, psykers, vampires, and shifters are interesting to watch–mostly because they seem to evolve with all the new information that she attains. She’s always altering how she views and interacts with people, processing their reactions to certain speech and behaviors in a way that is surprising as well as it is pleasing. In a flood of “I’ll behave how I like and to hell with the rest of them” heroines, it’s nice to see one adhering to the unspoken social strictures of trying to communicate with people in a way that actually gets through to them. I’m really intrigued to see where her relationship with James (claimed as a friend, though the protective and possessive actions of his wolf say there may be more) goes, as well as her relationship with Declan. The fact that I can see an evolution and change in these relationships happening makes me happy. Too often, I feel like certain relationships are stagnant (some might say predestined) and expressed in that state from the beginning. The impact of Aria’s mother on her other relationships is something that Annett seems to be setting up and also something I look forward to. Overall, I enjoyed this novel and am anticipating a good run on this series.
Check out this first novel on Amazon by clicking the image below!