Review: “Blood Bound (Unbound #1)” and “Shadow Bound (Unbound #2)” by Rachel Vincent

Title: “Blood Bound (Unbound #1)”/”Shadow Bound (Unbound #2)”

Author: Rachel Vincent

Genre: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Crime, AWESOME

Publication Date: September 1, 2011 (“Blood Bound”)/May 22, 2012 (“Shadow Bound”)

Summary: Bound by blood, condemned by fate

As a bloodtracker, Liv is extremely powerful. And in a world where power is a commodity that can get you killed, Liv’s learnt to survive by her own rules.

Rule number one? Trust no one.

But when a friend’s daughter goes missing, Liv is bound by a potent magical oath. She can’t rest until the child is safe.
And that means trusting her dangerous ex, Cam.

A sinister prophecy tells that she and Cam will be the death of each other, yet Liv’s tired of being a slave to destiny. She’s ready to play the forces controlling her world at their own game.

No matter what the cost.

If you live in the dark long enough, you begin to forget the light…

KORI DANIELS is a shadow-walker, able to travel instantly from one shadow to another. After weeks of confinement for betraying her boss, she’s ready to break free of the Tower syndicate for good. But Jake Tower has one final job for Kori, one chance to secure freedom for herself and her sister, Kenley, even if that means taking it from someone else…

The job? Recruit Ian Holt—or kill him.

Ian’s ability to manipulate the dark has drawn interest from every syndicate in the world, most notably an invitation from Jake Tower. Though he has no interest in organized crime, Ian accepts the invite, because he’s on a mission of his own. Ian has come to kill Tower’s top Binder: Kori’s little sister.

Amid the tangle of lies, an unexpected thread of truth connecting Ian and Kori comes to light. But with opposing goals, they’ll have to choose between love and liberty…

☆: 4.5/5 stars – an awesome new series that’s a breath of fresh air in the urban fantasy genre!

Review: Note that this is a review for both books one and two.

I’d say I’m a casual fan of Vincent’s work – I only skimmed the first two books of the “Alphas” series (it didn’t hold too much interest for me), but I do really like the “Soul Screamers” series. Then I heard about this one, and decided to pick it up. And I’m really glad I did, because I think I can safely say that this series is some of her best work yet. The intensity and unflinching grittiness that begins in book one (“Blood Bound”) continues with no middle book syndrome whatsoever. If you’re just getting into the urban fantasy genre, I HIGHLY recommend the “Unbound” trilogy as it stands right now.

It feels like Vincent has improved leaps and bounds when it comes to worldbuilding and character construction. The world, though small, blew me away in “Blood Bound” in it’s tiny simplicity – there are the Skilled, those who have supernatural abilities that make them very desirable to certain parties, and the unSkilled – normal human beings. There are no shapeshifters or werewolves, and that alone in a paranormal story these days seems to be getting rarer and rarer. There’s only the fear of one’s blood being spilt – it can bind you to someone and make you do anything they want, whether you’re aware of it or not. And then there’s one career path – the US government will not acknowledge the Skilled even if they’ve been out of the collective social closet for over 30 years, so your job path is one of two things – you either freelance it and use your Skill that way, or you join the mob.

What’s wonderful about this worldbuilding is that there are so few choices and everything is very clearly defined and labeled, severely limiting the characters’ behaviors and choices. This is great for putting one’s characters under pressure and seeing what comes out of it – and what comes out of it, in both books, is nothing short of a story so good you’re willing to lose good-sized chunks of sleep for each book.

If you’ve read some of Vincent’s other work, you know that she’s really good at killing her darlings in order to really emotionally connect with the audience and have her characters really take wonderful journeys through their individual character arcs. She sets it all up beautifully in “Blood Bound”, where both Kori and Cam have no choice but to obey conflicting orders and go through a ridiculous amount of pain in the process in order to accomplish what each person wants. Olivia is a wonderful heroine in the first book, but with “Shadow Bound”, Kori has become my favorite for her sheer willpower to survive and protect her sister. The storyline that took up most of book one – that of the accidental BFFs Forever Pact – isn’t really up at the forefront in book two. Book two deals with the fallout from the end of book one, which is directly linked to the Pact, though the Pact itself isn’t really explicitly discussed. Book two is all Kori, and everything she’s willing to do to keep going, keep surviving. There is no love triangle, there is only duty – duty to the syndicate that has tortured her, and duty to her family (and to a lesser part, to the teenage pact).

Book two has some very triggery material – that of torture and rape – and I’d say that Vincent handled those PTSD flashbacks very appropriately. They weren’t graphic, but they were just enough to make you realize how bad things got for Kori, and how much it took for her not to break into millions of pieces. It’s hard to handle material like that in any book, and I think Vincent pulled it off very well and then made it loop back into the teenage pact where Olivia and Cam are asked for help, bringing us back full circle into what got everyone into this mess in the first place. It was beautifully outlined and written and everything tied up rather neatly. If this weren’t a trilogy, I’d be convinced otherwise that this is the last book in this series. But it’s not. And writing a series book to read as if it were a standalone is one of the most difficult things one can do as an author.

Overall? I adore these two books, and I can’t wait to own them. Vincent’s worldbuilding and characters make this series unforgettable, and absolutely unputdownable (I usually cringe at that term, but it’s entirely correct here). But the worst part? Waiting for book 3, “Oath Bound” – it’s going to be published sometime in early 2013, and I don’t want to wait that long!

So if you want something new and fresh in this genre to read by an old hand, pick up the first two “Unbound” trilogy books “Blood Bound” and “Shadow Bound”. Both have made my best of 2012 list so far and it’s well-deserved. Both are out now from Mira/Harlequin books in North America, and “Shadow Bound” will be released on June 1, 2012 in the UK by Harlequin UK. Be sure to check them out – especially if you’re getting tired of the same ol’ plots and tropes in the urban fantasy genre. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


One thought on “Review: “Blood Bound (Unbound #1)” and “Shadow Bound (Unbound #2)” by Rachel Vincent

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! « birth of a new witch.

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