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Book Review – Bad Blood By James D Macdonald and Debra Doyle

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Bad Blood By James D Macdonald and Debra Doyle

Reviewed by David Lascelles

 

One purpose of self publishing is allowing authors who have regained the rights to their work to re-release them and, potentially, expose them to a wider audience for a longer term than may be allowed by a traditional publisher’s print run. Many authors do this and yet more grant the rights to their work to other publishers for the same reasons. I think this is a good thing, especially in the case of Bad Blood.

Bad Blood was originally published by Berkley in 1993 and has since gone out of print and emerged on the self publishing market as a reprint by the authors. It is a tale of high school werewolves. In fact, throughout the book, I was sometimes hard put to not think of Michael J Fox covered in hair and wearing sunglasses . Thankfully, however, the fact that there is a werewolf in a school is the only similarity this book has to 1985’s Teenwolf. The werewolves in this story are far more deadly serious.

We follow the tale of Valerie Sherwood, a young girl about to enter High school who goes with one of her teachers and a group of friends from school on a camping trip over the summer. There the usual campfire stories are told, culminating in one of the campers telling a tale in which he implies he is a werewolf and none of them are going to survive his transformation. Of course, he is telling the truth but when he does transform things don’t go as well as he predicted. The rest of the novel follows the aftermath of this trip and deals especially with Val’s fear that she has been bitten by the werewolf and is therefore doomed to transform into one herself when the full moon rises.

The story itself is very well executed and written with consummate skill and style. The characters are all portrayed realistically despite some of them bordering a little on common high school stereotypes. Diana, for example, comes across as a typical rich kid cheerleader type (though it is never mentioned if she is a cheerleader or not). There is sufficient tension in the plot and uncertainty about the fate of all the characters to really make a reader concerned about what is going to happen next. As Val comes to terms with her werewolf nature and prepares to face the wolf who bit her to stop him from attacking all her friends, each of those friends deals with their own issues in their own ways – some with tragic consequences. All of this takes place against a wonderfully drawn backdrop of a small town American High School in the early 90’s – again almost a standard location for supernatural horror to occur. In fact, I was impressed by some of the little details that were included which really serve to set this scene – in particular the use of green and white banded printer paper for class lists on the school notice board.

There are flaws in this perfection but not many. There is a slight disconnect in some of the classic Werewolf lore in this book, for example. Silver and wolfsbane are both cited as being weaknesses of werewolves but the authors also add garlic to this list. While I am all for authors rewriting classical mythology there didn’t seem to be any sensible rationale for this insertion of what ‘everyone knows’ is a weakness of vampires. I can see why it was done, of course – there is a beautiful scene where Valerie eats a pizza with garlic on it and has a bad reaction. It is almost worth having this change in there for that one scene alone. However, it didn’t quite work for me and jolted me out of the story.

So, if you enjoy anything about werewolves, I would definitely recommend this book to you. I certainly intend to start looking for the sequels and any other books these authors may have out there.

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