BLOOD INK by Dana Fredsti
Titan, 364 page p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
With the exponential increase in the amount of urban fantasy and the number novels that involve supernatural creatures it is getting harder to find new slants to what is becoming a familiar trope. While the idea of having the unusual as part of a travelling circus is not new, but suits the supernatural community well, I do not know of another book or series where they have embraced Hollywood in behind the scenes roles as stunt doubles. It seems an ideal situation for some supernatural beings as their extraordinary qualities enable them to perform in ways, with less risk, than an ordinary human.
In Dana Fredsti’s series, which began with The Spawn of Lilith, introduces Lee Striga, a human stunt woman who is part of an outfit where most of the other members have some non-human blood and are thus less likely to get hurt. Most people in Hollywood are unaware that such people exist but it seems that most people Lee knows are supes (supernaturals). The wonder is that with so many supes concentrated in one place, the human community hasn’t guessed – think of the press wannabees hanging around LA and Hollywood looking for the next bit of celebrity gossip.
In Blood Ink, the second in the series, Lee is faced with a number of challenges. Although she is part of the Katz Stunt Crew, the boss, Sean, won’t let her on any job because a fall at the start of book one, left her fighting a fear of heights. As a result she had to find work independently and worked on a low budget movie that ended with the death of the producer. Now no-one wants her anywhere near a film set. Her other major problem is that she has discovered that the monstrous children of Lilith (Adam’s first wife) gravitate towards her with the intention of killing her. It is one of these encounters, with a sea monster, that leads her to meeting Cayden Doran who is willing to take the chance of hiring her for a very low budget film on location near New Orleans.
Meanwhile, someone is misguidedly trying to bring the Eater of Worlds onto the Earthly plane. This is being initiated through special tattoos, done with special inks, which will kill and turn the human host into a monster to help facilitate the resurrection. Lee will, accidently, end up in the middle of the action.
The idea, though, of supernaturals working in the stunt business is a good move, and the using tattoos as a means of unlocking evil entities is intriguing. I do have issues with this novel. I am aware that this author has had experience of stunt work on low budget films and I may be wrong in some of my assumptions, but surely a stunt double doesn’t have to be good at everything. Most specialise, so not doing high falls wouldn’t preclude Lee from fight sequences and make her unwanted on set (though killing the producer might). The description of the accident at the start of The Spawn of Lilith is all too convenient. Yes, stunt doubles do get hurt and there is the occasional death, but there didn’t seem to be anyone else around to check everything was in order. Where was the stunt co-ordinator? What happened to the idiot that caused the accident? Where was the risk assessment?
On the set of the film in Blood Ink, there seem to be very few people. Of course, not everyone present will have a significant part to play in the unfolding of the novel’s plot and may well not have speaking lines but I had no impression of this as a serious project – however low-budget, all the people involved would want the project to succeed – and there was no sense of bustle. While I can be convinced that Lee is someone who attracts and needs to fight monsters, I wasn’t convinced that I was on location with a film crew, and if it had been filmed in the UK it would have been closed down on Health and Safety grounds long before the first take. Maybe it is different in the US.
While I felt it lack the sharpness required of this kind of novel, the action sequences were well handled by the author and if the intention was to present the whole novel and as a B-movie with Lovecraftian monsters rising from the depths of the black lagoon, it has succeeded.