Susan Sizemore,
Laws of the Blood: Heroes
(Ace, 2003)

Susan Sizemore has carved a wonderful little niche for herself in the vampire genre with her Laws of the Blood series. Heroes, the fifth book in the series, begins to blend what has come before into a new concoction full of future possibilities.

Up to this point, each novel had concentrated on different vampires in different cities, with the predominant focus being on the Enforcers charged with overseeing vampire law in each area. In Sizemore's fictional universe, vampires are subject to a set of laws put in place centuries ago by the Strigoi Council: a vampire cannot kill another vampire, no vampire should mess around with another vampire's human companion, no vampire can reveal the group's existence to humans, etc. But vampires can be a pretty unruly lot, and that is why each area falls under the jurisdiction of an Enforcer, a sort of supervampire of the Nighthawk line. The Enforcer decides when and who local vampires can hunt, metes out justice on vampires who refuse to obey the Laws, takes care of any strigoi (lone vampires) that happen onto his/her territory, etc. Enforcers not only can destroy vampires, they draw their strength from the ingested hearts of those they kill. These Laws of the Blood have existed for many centuries, and more and more of the new generation of vampires oppose them -- this increasing dissatisfaction with the old ways is basically the central theme in the books of this series.

Heroes features a mini-convention of characters from the first two books of the series. First, we have Char, a young Enforcer still breaking in her Nighthawk claws, and her companion Jebel Haven, a mortal vampire hunter with whom Char has yet to share blood. Then there is Valentine and her vampire companion Geoff Sterling. Valentine is an ancient, agoraphobic and increasingly mysterious vampire who, not so long ago, came very close to making a motion picture revealing the true existence and history of her kind (a definite no-no in the vampire world). Both Char and Valentine disapprove of certain Laws but do not seek the kind of revolution many other vampires yearn for.

These characters come together in Las Vegas, where they soon find themselves battling to save vampirism as they know it. Ibis, a truly ancient vampire, has built a hotel and casino modeled on an ancient vampire city and has stocked a special museum with mysterious vampire artifacts. A young local vampire is determined to break the yoke of the Laws, and the translation of an ancient scroll purportedly telling the truth about the Nighthawks stands at the center of her plans. As the plot develops, the very existence of Nighthawks is challenged, and we learn that there is much, much more that Sizemore has to teach us about these main players in her thrilling novels.

Overall, I found Heroes a little less satisfying than the third and fourth books, but this novel holds a crucial place in the series. For every new truth we discover, we seem to acquire two new mysteries, opening up untold numbers of doors through which Sizemore may choose to take us in succeeding books. There is plenty of action and excitement in these pages, culminating in a fight far removed from any we have yet encountered -- and it take something special to outdo vampires, demons and werewolves. Then, just when you think the book is finished, you find 30 more pages to go; it is here that Sizemore brings all of the plot points together and prepares the reader for what is to come in the future.

Sizemore has managed to breathe new life into the vampire genre and shows no signs of slowing down. Each succeeding novel in the series delves deeper into vampire society and the mist-enshrouded origins of vampirekind, sating our own thirsts for vampire action and excitement while beckoning us onward toward bigger and better things to come. Sizemore's characters are also very well drawn; not only do they differ from your Dracula or Nosferatu style of vampire, they possess great life, character and believability. Any lover of vampire fiction would be well advised to sample Sizemore's wares.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 3 July 2004

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