Susan Sizemore,
Laws of the Blood: Deceptions
(Ace, 2002)

Reading Susan Sizemore's Laws of the Blood: Deceptions was unpleasantly like tuning into a movie 30 minutes after it started. The plot is still easy to catch, the characters aren't too far advanced to get acquainted with, but there are a million story points beyond comprehension and the sneaking feeling that it would all be explained if only you'd been there from the start.

The few characters who are worth knowing are fairly straightforward. Sizemore doesn't try to play coy with her characters' motivations, and anyone who's more than plot scenery is given motivation, background and inner turmoil within pages of their appearance. Olympias, the enforcer of the titular Laws, is a millennia-old vampire who seems more bored with her life than anything else. Her slave, Sara Czerny, for some reason embraces her status as loyal flunky while longing to be elevated to Companion, a kind of vampire's love slave, and get that step closer to vampirism. Roger Bentencourt is a full Companion scheming to take over the companion world and bring down Olympias, who he believes was his wife in a past life when he was Philip of Macedonia. Mike Falconer is a high-powered psychic and head of a government project examining the potential uses of psychic abilities; his father Andrew is a vampire, very psychic and somewhat suicidal. There are other people moving around these main characters, but they never seem to have purpose beyond driving the plot of the leads' lives.

The plot is simple, for all the distracting turns it takes. Once it's established that vampires are real, it makes sense that they would have their own society alongside humans and live by a set of Laws designed to help them avoid human detection. Each city has an enforcer like Olympias; her particular city is Washington, D.C. Some of the Laws make sense: human hunts are restricted, rebel vampires are killed, in-fighting is discouraged. And some just feel nonsensical, except for the lingering sensation that they were explained earlier in a part of the story I never saw. It's a fairly crucial fact to many of the characters that Companions, the vampire lover phase before full vampirism, can't stay with their lovers once they make the full transition. But it's never explained why in the confines of the novel, so it feels like a cruel, arbitrary rule invented to give the characters a reason for angst. The more immediate plot is nominally about Olympias' crumbling control in the city she's supposed to oversee. But that plot is presented in such an upfront manner and takes so long to manifest any results, that the parallel love stories of Olympias, Sara and the Falconer men dominate the novel.

Despite a constant unpleasant feeling of being just outside the circle of comprehension, I got a quick buzz from Laws of the Blood: Deceptions. Straightforward romances, with adults who know what they want and ask for it, are a nice change of pace from the tortured comedy of errors that too often passes for love in fiction. The superhero tendencies of the vampires and their strangely simple culture are an enjoyable diversion from the much richer world of regular people. I wouldn't mind learning more about Sizemore's world of enforcers, which means I now have to read the earlier books. Which, of course, means that Decepetions has done its job.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 24 May 2003

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