Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Blood Countess by Tara Moss

Cross posted from here.

I decided to grab this book for a few reasons. In no particular order: Tara Moss is awesome (decided based mainly on her blog), I don’t mind the occasional vampire/urban fantasy/paranormal book, it was on sale (on iTunes/iBooks), and I could use it towards the Australian Women Writers Challenge (not that I’m desperately short of books for that, but excuses make the book-buying world go ‘round). Some of the reviews on iTunes and LibraryThing lead me to not expect very much of this book. Even if they hadn’t the blurb was not misleading, so I wasn’t disappointed.

You know what? I really enjoyed The Blood Countess by Tara Moss. It wasn’t super-deep (it’s about fashion and magazines in New York), and it wasn’t brooding and angst-ridden. It was fun, entertaining and amusing.

The main character, Pandora, comes to New York from some tiny hicksville town, to stay with her great aunt. She was desperate to get away from said small town partly because of the hicks and partly because it’s her dream to be a writer and work at a New York magazine. Back home, where she lived with her aunt since her parents died in her teens, she spent her time living in books because there wasn’t much else to do and because she didn’t have any friends. She was the town weird kid thanks to her ability to see and speak to ghosts (strongly discouraged by her parents when they were still alive).

She arrives in New York to be greeted by her great aunt’s mysteriously mute chauffeur, who then takes her to her great aunt’s home in a tiny suburb of Manhattan that doesn’t appear on any maps. Also, her great aunt’s building is haunted. Also, vampires, many of which are jolly (seriously, it makes a nice change from the brooding kind).

The story follows Pandora’s attempts to find a job and to start building a career in New York. Suspicious things are happening in the fashion world, mostly centred around a revolutionary new face cream, sinister models and, well, general supernatural shadiness.

To be honest, it’s not the plot that makes this book. Really, the villain of the piece is named in the title, so I don’t think it was supposed to be a surprise. What makes this book book stand out is the voice of the protagonist. In her childhood, her parents and shrink convinced her there was no such thing as ghosts and effectively trained her into keeping quiet and ignoring her “vivid dreams”. That said, once strange things start happening and she starts searching for and getting some answers, she doesn’t spend very long running around in a haze of denial like in some books I won’t mention (and she was quite quick to accept the ghosts back into her life).

More importantly, her inner monologue and her interactions with her great aunt are funny and quirky and really made the book for me. It cheered me up during a stressful week. The digs at pop culture, of varying degrees of unsubtlety also helped.

A small thing that I liked was the way Moss described Pandora’s clothes and didn’t superfluously describe every item of clothing every model who walked past was wearing. As someone not very au fait with the fashion world (shocking revelation, I know), it was nice to have clothing described in a straight forward way with a minimum of slang. I’ve read too many books which expected me to know more clothes/fashion terms than I do, including books not actually about fashion. It was an appreciated touch.

I definitely recommend this book for some light, pleasant reading. So long as you’re not expecting a deep exploration of supernatural lore and human psychology, you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

No comments: