Reilly’s (Grounding Magic, 2013, etc.) latest novel sees her interest in stories about resilient women caught in magical, otherworldly circumstances veer in a new, darker direction.
In this urban fantasy tale, the author digs into the bloody history and language of the Balkans, and Albania in particular, to create the mercenary Elira. She’s an avenger bent on collecting what’s owed to her in criminals’ blood; she dresses like a goth schoolgirl, quotes Shakespeare as doctrine and writes “blood haikus” before quenching her vampiric thirst. However, her mission becomes confused when she crosses paths with a Department of Homeland Security agent named James Goodman, whose girlfriend, Mirjeta, could be Elira’s doppelgänger. When Elira foils a sex trafficking gang’s plan to kidnap Mirjeta, Reilly hints at a connection between the two women, and the specifics unspool as the story progresses. James, meanwhile, attempts to pin crimes on a group of Albanians reporting to the notorious terrorist Imam Krasniqi. The novel shifts back and forth between James’ and Elira’s perspectives as they draw nearer to their quarry; they share a passion for each other and a desire to protect Mirjeta, which makes for a suspenseful, high-stakes tale. However, the many subplots muddy the story: James attends a lecture series on “blood law theology” at Elira’s bookshop; Elira has visions of her one-time Scottish lover, who lived during the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie; Elira learns that she has a mysterious disease that might be causing her bloodlust; and a group of seemingly unconnected evangelical women protest Islam in America. Many of these strands eventually weave together with the main plot, but in the end, big questions about Elira remain unanswered. However, Reilly’s deep knowledge of the Balkans’ history of oppression and her use of native languages give the narrative a keen authenticity.
A smart and erotic, if somewhat scattered, thriller that vampire lovers will enjoy.