Written in the Blood, by Stephen Lloyd Jones, is proof that a book can be as scary as a film. Full of shadowy, shape shifting creatures that possess untold, supernatural powers the plot moves along at a breathtaking pace. Each of the various groups described seem intent on hunting out and mercilessly killing, their travails tightly written and frighteningly descriptive. Moving across centuries and continents the reasons behind their exploits unfold gradually with each chapter set in a place and time that reveals a little more of the whole whilst leaving the reader eager to continue.
Set fifteen years after the authors debut work, The String Diaries, this sequel focuses on Hannah and Leah’s attempts to prevent the eventual demise of the hosszú életek, a long living species of which they are a part. A new adversary is introduced in this book, an ancient and near extinct species that feeds on the long lives. Along with the infighting of the pure blooded leaders and the vengeance sought by their outcasts it was sometimes difficult to keep track of the dangers that each enemy presented to our protagonists.
This was a more mature work than its prequel. The power struggles and nebulous justifications of the hosszú életek as they banished or killed miscreants reminded me of the medieval Jews or twentieth century Nazis with their desire to maintain the order and purity of their kind at whatever cost. This aspect did not make for comfortable reading. Despite the veneer of sympathy and civility I also questioned the difference, other than available time and therefore desperation for a solution, between the work being done by the breeding women and that of the seemingly more animalistic lélek tolvajok. Neither killed gratuitously; both would accept whatever sacrifice was required to save the lives of their children.
As with all the best horror stories there was enough in this tale to make it appear believable. The tension was unrelenting, outcomes unflinching. The ability of the protagonists to survive some of the assaults did however require something of a leap of faith.
By the end of the book I questioned the inclusion of only one strand, Leah’s visit to the old professor. Unlike its prequel this story contained few references to those who existed outside of the societies battling for survival. Some simavér became fodder, a micro bus owner offered a tantalising suggestion of a link to another tale. I do not know if the author’s third book is a continuation but there is certainly scope for a further instalment. I for one would be eager to read it should it ever be written.
This dark and compelling tale proves that SLJ’s skills as a writer are burgeoning. I thoroughly enjoyed this latest, chilling offering. Read it, if you dare.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.