Blood Bound (An Unbound Novel) - Rachel Vincent Okay, Rachel Vincent, you got me. I bow before your world-building, kneel at the altar of your badassedness (totally a word in my book), and sincerely hope that I never end up in one of your books. Not only did you create a crapsack world that was a convincing sack of crap, but you also designed a structured world where convenient plot devices and the dreaded deus ex machina are impossible. Well done. I'm thoroughly creeped out now.

Olivia "Liv" Warren is a blood tracker by profession and a mercenary when she has no choice. With a person's blood sample, she can find them just about anywhere. Bound by a blood oath made with three of her childhood friends in the most misguided and unfortunate form of adolescent blood oath bonding ever, Liv is dragged into hunting for the murderer of her best friend Anne's husband. The only person who can help her is Cam Cabellero, a name tracker and Liv's ex who she left high and dry six years ago under a cloud of mystery. As Liv and Cam discover how hard it is to stay away from each other, their conflicting loyalties threaten to end rheir lovers' reunion in disaster. Then Anne's daughter Hadley goes missing, and all hell breaks loose (as it's wont to do). Will Liv and Cam find a way to be together? Will they rescue Hadley? Is there any possible way I would ever want to live in their world? (The answer's no, just in case you're wondering.)

Liv is really badass. Even though she's tangled deep in a complicated web of oaths, she remains defiant throughout the book and exploits every loophole she can find. Liv can defend herself and knows how to use a gun, but Vincent doesn't rob her of vulnerability and normal human decency. In general, Liv's heart and love for the people in her past (mainly Cam) drive the conflict of the book. She's torn between her contract with Cavazos, a sadistic bastard with a wife who jumped on the cray-cray train years ago, and her desire for a life of freedom. My heart broke a little bit every time I realized how difficult earning her freedom would be. I'm not kidding about the crapsack world thing. Vincent binds these characters without leniency. I wanted to give them so many hugs for their misfortunes.

Now let's focus on Cam. Oh, Cam, you sexy pudding pie, you! He never gives up on Liv, even when she spends so much time pushing him away. Sure, he has eye-roll worthy alpha tendencies, but beneath all the swagger and ass-kicking is a big ol' softie. He also never treats Liv like a wee wittle helpless woman-folk. Not that Liv would allow him to treat her like that. But still, credit where it's due and all.

The supporting characters are equally compelling. Villains like Cavazos are multi-layered and at times unpredictable. His batshit crazy wife ends up being one of my favorite characters just because she's kind of brilliant beneath all the mania. Even Elle, who's dead, is drawn fully. I'm totally fascinated by Kory, too. I want to read her story, if she ever has one. I feel a kindred bond with all foul-mouthed blondes.

As I mentioned above, the world-building is superb. Every time I thought things could get worse, Vincent socked me in the face with more cruel realities. Never before has being born with supernatural abilities (Skills, in Vincent's world) seemed more undesirable.

The action was well-written, but there was actually very little of it in the book. A majority of the story is spent strategizing and talking in Cam or Liv's apartments, which is good for understanding what's going on but a bit tedious. I appreciate that intelligence trumps brute force in Blood Bound, but action is so much more fun. Granted, Vincent treats us to an amazing action scene at the end with blood and more blood and blood. Also, I really wanted to smack Cam for prodding all of Liv's secrets from her but not telling her that he slept with Anne. Did he have so little faith in her coping skills? It's sad that Kory had to spill the beans. Not cool, Mr. Pudding Pie. Hypocrisy does not suit you.

Does Vincent plan to add any follow-up books? If so, I must read to find out if Liv makes another contract with Cavazos to help Cam. If not, I think the ending is brilliant. Leaving it up in the air with Liv making a decision about binding herself again brings the story full-circle and really highlights how inevitably fucked all the character are. This is coming from a woman who ADORES happy endings. I'm just not sure if a traditional happy ending would make any sense in this case. The characters should just be relieved that they got Hadley back.

In short, read this book. It will frustrate and terrify you, but it's totally worth your time.