Review: Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt (2007)

Blood Engines Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt
Publication: eBook / ISBN 0553589989
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 birds
Find free ebook @ Suvudu or paper book @ Amazon
First sentence: Marla Mason crouched in the alley beside the City Lights bookstore and threw her runes.

I read a review recently where the author said that “there’s also a frustrating place between good enough to enjoy and bad enough to put down without guilt or curiosity,” and that’s exactly how I feel about Blood Engines.

Summary from RandomHouse:

Meet Marla Mason–smart, saucy, slightly wicked witch of the East Coast.…

Sorcerer Marla Mason, small-time guardian of the city of Felport, has a big problem. A rival is preparing a powerful spell that could end Marla’s life–and, even worse, wreck her city. Marla’s only chance of survival is to boost her powers with the Cornerstone, a magical artifact hidden somewhere in San Francisco. But when she arrives there, Marla finds that the quest isn’t going to be quite as cut-and-dried as she expected…and that some of the people she needs to talk to are dead. It seems that San Francisco’s top sorcerers are having troubles of their own–a mysterious assailant has the city’s magical community in a panic, and the local talent is being (gruesomely) picked off one by one.

With her partner-in-crime, Rondeau, Marla is soon racing against time through San Francisco’s alien streets, dodging poisonous frogs, murderous hummingbirds, cannibals, and a nasty vibe from the local witchery, who suspect that Marla herself may be behind the recent murders. And if Marla doesn’t figure out who is killing the city’s finest in time, she’ll be in danger of becoming a magical statistic herself.…

I’ve been steadily working my way through the fantasy offerings at Suvudu, and for the most part I’ve found them ranging from SUPER AWESOME to very good. Blood Engines falls a little bit lower on the scale, unfortunately, though I don’t mean to say it wasn’t entertaining.

It took some getting there, but I eventually stopped gripping about the things I didn’t like (well, for the most part) and got into the story. However, I didn’t reach that point until chapter 10, when things started actually picking up and getting interesting. I nearly gave up around chapter 8, but decided to keep going for rather lukewarm reasons. Blood Engines is in that gray area between “good” and “bad,” and I tend to get trapped in it pretty often.

My biggest problem was unfortunately with the writing. It’s not horrid, but Pratt gives us these infodumps like it’s stuff we should already know from a previous installment, except that this is the first book! I constantly felt like I was playing catch-up and it got really annoying really fast.

And it’s also really weird that Marla keeps going on and on about how much she loves the town she runs, except the entire book is spent in San Francisco! All we get about town-that-I-already-forgot-the-name-of is unflattering second-hand descriptions from various characters, and for something that seems to be such a big part of Marla’s personality, it’s…strange that the first book in a series would take place away from it. Again, had to keep going back and seeing if I had missed a previous book or something. GAH.

The whole book is typical urban fantasy fare, with nothing really new or exciting except maybe the characters; heck, even the scenes spent at a BDSM sex party were boring. Not that I was expecting erotica or anything, but if I’m going to spend one or two chapters reading about people wearing saran wrap as clothing, I’d like a little something more…interesting. Less blasé, for sure.

So why did I keep reading it ’til the end? Dunno. I think it was partly because I liked B, the gay ex-actor/super-seer, and I wanted to read more about him. In an vague sense I admired Marla, who’s feisty and kick-ass and has a surprising talent at bullwhipping her name into dudes’ buttocks. And though I didn’t particularly like the writing I wasn’t repelled quite enough to stop reading. I may not have enjoyed myself all the time, but I don’t think I necessarily wasted my time, either.

I do kinda wanna read the next few books in the series, mostly because I want to see if B shows up again. Love him! But I don’t think I’ll be buying them, and I don’t think it’ll be anytime soon.

In summation: I didn’t hate it, but neither did I get all OMG AWESOME. Most worth reading for the unusual characters (plus, it’s free).

Other reviews: Books Worth Reading/Places Worth Going (or NOT) | Strange Horizons Reviews | MentatJack

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4 thoughts on “Review: Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt (2007)”

  1. There’s actually a short story “Down with the Lizards and the Bees” that features B, which you can find in the collection Little Gods. And in Spell Games (the 4th Marla Mason book), B is basically … the B plot. And not to give anything away…

  2. i think it’s so much harder to write a review for a book that i didn’t really like than for one i love. i don’t want to shamble the author because reviewing is subjective and someone else might love the book as much as i disliked it. i think your review of this book struck the perfect balance–you didn’t destroy it for others yet i understood why you didn’t like it.

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