Dark Blood Awakens (Michelle Corbier)

Dark Blood Awakens is the first book in the Mwindaji series by Michelle Corbier.
Finished on: 9.2.2023
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Makeda and her entire family are mwindaji, monster hunters. Makeda is also a zauber, a sorcerer, although her powers have lain unused since she was a child as the mwindaji don’t look too kindly on zaubers. But they spend most of their time preoccupied with vampires and werewolves. There is one vampire in particular, Korlemo, the first of all of them, that Makeda’s father has been trying to track down his entire life. Now they have a lead that connects Korlemo to a hospital in the middle of nowhere, Kentucky. Makeda, a trained nurse, goes undercover there, while her father and brothers try to find other leads. The more time they spend there, the bigger the mystery becomes.

Dark Blood Awakens has interesting world-building, but, unfortunately, the writing is not particularly good – to an extent, actually, that it brought me out of the story several times as my inner editor kept rebelling. I really wish I liked it better than I did.

the book cover showing two crossed machetes and a skull.

Dark Blood Awakens draws on African mythology (I, unfortunately, can’t place it any more exactly than that, though mwindaji is a Swahili word) which I found pretty exciting. That both the vampires and the monster hunters originate from Africa feels like a fresh take, and was nicely used here. As was the idea of the hospital’s role in all of it – very creative thinking that made a lot of sense for me.

I also liked Makeda. Her struggle with her sorcery gave that world a very interesting different aspect. Her struggle to be taken seriously as a hunter, especially by her father was also really relatable (though her acceptance of his protectiveness later in the book came out of nowhere and felt unearned).

Now comes the but: the writing was something I constantly fought with. Often, it felt like Corbier went through her story with a thesaurus, giving us strange uses of words and a very stilted style. More than once I stumbled over phrasing, started to think whether I was being weird about it or if the phrase itself was weird, and then realized only later that I had stopped reading to think about that. She also gives really specific times along the lines “After 10 minutes had elapsed, she had explained everything” or “For 30 seconds, he didn’t say anything” and I was always trying to match my sense of how long things would take with the stated number (and it never, ever matched. Do you know how long a 30 second break in a conversation is? It’s pretty much FOREVER).

In addition, there were a couple of scenes where I got the distinct feeling of chapters being shifted around in the writing process (which is completely normal), but then then transitions weren’t smoothed out. This struck me particularly with the introduction of Michael, Makeda’s love interest. They were dating so suddenly that I started wondering whether I had skipped something (or forgotten a scene) where he got a proper introduction. And then later, he is introduced a little more thoroughly. (It is possible that I missed something, but I’m usually a rather attentive reader.) Speaking of love interest, the back cover promises us a steamy romance – but it is actually pretty tame, so don’t expect long sex scenes or anything. (That is okay, of course, not all romances need to feature fuckathons, but expectations should be managed.)

These things really kept me from enjoying the story, and I wish it wasn’t so. There was so much to like there, in the set-up and the ideas. It was also really obvious that Corbier works in medicine herself because the hospital scenes felt very accurate. I can appreciate that. But as a whole, I couldn’t appreciate the book.

Summarizing: didn’t work for me at all.

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