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WesternSFA
Hellbent
by Cherie Priest
Ballantine Books, $15.00, 337pp
Release Date: September 6, 2011

Priest does a good job of making this sequel to Bloodshot stand firmly on its own two high-heeled boots, as it were, deftly summing up what went before; so while it is more enjoyable if you have read its predecessor, it is not essential.

Raylene Pendle is a cat burglar who looks like a petite French gamine, with a flair for acquiring the unacquirable. As a vampire, she’s been around long enough to take advantage of human systems of finance, but the increases in surveillance and documentation – not to mention in human height – are beginning to make her undead existence a leetle more challenging. Raye is also that anomaly: a vampire loner, unaffiliated with any House, and this can be both an advantage and a liability. Sure, there’s the freedom, but it also means that any other vampire who comes gunning for her has no fear of repercussions.

Raye is not as alone as she used to be; she accumulates strays and feels a certain responsibility for them: two orphans, a blind vamp whose own House ties are putting him in a difficult bind, and a vamp of another color: a drag queen who used to wear Phoque camouflage. And now, as she accepts a commission to, ahem, reclaim a set of valuable baculas (look it up!!! It’s toooo good!) of mythical creatures, she finds conflicting obligations actually converge. Along the way, she encounters a remarkably sympathetic villainess, whose objective and motive are quite the most intriguing aspect of this well-wrought adventure.

Priest obviously has a hell of a good time writing her books, and she has a flair for sharing her enjoyment. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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