Meet Siobhan Quinn. She’s a badass teenage monster hunter with a rep for taking down nasties. Ghouls, vampires, werewolves, they all quake at the sound of her name and the threat of her crossbow.
Don’t believe a word of it.
Quinn’s a teenage runaway, a junkie with abominable luck and unfortunate timing. Her kills were mostly accidents, her reputation carefully manufactured by Mr. B, her mysterious patron, who uses her for his own enigmatic reasons. He’s up to his eyeballs in supernatural intrigue, and Quinn’s one of his favorite pawns.
Things get really, really screwed up when Quinn 1) gets bitten by a werewolf during a hunt, and 2) gets saved and bitten by a vampire. Now she’s some bizarre combination of both, and if she doesn’t want to go hairy and feral every month, she’s going to have to dance to someone else’s tune. The vampire known as the Bride of Quiet has plans for Quinn, and they’re not too pretty. Now Quinn has to fight, curse, and kick her way through ghouls, trolls, vampires, werewolves, and much worse in her quest to regain control of her own messed-up existence. But who’s really pulling the strings?
Kathleen Tierney, better known as dark fantasy writer Caitlin R. Kiernan, delivers a subversive, foul-mouthed, self-aware sendup of the Buffy-esque genre of asskicking, monster-hunting paranormal heroines. Blood Oranges is unapologetically crude and crass, dark and gritty, honest and vicious. It’s a post-modern response to, and rejection of, all of the usual tropes. There’s no romance to be found here, no happy endings, no sexy glittering vampires or irresistible alpha male werewolves. The heroine is a heroin addict, a frequently unreliable narrator, an anti-hero who still manages to exude a certain amount of dubious charm.
It’s almost an unfortunate example of how the urban fantasy genre has exploded, that a vampire/werewolf hybrid who hunts monsters isn’t even the most original, or far-fetched, concept I’ve seen this month. However, Tierney manages to give the idea, and the setting, a fresh polish by stripping away all of the pretty illusions for something darker, sordid, and to the point. It’s like a wake-up call after being lulled to sleep by all of the more comfortable romances out there. Besides the unforgettable Quinn, Tierney’s also populated the book with a number of engagingly weird supporting characters. My favorite would have to be Aloysius the troll, who dispenses riddles for booze and porn and other offerings, although Bobby Ng the flamboyant hunter also steals some of the spotlight.
While this isn’t exactly game-changing—as far as urban fantasy of any ilk goes, it’s hard to imagine what could change such a well-exploited field—it’s a change of pace. Not for the easily-offended or delicate of sensibilities, but it’s certainly something different. It’ll be interesting to see where Tierney goes from here.