SMOKE AND SHADOWS
In a spin-off of her popular Blood series, Huff takes former street kid Tony Foster from his role as sidekick to vampire Henry Fitzroy into his own story. Tony, ironically, works as a production assistant on a TV show about a vampire detective, and strange events are plaguing the set. Shadows whisper from the corners. Tony discovers the source of the lurking darkness in Arra, the special effects tech. Arra confesses that she's a wizard escaping from an alternate universe, a world conquered by the Shadowlord. Once the Shadowlord finds and destroys Arra, he plans to conquer the earth with his frightening Shadow Minions.
Tony is a likable hero, a winning combination of hero-wannabe and scared young man. The setting is unique and convincing, the mood fittingly creepy. Tony is perhaps a bit too easily unnerved, given his history, but this inconsistency is easily overlooked in the atmospheric storytelling.
Establishing a spin-off series takes some work, and while this offering isn't quite as intriguing as the previous Blood books, Huff lays adequate groundwork for continuing Tony's story in future tales. Readers who miss vampire romance novelist Henry will be happy that Huff has returned to this world, blending horror, mystery and fantasy elements seamlessly for an entertaining read. (Apr., 400 pp., $23.95)
Jen Talley Exum