The third installment in Baines’ Arcadia Trust series is well suited for readers who have followed his vampire saga from the start. I had not, though I had read his standalone novel Skin and liked it a lot. I’d say then, as an introduction to Baines’ punchy style and dark sensibilities, Sins of the Son makes for an enjoyable read.
From the opening scene, it’s a runaway train-style paranormal adventure. The series hero, Blood Shade Reylan, is in a fight for his life against Luca, the young man he brought home from a bar in Sydney, Australia. Luca turned out to be an assassin from a fanatical, Catholic anti-vampire secret society called the Scimitar. With some help from Brett, his Mannequin, —a human vampire familiar in the Aracadia-verse—Reylan manages to overpower his would-be killer, but he tastes something strange in the kid’s blood chemistry.
That curiosity, combined with the fact the Scimitar is supposed to be upholding a truce with Sydney’s furtive vamp society, leads Reylan to spare the kid and bring him in for interrogation by the Aracadia Trust. The Trust is something of a governing body for Blood Shades, and their previous battles with werewolves and humans from earlier books have bearing on the story. That’s part of the reason Sins of the Son is a tough entry point for readers arriving late on the scene. The relationships between the characters don’t quite click nor achieve the fascination that they could.
Nonetheless, Reylan’s new adventure builds interest through action scenes that slam one into the other along with themes of persecution and injustice that resonate for queer readers. There’s a mystery to Luca’s origins and a battle bigger than the Arcadia Trust vs. the Scimitar that unfolds.
Another element that nicely pushes the narrative forward is the introduction of the character Iain. When Luca transforms into a Death Shade at an all-night diner, Reylan comes across Iain, a young, plain-clothed priest who is a victim of Luca’s berserker spree. Without giving too much away, it becomes clear pretty quickly Iain is not entirely who he says he is. Meanwhile a flirtation between him and Iain seems to be leading to something more. It’s a well-played intrigue that keeps the reader wondering all the way to the end: is Iain a good-guy or a bad-guy?
Baines writes action boldly and graphically. As a reader, one feels right in there with Reylan, even cringing from the blows and stabs along with him while he fights off werewolves, demons, and super-powered humans. As a fantasy hero, Reylan is pretty much lawful good. He thinks beyond his prerogative for retribution, considering the complex ways his enemies have been coerced into their murderous ways, even when he is attacked by Scimitar assassins and his friends are killed. The portrayal raises questions—what does he owe to the people who are out to exterminate his kind?—but it also brings a sense of humanity to an otherwise dark, chaotic tale.
A good title for paranormal/urban fantasy fans, especially those acquainted with Baines’ series.
Reviewed by Andrew J. Peters