Another series down, another franchise to wrap up! I have told this story before but because it relates to my feelings about the supernatural young adult genre, I’ll reveal it again. Five years ago I went through chemo and though it saved my life it made reading difficult for several months. When my eyesight improved, but not my level of concentration, I started reading several novel series aimed at the young adult market – an added bonus was that they were cheaper than their adult contemporaries. They included the Vampire Academy books, House of Night novels, Cassandra Claire’s offerings, the Sookie Stackhouse books (although technically this series is aimed at the adult market although it really doesn’t read like it) and of course the Mac Daddy of all young adult lit, the Twilight novels. Of course Blue Bloods was on the list.
I can’t emphasize enough how much these books meant to me while I was recovering; they were fun fast reads and took my mind off my woes. Further they were like the best in scripted television, several seasons of Downton Abbey if you will, in that if you had read all of the published novels you only had to wait for about a year for the next installment. However like all good things, my passion for this genre is on the wane.
Generally speaking I have learned a lot from these novels in terms of writing and dare I proclaim; reviewing. Because they are aimed at a younger audience their goal is to capture readers who might not have the wherewithal to stick with a storyline that gracefully unfolds within a five hundred page tome. These aren’t the types of books that one reads if you are a huge fan of character development, but within their pages you can ascertain quickly if the novelist knows how to spin a good tale or was simply lucky enough to obtain a book deal. These novels are all about action and keeping the story moving. Several of authors are skilled enough to draw out characters with limited page space while a few don’t. Beyond all else, as a reader you can see the growth of an author, which is the case for Melissa De La Cruz.
Not surprisingly, most of these novels have eye catching covers. It is also important that the brand be established in the first novel cover and carried throughout the rest of the series. Blue Bloods novels have had many stunning covers. In each story De La Cruz has emphasized a different city which is included in silhouette under a sexy portrait. Frankly, I think the best was saved for last. The hardcover of Gates of Paradise is absolutely beautiful and is the sort of photo that could be framed and hung as art.
The overall setup of the Blue Bloods series is that vampires, who make up the top tiers of socialites and society movers/shakers of various international cities, are actually fallen angels who have been damned to be blood suckers due to aligning themselves with Lucifer back in the day. Unlike traditional vampires they don’t live forever in the same body but do live for a long time and when they are dying they have their blood collected in order for their souls to be reborn in a new infant – memories of their past lives are given them through blood transfusions. Yes, this element tended not to jell well.
The main character is Schuyler Van Alen who was born to a vampire but sired by a human which is unheard of in the vampire/fallen angel world. She doesn’t realize she is a vampire (but not a fallen angel) until she turns fifteen and starts craving raw meat, that is when all is revealed. I don’t think it was accidental that De La Cruz made this sound like the stories from an earlier era when young women found out about their menstruation while they were having their first periods.
Besides being half human, Schuyler has grown up in a once fancy townhouse currently in a state of decay with a strict grandmother and a mother who has been hospitalized in a coma since Schuyler was a baby. In the beginning of the series she has one friend, Oliver, a human whose family has helped vampires for generations. She also had a huge crush on the most popular boy at her school. Jack only began noticing her as she began the change to become a vampire…and do you wonder where that plotline is going to go?
I enjoyed the first novel in the series, Blue Bloods, but soon grew weary of Schuyler because despite all the description of her character I felt little charisma coming from her. Her lover Jack was dull too despite being noble and if he sparkled I would have sworn he was kidnapped from another more popular series. I think by the end of the novels there was a little more definition of the individual lovebirds, but each was outshown by the antics and personalities of secondary characters.
De La Cruz’s Gates of Paradise tied up all of the loose ends of the series nicely and I observed Schuyler had finally developed some spunk. With seven novels, along with two companion books, plus two spin off series (one of which, Witches of the East End, is being made into a television series) De La Cruz ended her Blue Bloods on a high note. She also left room for secondary characters to be developed into other storylines in their own right if she chooses to go into that direction.
My major complaint about Gates is that Cruz doesn’t even attempt to give her readers a summary of the background of previous storylines. I assume that either she or her publisher don’t want to give away the plots of the other books because they want the audience to read the entire series. I always think this approach is a mistake because I believe a series like this one can lose readers more readers than gain potential ones when you don’t r jog their memory. Listen, I read the seven main novels and even wrote reviews on most of them, but even so I had a hard time remembering the various setups, plots, and character relationships. A summary or character index with partial history would go a long way for a reader’s enjoyment. Seven novels are a lot to keep track of.
Now that Blue Bloods is at an end I can testify I liked it and feel that it ended up on a high note. There are other franchises that I have enjoyed more but I think De La Cruz was smart in ending it. My casual observation is that these young adult books are best when they include four to seven novels. Unless they are a phenomena such as the Harry Potter franchise there comes a point where the core audience starts to turn and their critiques can get ugly. If you don’t believe me check out the responses on Goodreads to the House of Night novels.
The next question for this franchise, besides if they are going to be made into films (which I don’t think will be the fate for Blue Bloods) is if these books are going to survive beyond their initially intended audience. I don’t think that there is much that dates the novels specifically to the time they were published however I don’t believe the storytelling is so compelling that they will stand the test of time. Yet if you find yourself coming out of chemo and want something that will keep your attention, but is not overly challenging, you could do worse than pick up this series.