An eerily evil novel masquerading as one of S.M. Stirling’s characteristic alternate reality stories, A Taint In the Blood tells the story of a human pawn caught between two Shadowspawn who each find her incredibly attractive. The spine-chilling systematic destruction of Ellen Tarnowski’s psyche and self-image to convert her into a desirable “lucy” is meticulously described. A “lucy” is a being whose very existence is to provide tangible sustenance, i.e. blood, and intangible sustenance, i.e. strong emotions, who can only be considered as sentient ambulatory food and is treated as such. A combination of sexual domination and infliction of pain keeps the “lucy” appetizing as the emotions generated flavor the blood in much the same way as the type of wood forming the casks flavor fine wines. The facile explanations for many of the heinous crimes in mankind’s history and the long-term plans for the “thinning out” of the Shadowspawn’s food supply keeps the reader reluctantly enthralled in the way that spectators are drawn to rubberneck at an accident scene. Ellen’s ex-lover is also a Shadowspawn but belonged to a group called the Brotherhood that is futilely trying to keep the Shadowspawn from annihilating mankind even though most of its members are human in origin. Despite his resignation from that organization, he still shares their objectives. Some of the Brotherhood’s goals dovetail with his plans to rescue Ellen but may or may not help achieve salvation of all mankind.
A Taint in the Blood is well-written as is Stirling’s usual style but very creepy in its matter-of-factness. You get a thought-provoking slant on the causes of the evils in the world and a different perspective on the supposed domination of mankind on the other creatures of the world. This story has nicely detailed descriptions of some of the benefits of a hedonistic lifestyle and makes one wonder if the author found an extremely enjoyable excuse (research) for visiting some of the finest restaurants in the Bay area of California.
Eons ago, another species ruled the planet. Once supreme, this proud race is now reduced to a minority half-breed group. Adrian Breze is one of these vestiges, more Shadowspawn than human, but about to confront a decision that in either case, will set him against those of his own blood. A mass-market original; the first in a new urban fantasy series. (Hand-selling tip: Take the word of Harry Turtledove: "Nobody wrecks a world better than S.M. Stirling.)