Blood Rock

Blood Rock is the awesome second book in the Skindancer series by Anthony Francis. I finished way after midnight and although I wanted to know how it all worked out, I was just not ready to leave Dakota’s world.

Blood Rock dives even deeper into the magic that ink and paint can produce than Frost Moon did. Except it’s a different kind of paint. Where Frost Moon was all about the magic that could be held in tattoos, Blood Rock dives into the depths of both the underpinnings of magical Atlanta and the darkness driving one particular grafitti scribe’s genius.

The graffiti has turned deadly. Dakota is called to the scene of a crime, while the crime is in progress. A friend, a vampire named Revenance (his clan deliberately misspells their names) is trapped by a graffiti tag on a concrete wall that is draining his vampiric energy. It will also keep him trapped in full daylight after sunrise, which is coming on fast. Everyone who attempts to save Revy is whipped and clawed by the vines that trap him in the tag. Even the vines from Dakota’s own magical tats aren’t enough to fight back.

As Dakota investigates the grafitti tags, and Revy’s death, she discovers that her friend was not the first victim of these new, and suddenly deadly, tags. And the trap is not the only way it kills, nor is vampire the only kind of prey it seems to be after. There have been mysterious fires caused by these tags, and human, vampire and werekin deaths attributed to them. The spiral of death is rising upward.

And Dakota has more hostages to fortune than she did before. She has a daughter. Cinnamon is werekin, a tiger. Among the weres, she was Stray Foundling, one of many. But to Dakota, she is special, and loved.

When Dakota’s investigation of the malevolent “Streetscribe” begins to bear fruit, dark forces maneuver against her. Dakota is accused of committing the crimes, in an attempt to get her behind bars. Old-school vampire politics rears its ugly death’s head (where there are vampires, there are always convoluted politics).

Dakota needs more information, and more knowledge. She needs more training. And for that, she needs to go back to her old master, back in Blood Rock. But there are factions who want to keep her from ever speaking with Arcturus. The question is, are those factions just old enemies of Dakota’s, or are they part of this new threat? And if she can’t find a way to get to Arcturus to learn what she needs, will it matter?

Escape Rating A: I loved the twists and turns in this one. The story was one wild ride. The Skindancer series is a standout new urban fantasy series. Dakota is a kick-ass heroine, true, but I also love the use of Atlanta as the base. When Dakota drives by Gwinnett Mall in Blood Rock, I really did laugh out loud–I live ten minutes from there. A less likely scene for an urban fantasy I can’t imagine. On the other hand, Underground Atlanta, oh yes!

But it’s the complex relationships that make this work. Atlanta as an “edge” place between the new magic of the 21st century and the old world of the supernatural where everyone and everything hid in the shadows.   Just as Atlanta has always prided itself on being “the new South”, that parallel works.

Dakota herself represents that edge. She practices a very new type of magic, and she doesn’t hide what she does. She is her own best walking advertisement. Her ex is a vampire. Her other ex is one of the “Men in Black”. Her daughter is werekin. And her father was a cop. Everyone knows her, and practically everyone owes her.  There’s way more to this story.

I want book 3, Liquid Fire now!