23 May, 2010

Blood+, Vol. 4: Nankurunaisa

By: Grant Goodman

By Ryo Ikehata
Dark Horse, 320 pp.
Rating: 14+

The fourth and final Blood+ novel is an inventive vampire and monster-filled romp. There’s an effective mix of action, introspection, and tragedy that makes this translated novel a page-turner.

I really love the creativity that shines through in Ikehata’s world. Twin chiropteran sisters (vampire-like creatures) are born with the condition that their blood is fatal to one another. Each girl has the ability to turn humans into immortals by offering up their blood. These new immortals, called Chevaliers, then take on a complete devotion to their queen. Saya, who prefers blood transfusions to drinking it fresh, is on a quest to kill her twin sister, Diva, who has far fewer moral qualms.

Thrown into the mix are the Schiff, who are a failed scientific venture into creating artificial Chevaliers, and the Corpse Corps., who are the second generation of Schiff. Along the way, several humans get dragged into the conflict. They tend to find themselves feeling like evolutionary afterthoughts when they witness the terrifying abilities Chiropterans and the Schiff possess. This large cast creates a healthy blend of characters who have very different views on life.

The twin sister blood feud that drives the story creates some priceless tension. So many of the characters talk about the importance of family. Kai is still caught up in mourning his younger brother. The Schiff have lost most of their brothers and sisters due to their defective bodies that whither and die rather quickly. Hagi is Saya’s only remaining Chevalier and he candidly admits that Saya is everything he has left in the world. Even Diva’s Chevaliers have family ties and when some choose to break them, the others realize the loss. And so, against this backdrop, Saya is still convinced that she needs to kill Diva before she can kill anyone else important to her. Of course, all of this is complicated by the revelation that Diva is pregnant with the next pair of Chiropteran queens. If Saya goes through with her plan, she will have to murder the children in order to truly end to her own bloodline.

John Thomas’s translation is noteworthy for making sure everything flows nicely. There are no awkward lines I came across, a problem that plagues many of the light novels I pick up. This is a testament to the skill of both the original author and the translator. There were many descriptions that jumped out at me along the way. I absolutely love the line that reads: “His uncontrolled laughter hit the ceiling and rained back down.” It’s a powerful way to bring mad laughter to life through words.

Action scenes are very well done and the writing captures the feel of a piece of animation. Characters leap off of buildings, move so fast they vanish and reappear right behind one another, and generally wreck any structure that happens to be nearby. Death scenes are fairly gory, though they often play out with the grace of a ballet. Along with this comes a ton of melodramatic “…” moments and characters softly speaking each other’s names, which drags the novel down, if only just a little.

Minor flaws aside, Blood +: Nankurunaisa is a lively, fast-paced read. The characters are easy to identify with, including many of the villains, who are not your typical one-track-mind servants of their queen. Their triumphs and suffering are all genuine and you’ll find yourself racing through the last hundred pages to see how it all plays out.

Blood+: Nankurunaisa is available now.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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