Edie is a relatively new nurse dealing with many problems – student loans, making ends meet, her brother’s heroin addiction and dragons rampaging through the wards.
The latter because she’s a nurse on the Y4 floor. In exchange for the dark powers that run the hospital making her brother immune to the effects of drugs and alcohol, Edie has given up her more lucrative job at a private hospital to work treating the county’s supernatural community in the hidden Y4 ward. Vampires, wereanimals, zombies, shapeshifters and even dragons pass through the wards, all with their own illnesses and injuries to be treated.
Treating one of those patients drags Edie far deeper than she intended to go. Compelled – either by vampire wiles or her own conscience – to do the right thing, she seeks to save Anna, a vampire in a young girl’s body, from abuse. In doing so, she kills a vampire – and finds herself facing trial in which the punishment can be her very soul – if she does not mount an appropriate defence with what friends and allies she can muster. And it’s not like her daily life isn’t already complicated!
This book starts running. You open the book, get a brief introduction and then you sprint into the plot. Suddenly stuff is happening and characters are doing stuff and you’re not quite sure who they are why they’re doing what they’re doing or what it all means or what everything is or what the implications are – but it’s all happening and it’s all happening now so you better run to keep up or just drown in confusion. You don’t even know who the protagonist is but she’s killing vampires and rescuing people and someone’s dead and they’re a bad person – no, wait, they’re a good person… or not? And someone’s bitten – wait, she’s bitten twice? And there’s a fire and and and…
Right, take a deep breath, because, thankfully it doesn’t continue like that. After this sudden introduction wherein a huge amount of plot is thrown at you in a short space of time, the story then slows down. We get more of an introduction to Edie, her life and the world she is in. It’s slowed down and with the more sedate pace and chance to assimilate information, we get to fill in a lot of the gaps that were left hanging in the first part of the book. It’s still jarring and disorienting and I think some of the introduction could have done better before the action would have been better, but it does work.
After that beginning the rest of the book continues at an excellent pace. Neither rushing and leaving me breathless nor dragging or distracted. We have some time spent on world building – though I think I would have appreciated more with the sheer amount of supernatural gubbins introduced, it would have been nice to have more backing to them. That being said, we certainly had enough information to follow the story and the rest is left there as a tantalising carrot to bring me back for the next book to see more of this huge, fascinating world.
Edie herself is an interesting and very real character. I think I’d best sum her up as a cynical idealist. She wants to hope, she wants to do good, she is determined to care and to help people and feels guilt and pain when she makes a mistake or someone is hurt. Yet, at the same time, she has been through the school of hard knocks, she has few illusions about how harsh and cruel the world can be. She has a heart of gold with a cynical exterior – and I think it’s really presented well to encompass both, both her willingness to care with her lack of illusions of how hard the world can be. I think this is epitomised in her relationship with her brother, a heroin addict. She loves him, she cares for him, she worries about him and she sacrifices for him. Yet, at the same time, she has little expectation of him quitting his addiction, she knows she can’t trust him and is repeatedly driven to fury by his stealing from her.