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A Taint in the Blood: A Novel of the Shadowspawn Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 4, 2010

3.0 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Shadowspawn Series

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, May 4, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stirling (The Sword of the Lady) launches a new series with a messy and unappetizing mix of well-worn monster tropes and excessive sexual violence. The ancient, powerful, and sociopathic Shadowspawn have always lived among (and interbred with) humans. When Adrian Brézé, the one Shadowspawn capable of resisting his violent urges, discovers that his ex, Ellen, has been kidnapped by his evil twin sister, Adrienne, he begins a war against his own kind. Adrienne repeatedly rapes Ellen, who endures using psychological techniques she developed during childhood abuse, as she prepares her own political machinations. Stirling hits just about every cliché, from the grizzled vampire hunter and mentor to Adrienne's pathologically devoted servants (who call themselves lucies and renfields). Stirling's prose is competent, but there's nothing new in his story, and few readers will have the stomach for the over-the-top sadism. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

With this book, Stirling starts a new series about the presence of werewolves, or Shadowspawn, among humans. Homo lupens is an ancient race possessing dark power. Vague memories of the time when they ruled the planet are the source of many myths and legends of evil monsters. They still exist, though reduced in numbers and power. Adrian, a reclusive Shadowspawn male, has chosen to live as a human, fighting his dark nature. But his sister, ruled by her desire to return the Shadowspawn to power and by her hatred for her brother, abducts Adrian's human lover. To save her and possibly all humans, Adrian must fight with all his powers. The plot is archetypical, and Stirling's werewolves are vicious enough to cause a good many fictional vampires to think twice before taking them on. Action predominates, characterization is competently done but not outstanding, and the dialogue is at times implausible. A strong sexual element makes warming to the yarn definitely a matter of taste. --Frieda Murray
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Product Details

  • Series: Novel of the Shadowspawn (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Roc Hardcover (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451463412
  • ASIN: B0042P56ZI
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,229,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
S M Sterling's great strength is the the depth of his world building. Here the premise is the existence of a human sub-species with special abilities. This sub-species was dominant until the genes disappeared into the general population with occasional sports appearing as monsters or tyrants. Then a couple of centuries ago a secret society started to breed back to the sub-species which has become the the secret masters of the world. Their abilities are great but balanced by an inability to play well with others of their kind, poor emotional control and nasty tempers. The theme of the series of which this is the first book is the vampires' plan to thin the human heard either by a plague or even more brutal EMP attack. The plot of this book is the seizure of the girlfriend of a anti-vampire vampire by his twin sister and struggle to recover her. Along the way there are lots of neat weapons, kinky sex, food and shopping porn.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a refreshing new take on the vampire novel.

The "Publisher's Weekly" writeup complains that
"Stirling hits just about every cliché, from the
grizzled vampire hunter and mentor
to Adrienne's pathologically devoted servants...".
The book includes these elements, but Mr. Stirling's approach to these
cliches is decidedly un-cliched.
None of it seems forced, and the plot lines seem very much
character- rather than plot-driven.

As his career has progressed, Stirling has gotten better and
better at writing *people*; this book does not disappoint in that
regard. There are no "why would someone do THAT?" moments that
seem typical of genre novels.

One of the real strengths of the book (and of Mr. Stirling's work
generally) is the depth to which the world and the bases for
the Shadowspawn's talents have been thought through.
This differentiates "Taint in the Blood" very strongly from
books like Laurell Hamilton's, where vampires just *are*, with the
world otherwise pretty much unchanged from the one we live in.

I think Mr. Stirling had fun writing this book;
I certainly had fun reading it, and look forward to the sequels.
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Format: Hardcover
I own most of his books, and am a great fan of The Change series. However, I hated this book. The hero's girlfriend is kidnapped in the first 3 pages, then repeatedly raped and tortured for the remainder of the book. The graphic descriptions were unnecessary, and the whole book left me feeling slimy. What happened to S.M. Stirling? Please turn this series around, and focus on plot and character development. Leave the sadistic porn for lessor writers.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure why, but S.M. Stirling decided it was his turn at a vampire urban fantasy series starting with A TAINT IN THE BLOOD. His successful Change Series has garnered him a well-deserved following, the post-apocalyptic stories grim yet hopeful. Now, instead of a retro Dark Ages setting, he tries his hand at magic and demons. Most of us are getting tired of all the blood-sucking out there, but if it's going to stick around, the writing might as well be decent--and fortunately Stirling will force those vampire wannabe writers to step it up a notch, especially in showing how much vampires really are monsters. It's about time.

Stirling's big strength in all his books is world building. Here he takes the traditional vampire lore and twists it into a shape that's more interesting than most urban fantasy. There's the history and origins of modern-day 'demon cannibals' who are born not made, mix in Shadowspawn proclivities and lifestyle, add a pinch of killing methods and details about warfare, and fold in the rules of the Power and how to work around it. Then you bake it into something that looks like a regular cake, but is actually a molten lava cake filled with chocolaty goodness (couldn't help myself, the novel is filled with all sorts of foodie details).

This book has all the clichés. There's the main character Adrian, the wealthy and brooding immortal who's trying to break away from his evil family and their 'humans are only good for food' attitudes. There's the grizzled mentor Harvey, thrice divorced, who carries around his sawed-off shotgun with silver bullets and used to work with Adrian for the Brotherhood. There's the plucky heroine Ellen with the body of a goddess (she's a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe...
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Format: Hardcover
First in the Shadowspawn urban fantasy series revolving around a twin rivalry. Primarily based along the California coast.

The start of this story is the blip in which Stirling's short story, "Pain and Suffering" (P&S) begins.

My Take
This is seriously creepy! I got turned on to this series by a short story I caught in Down These Strange Streets: "Pain and Suffering" (Shadowspawn, #2), and it sounded intriguing. I never expected a character like Adrienne. This woman is seriously evil. It's just incredible how well Stirling writes the evil of the Shadowspawn. They're terribly intelligent vampire-like beings who are also staggeringly self-absorbed with very sensitive tastebuds which makes some aspects of their eating behaviors a gastronome's delight. But they swing back---often---to their discussions of their ruling the world, and I wanna get off!

Stirling provides a very subtle tell as Jose, Peter, and Monica try to put a good face on the state of their lucyhood in their informal meet-and-greet between Ellen. It's just gut-clenching how horrifying that subtle is. The backstories Stirling created for them were interesting, and something of an indictment against our world.

Ick, there was something morbidly fascinating about Dr. Duggan's clinical observations of Homos sapiens nocturnus as well as her practical instructions on surviving a feeding...double-ick.

I'm clueless about the whole "I driiiink youuurrr miiiiilk shake" routine...

The truly scary part is that Stirling compels you to feel sympathy for Monica, even as she terrifies you. He's almost as bad as she is in appealing and repelling you from paragraph to paragraph.
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