In urban fantasy, human beings are usually the pathetic losers - we don't get any cool supernatural powers that witches, werewolves or vampires get, and we're usually depicted as ineffectual racists. At best, we're just oblivious.
Kim Harrison is among the few authors to tackle the subject with any real depth. "A Perfect Blood" is a smart, witty, fast-paced book where a small but clever cabal of humans humans are the enemy. While the plot gets a little bogged down in Rachel's woes as a new demon, the main plot is tense, taut, and genuinely scary at times.
Rachel is furiously treading water in the government bureaucracy when an old, powerful vampire (via a young one named Nina) offers her a deal -- if she helps solve a bizarre crime, he will arrange for her to be declared "alive" again.
But the crime is more than merely strange: a young man who was ritually murdered, and partly transformed into a hideous beast-man. Even worse, he's not the first. Rachel realizes that someone was trying to transform him into a demon. And the perpetrators seem to be HAPA (Humans Against Paranormals Association), a hate group that wants to destroy all Inderlanders, and is now using magic to do it.
And since Rachel's demon blood makes her a huge blinking target, she begins worrying about the people she cares for -- and what will happen if she finally removes the elven bracelet. But soon she begins to realize that has members hidden in the IS and/or FIB -- and everyone around her might have their own agenda. To keep herself and her friends safe, she might have to trust
I honestly have developed a leetle pet peeve at how humans are depicted in urban fantasy -- usually it's as frothing racists who have no chance against the overpowered supernaturals, but for some reason they're able to oppress the poor Metaphorical Minorities. Ugh.
"A Perfect Blood" is one of the few that DOESN'T annoy me. It's tightly written, burning with dark intensity and filled with taut action scenes and some genuinely scary foes. The scariness of HAPA is not just that they're fanatics using magic, but that they're SMART. And, well, that the authorities don't want to acknowledge that they exist.
With such an intense plot, Kim Harrison spends a lot of time weaving dark plot threads and spidery twists into the story. But she also includes some of her trademark wit and humor (Jenks' stormy love life with Belle) and some touching moments (Rachel has Kisten's pool table refelted), and some genuinely suspenseful mysteries (who is Felix?). The one downside is that for some chapters, the HAPA crisis gets shoved on the back burner so Trent and Rachel can deal with her demon problems.
Rachel spends most of this book being crippled by her fears and her denial of her new demon nature -- and she won't be able to trounce HAPA unless she overcomes them both. And her relationship with Trent is growing by leaps and bounds. While she still doesn't fully trust him, Rachel is starting to see that the stately elf is not the monster she once thought he was, and that he might feel more than friendship for her. It's actually rather cute, in a Lizzie-and-Darcy way.
"A Perfect Blood" isn't quite perfect, but it's close enough to be one of the best books in Kim Harrison's series yet. It's dark and intense, but threaded liberally with humor and a tinge of romance.