Vampires who can walk in the sun. An occultist book expert. A hooker with a heart of gold. Blood drops on nibbled penises. Runaway goth kids. Sound terrible?
I should probably out myself here as a complete lover of the paranormal genre. I’ve been hooked on “our world with magic” stories since my days of Roald Dahl and Christopher Pike. Almost everything I’ve written has also had a dash of magic to it as well, so I feel it fair to air my bias here: I love paranormal – when it’s done well.
It’s that qualifier that makes Blood Jaguar such an intriguing read. The cover lists Blood Jaguar as a Siobhan Bishop Underworld Erotica novel – and indeed, we’re with Siobhan Bishop for about half the time. She’s an expert on occult manuscripts and many forms of magic (including tantric sex magic, naturally) and the core of her narrative in Blood Jaguar arrives in the form of the Codex Rios – a book written by the conquering minions of the Vatican during the time of the decimation of the original peoples we today call the Aztecs. The Codex Rios holds all the rituals and lore of a people who didn’t have a written language of sorts, so even though it is written from the point of view of scholarly Christians who wanted to document the error of the Aztec ways, the rituals and their intent are in this book, and it is a major piece of history.
And it was mailed to Siobhan by basic US postal service, with no real protection, from a friend in Florida. Given that the book is supposed to be in the Vatican archive, this is a conundrum.
Siobhan’s story revolves around this dilemma – how did her friend in Florida get this book in the first place? She and her occult professor boyfriend Richard hop in the car and off they go.
Now, with no disrespect to the author intended at all, they weren’t actually the more interesting of the two tales being told in Blood Jaguar.
The other side of the tale follows Siobhan’s friend – Miranda – who is the one who sent the package with the Codex Rios to Siobhan in the first place. We side-step to Miranda’s daughter, Esther, who has walked out on her mother to be with her boyfriend – a boy with great charisma, sharpened teeth, and a powerful sexual ability to use both. Esther is turning tricks and garnering extra attention (and cash) for her “vampire blood sex” routine. This arouses the interest of her pimps (sisters and former whores Jackie and Jonquil) and sets things into a dangerous tailspin for Esther, her boyfriend, and the pimps – one of whom is the aforementioned hooker with a heart of gold.
Which, by the way, R. Paul Sardanas should be celebrated for writing with such effectiveness. That Jonquil garners such sympathy and empathy in the reader was no small feat. I daresay she was my favourite character in the book – a damaged middle-aged woman who has been searching for a way to feel actually happy and loved all her life.
It’s a tangled snarl, and you wonder how it will all connect. It does connect – the two stories weave together near the end – and there’s an aura of menace throughout as you – through Siobhan more than Esther – meet the “vampires” of the story. They’re the least vampirey vampires I’ve read – they are sun-worshippers, and the blood is more an erotic worshipping tool than sustenance. The sense of Aztec mythology pervades the story throughout, and it’s successful – I’m not sure I’ve read anything before that took this spin, and it was told with enough confidence that I don’t have the slightest idea if any of it comes from a basis in actual history, or if it’s all completely made up.
This is the second Siobhan Bishop story, which also bears mentioning. I had a hard time connecting with Richard, Siobhan’s partner, and I think that was due to having not read the first book in the series – he doesn’t have as much depth as the rest of the characters, and I didn’t always click with him. I’m fairly certain that had I “met” him in the previous book, this wouldn’t have been a problem, however.
Now, I’ve already talked quite a bit about the book, and I haven’t even mentioned the erotica angle yet. That’s on purpose – I wanted to make it clear that the book has a strong pair of narratives that weave into an interesting and fleshed out whole. I like Sardanas’ underworld. I’m definitely going to seek out his first book in this series.
But this is Erotica Revealed, and I’m sure you want to hear about the smutty bits. They’re there, and they’re good. I did have a couple of issues, though, that sometimes drew me out of the narrative.
One – and this is a personal preference thing that always undoes my suspension of disbelief – the word “vagina” (and, to a lesser degree, “penis.”) I know, I know, it sounds stupid to get hung up on language. But here’s the thing – clinical terms just aren’t that sexy to me. And I have a hard time imagining that someone in the throes of passion would think of their body in such a clinical terminology. Most of the time, Sardanas doesn’t do this, which made it all the more puzzling when it happened. But this is a minor caveat, and I imagine it doesn’t bother others as it bugs me.
Two – and this is probably the squeamish side of me – no matter how hard I try, the idea of someone puncturing a dick with a sharp tooth is never going to do it for me. Sorry, my initial thought will always be “ohmigod, ow, ow!” not “oh yeah, hot!” Again, this is a (somewhat) minor thing, and the non-cock-nibbling sex occurs more often than not.All of this to say the magic is solid, the plot is strong, the sex is good, the mystery interesting, and the setting intriguing. Sardanas is working on a third Siobhan Bishop book, and that’s a good thing. If you’re a fan of the paranormal and want to try something set very differently than your usual vampire or werewolf trope, Blood Jaguar walks the line splendidly.