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The Turning: Blood Ties Book One    by Jennifer Armintrout order for
by Jennifer Armintrout
Order:  USA  Can
Mira, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Even Bookloons' top rating doesn't do justice to this brilliant debut novel. The first installment in the Blood Ties series deserves more - much more. With this phenomenal book, Jennifer Armintrout has catapulted to the top of my favorite authors' list, easily dislodging such names as Laurell K. Hamilton and L.A. Banks from the top spots.

Dr. Carrie Ames has worked hard to get those highly respected letters after her name: M.D.. After having poured all her time and energy for the past few years into medical school, she knows she's a great doctor. She's not squeamish, and the sight of blood certainly doesn't phase her. That is, until an unidentified patient is brought in whose injuries are so severe that Carrie's not only sickened, but also paralyzed by the sight and ultimately completely useless in the E.R.. The patient is pronounced dead, but Carrie knows she's just ruined her career before it's really even begun. To move on, she has to face her fear and take one last look at the mutilated corpse. But when she enters the morgue, she gets more than she bargained for. The unidentified patient is no longer a corpse, but a monster who attacks her and leaves her for dead.

After a month-long recovery in the hospital, Carrie realizes she's no longer herself. That fateful night set into motion events that would turn her into a vampire. But Carrie doesn't know anything about surviving on blood, or any of the difficult choices, moral and otherwise, that come with her new life. With the aid of Nathan Grant, a vampire working for the Voluntary Vampire Extinction Movement (a society bent on the 'extinction of their own kind of the preservation of humanity'), Carrie slowly begins to adjust to her new circumstances. But she doesn't expect to be so drawn to the creature who created her. The 'blood tie' is strong between sire and fledgling, and soon Carrie finds herself torn between two men, the ultimate prize in the battle between good and evil.

Although this book is firmly set in a paranormal reality where vampires, werewolves and witches walk the streets, Armintrout delivers a story with universal themes that transcend genre distinctions. Carrie's emotions as she learns to cope with her new reality are so intense that I often had to close my eyes and catch my breath after reading a particularly vivid scene. The stakes are high for Carrie to begin with, but they're methodically raised with every new chapter. Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get worse, they did, and then they got worse yet. The blend of non-stop action and tender emotion is perfectly executed, resulting in a novel that's absolutely impossible to put down.

The fascinating cast of supporting characters add multi-layered conflict to an already engaging plot. A word of warning: this book is not for the faint of heart. It's violent, dark, brutal at times and explicit in every sense of the world. Armintrout plunges readers into the shadowy underworld of vampire existence and holds nothing back. The original, exciting plot, daring heroine and dynamic supporting cast will delight fans of the paranormal genre, and may even make a believer out of readers who don't normally read this type of fiction. I, for one, have already marked the release dates of the following two installments in the Blood Ties series on my calendar.

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