I read Bloodlaced last year (find the review here), and it was one of those surprise delights you come across that knock your socks off. I really loved it, so I was hoping I’d get a chance to read the second Youkai Bloodlines novel. I enjoyed Blood Pact as well! It helps to be familiar with the world, but this story stands on its own.
Hiro is geisha, an entertainer by trade, with a singing voice that enchants his patrons. His reputation draws the attention of a samurai, famed swordsman Sakurai Hideyoshi. There are undeniable sparks between the two but geisha are not prostitutes, and it is forbidden for Hiro to sleep with his guests. But he soon discovers there is more to this handsome, powerful samurai than meets the eye: the besotted Hiro follows him home one night and discovers Hideyoshi is youkai, a supernatural being who feeds on the blood of the innocent.
However, one of Hiro’s jealous clients takes note of Hiro’s growing infatuation with the samurai and refuses to take no for an answer. Tragedy befalls his household at the man’s brutal hands and grieving Hiro demands from Hideyoshi the means to take his vengeance. Hideyoshi binds their lives together with a blood promise and gives him the curse and gift of being youkai.
Hiro’s entire world changes as he learns what it means to be youkai and meets others like him and his maker. His happiness begins to depend upon Hideyoshi’s rare tenderness. As his affection for Hideyoshi grows, a sinister plot creeps in which threatens all the youkai in Edo, and Hiro must act before he loses everything he has come to care for in his new life.
I have to admit that I was confused for the first couple of chapters—it begins very much like Bloodlaced, with gentle courtesans and brutal clients. I almost thought I’d mistakenly opened the first book, but that’s where the similarity ends. It soon became apparent that this is a very different story despite its similar introduction, and I completely enjoyed the ride.
The relationship between Hiro and Hideyoshi is one of balance. Hideyoshi’s tendency to react as a soldier and draw his katana is tempered by Hiro’s cooler head and still-compassionate soul. The two complete each other, and their relationship is sexual but more frequently, comforting.
I was excited to see Asagi from Bloodlaced play an important role in this story, although their life has clearly not been easy and it’s a more jaded, sarcastic individual we meet here. The youkai in Edo have their own society and it’s very cool to see Hiro less isolated than Asagi was in the first book. Hiro and his maker are a different flavor of youkai from Asagi, which is still a little cloudy but becoming clearer as this world grows and we become more familiar with it.
I am definitely looking forward to more in this world should the opportunity arise. The author’s solid anchor in imperial Japan and its supernatural beings make this vampire love story feel fresh and new. Be sure to pick up both Bloodlaced and Blood Pact, because they are both quick reads and totally worth the effort.
You can find Blood Pact at most major online booksellers, like here on Amazon.