By Blood We Live is the third in Glen Duncan’s massively entertaining, literate, philosophical, funny, heart-stoppingly suspenseful, sexy trilogy about vampires and werewolves. (You can find here on this very site my reviews of The Last Werewolf and Talulla Rising.) This book picks up at the very moment the last left off, as if we had only paused between novels to take a long, shuddering, gasping breath between bloody bites of a werewolf’s meal, and then the plot immediately explodes into silver bullets and long-awaited destiny and magical cures and Militi Christi (a branch of the Catholic Church devoted to killing vampires and werewolves, because of course) and dreams literally coming true and kidnappings and and and.
Once again, this book is frantically fast-paced, not leaving us an instant to rest, and like every good horror novel, it’s frightening. But Duncan has done a mind-blowingly great job at causing us to root for the team of monsters and murderers, not quite without reflecting on it, but because we understand them. Rarely are they unsympathetic, except when they’re selfish or greedy or indifferent to each other, just as anyone might be. They may not be exactly human, but they’re as human as un-humans will ever be.
In addition to this depth and complexity and the nonstop hailstorm of the plot, Duncan spends time asking some questions about the real meaning of life. In The Last Werewolf, Jake Marlowe (age 201 and counting) was exhausted with simply being, and only wanted to die. In Talulla Rising, Talulla Demetriou has every reason to live, and wants only to know whether she, in her new state as a werewolf, will be so consumed by her irreversible lunar hunger that she’ll be a danger to those she loves. Is there a meaning greater even than natural needs? In this third book, the oldest vampire in the world (20,000 years old, if you were wondering) and Talulla herself, one convinced that there’s greater meaning to life and one convinced that there’s nothing out there but a mathematical void, come together to discover ancient prophecies, transcendent joy, and something bigger than either of them. This larger, philosophical bent to the books, along with their clever literary and cultural references, makes them feel like treasure hunts. They might not be worth reading if they weren’t so well-written, funny and literate. But they are. Their flaws are hardly worth mentioning — a bit of purple prose here and there, a plot that’s a little overstuffed, fairly explicit sex that didn’t bother me but might bother some. Meh. Who cares?
I’m sorry I’m done with this trilogy. I gobbled these up, giggling aloud with pleasure. If this seems like something you might be even faintly interested in, I do heartily recommend them; they were such a joy.