Blood Brothers
Barbara Sheridan & Anne Cain
ebook
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In a world where the nights are darker and the passions run deeper, two young men go from friends to something more when a dangerous stranger appears on their doorstep.
In feudal Japan, war and famine tear through the countryside, and demons lurk in the darkness. Two young men struggle together on the outskirts of a ravaged village: the strong yet kind Liu Sakurai and his beloved gentle hearted Kiyoshi. And as their friendship endures the endless hardships, their bond grows into something more.
When the summer night brings a mysterious stranger to their door, the most dangerous desires of their dreams and nightmares are awakened. Blood now binds Kiyoshi and Sakurai together where once love did, but can this tie last an eternity?

Top:
I didn’t enjoy this story. In fact, I was irritated with it by the end of the first page and extremely relieved when I finally finished it.

The italicized terms made me expect (and wish for) a glossary at the end of the story. I actually don’t know the difference between a kosode and a yukata, but somehow, although the difference was obviously important enough to the authors to require the usage of both terms (in italics, no less), it was never actually explained in the story. The glossary would have been useful. As far as I’m concerned, if the author feels that something is important enough to add, then it’s the author’s job to explain it. I shouldn’t be required to reach for Google on every page.
Also, if I’d never seen a Japanese period film or even watched Inu Yasha, I would have been hopelessly lost in the setting. As it was, I was only slightly lost. Once again, Google rescued this story from being completely incomprehensible. It would have been nice of the authors to make a better attempt at explaining some of the culture, for those of us who don’t actually live in Japan, but, like the terminology, the authors didn’t seem to feel that this was necessary.
I didn’t like the uke any more than I liked the seme. Either of the semes. I didn’t like any of the characters. Kiyoshi had some sympathy value, but he was still no more interesting to me than Sakurai/Liu. I absolutely detested Kuro. By the end of the story, I was vindictively hoping that at least one of them would die. Preferably Kuro.
Worst, though, in my point of view? This was, in effect, a vampire story. It was really neat of the authors to go to the trouble of actually making it an authentic Japanese version of a vampire instead of cheating by transplanting a Western vampire to 16th century Japan, but that didn’t make it any less excruciating to read for someone who doesn’t actually like vampires. I’m not entirely positive that I would even have recognized the difference between Western vampires and Japanese vampires if I hadn’t had my browser open to a page that discusses it. And the tragic thing is that even I know that Japan has a huge pantheon of mythological creatures that could have been the centerpiece of this story. Could have been, but wasn’t. Is the market really clamoring that loudly for yet another vampire fic?

I can’t say that the story is badly-written, other than the lack of explanation. I’m aware that the artistic merit is sailing right over my head. I recognize that the authors did a good job of blending their separate styles so well that I can’t tell where one author ends and the other begins. I didn’t notice any technical errors such as poor grammar or discontinuity. The sex didn’t particularly interest me, but I can say that at least it gracefully served to further the plot instead of being a meaningless sidestep into mere porn. I have no idea whether or not the authors intended to emulate a Japanese style of story-telling, and I can’t tell if they succeeded. It was frustrating, at the very least.
If you are a Japanophile, then I suspect you’d enjoy this story. Academically, if nothing else. If you’re a vampire fan, then you’ll likely find Blood Brothers to be an intriguing foray into a whole new world. If you’re simply curious and want to know why I was so opposed to it, then by all means, buy the book and make up your own mind. But if you’re like me and you’re indifferent and/or opposed to reading either Japanese history or vampire fiction, then just take a pass.

On a side note, I’d like to once again compliment the artist for her ability to create cover art. It’s well-balanced and evocative, while the poses and Liu’s expression perfectly convey what you can expect from the story itself.

Bottom:

Blood Brothers is a short and bloody tale, which I enjoyed.

Let me first say that, unlike my partner, I am a Japanophile and vampire enthusiast, so my take on this story is very different from CW’s. And from my point of view, Blood Brothers was worth the read.

There were, however, a few things that didn’t gel with me.

One of the lead character’s name switched back and forth. When we first meet him, he’s called Sakurai. I got to know Sakurai. I became comfortable with Sakurai. Then suddenly he is Liu. The name in the narrative changes as well as the dialogue. And then toward the end, he is back to Sakurai and Liu. I understood what the authors were trying to convey, I think it was just handled sloppily. It’s confusing, especially for Western readers not as comfortable with Japanese and Chinese names. Personally, I think they should have picked one to use in the narrative and changed his name in the dialogue to show the changes in his personality and the way he was being seen by others.

I, like CW, also thought the constant proper names for items was a bit much. I don’t mind a few, such as mentioning the fundoshi, a loin cloth, in order to properly show the setting and time period, but after that it became a bit annoying. It was having the Japanese in italics that bothered me because the reading voice in my head automatically emphasized those words. Also, I think those like CW, who are not into the culture of Japan, would just be confused (and needing that glossary), and for those like me, I already knew the proper names and didn’t need them repeated over and over. In italics. A little goes a long way, you know? This hindered the enjoyment of the sex scenes for me since I had to wade through kimono, yukata, kosode, fundoshi, some more. Otherwise, though, I thought the sex was good, hot, and not too much.

I was a bit disappointed in this book’s brevity, but it actually works well for the setting. It definitely calls to mind the ambiguous storytelling many Japanese stories and films have. It’s not my favorite way to read a story, and if it were any other book I’d have knocked it for this. But for this story, it worked, helping to set the tone. I’m not sure if it was intentional on the authors’ parts, but once I got into the groove, it helped pull me into the mood of the writing.

I really liked the way Sheridan and Cain showed the emotion of the characters. They set it up well, using action and words to show the way the two main characters feel for each other. They also really showed the change, the twisting, of it. Very nice and made me really sink into the story. Kiyoshi, the real heart of the story, is portrayed very well. I fell in love with him and rooted for him. I could feel his pain and confusion and desire.

What I really appreciated in this was that I thought the vampire was not there to just strut around looking Brooding and Evil. It wasn’t the vampire that was the evil, really. It was just the wedge, the shiny that pulled at Sakurai/Liu, causing a rift in his and Kiyoshi’s relationship. It could have been vampirism, drugs, booze, adultery, gambling, anything at all. And for that reason, I felt as if the vampire thing was more of a tool rather than a focus. Which was neat and, for me, made it not the central focus of this story. The central focus was definitely the relationship of Kiyoshi and Sakurai/Liu.

One of the best parts of this book is that it does not read like a role-playing script, which is always a possible (and, unfortunately, expected by me) pitfall when you have more than one author. I am very happy to say that Blood Brothers reads smoothly with no dizzying and annoying switching of point-of-view as each author has her say. Kudos to Sheridan and Cain for that.

Kudos also goes to Cain for the cover. Lovely. I enjoy their website for Cain’s art if nothing else. Really lovely.

Blood Brothers is the first, I believe, of the Sheridan-Cain collaboration for the Dragon’s Disciple series they have going. In the other book blurbs, I saw both Sakurai’s and Kiyoshi’s names, so that is definitely a perk in picking this book up.

I recommend Blood Brothers to anyone who is into the Japanese craze, the yaoi craze, or the vampire craze. If you enjoy all three, like me, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. It’s short, and not so sweet, and perfect for a nice dark evening’s reading. This book isn’t for the fluff at heart.