Death Be Blue by Katie Epstein

Death Be Blue by Katie EpsteinUrban fantasy is all about premise. I signed up to win this title on Goodreads because the premise sounded intriguing, and it holds up. The prologue voice is awkwardly formal and led to some confusion, but once the story starts, it’s a lovely mix of bad-talking cops with a noir paranormal caseload. I learned more about the world from the periodic asides than I did from the prologue itself. While Terra had a tendency to data dump, most times I can see the trigger, and they never last so long as to lose me. They help solidify the world. Her history is also interesting, and the data dumps inform what happens in the book as well as her reaction to things around her.

Terra is the main character and focus without question, but she certainly doesn’t stand alone. Her shifter partner Kaleb is very protective for reasons stretching beyond her frail nature as a human in a police force, called Enforcers, who are otherwise shifters. It takes a certain level of stubbornness to survive the training, and for a human to have succeeded (even with the advantage of intermittent foreseeing) pisses off a lot of her fellow officers. This leads to claims that Kaleb and his brother Cole (who is the head of the force) inappropriately protected and assisted her through training. There’s a smidge of truth to the contention, but only a little, which is an ample demonstration both of how far Terra will go to succeed and the complexity of the bonds she makes after escaping Earth. She was a psychotic’s medical test dummy there because she had a gift in a place where gifts do not exists by official lore.

Terra is a crusader, possibly as a result of her own experiences, something that often gets her in trouble. She can’t stop helping, she can’t turn it off, and she isn’t great at calculating the risk before diving into a situation. We learn that much from the beginning, along with how her recklessness affects both her partner and his brother. At the same time, she’s much more than a mindless juggernaut or suicidal. She acts out of care, something shown in how she worries about her friends and family, but even better in how she purchases from a failing store just because she recognizes the sorrow and fear in the proprietor.

The personalities and relationships in Death Be Blue are vibrant and persuasive. I’ll admit to sensing the frustration in her connection to her boss, Cole, more than their romantic tension at times, but I knew it was there. Kaleb will lay his life down for her in a blink and her stepfather is more of a parent to Terra than her blood relations, both good examples of the ties she makes. I want to see how that all works out, especially with the nicely seeded reveal about Terra and her true powers at the end of this book.

Fair warning, it gets quite dark and gruesome toward the end while the beginning held more to the “near miss” theory of law enforcement risk. The stakes continue to rise, but so do the other aspects of connection and tension, so I wouldn’t want to scare anyone off.

This is not a simple world with a simple conflict. You take all the magical beings on Earth, transport them into a pocket world (Portiside) at the time of the great flood, leave these very different cultures to stew for generations, then give us the viewpoint of a police force mired in shifter rules, vampire guidelines, fae, and other rule sets. In terms of cultural clash and conspiracy, this is a world ripe with possibility and has a storyteller capable of making both the people and the crises tangible. I definitely enjoyed the read and look forward to seeing where this all is headed.

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