Can*Con, The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature happened last weekend, and I went! Woo! I had a lot of fun. I met some interesting writers, got some books signed, listened to some great talks, got to see behind the sock during the taping of Ed and Red’s Podcast, saw Heather Dale in concert (highly recommended, btw! and she does house concerts if you want to listen in a more intimate setting), ate chocolate bacon (or bacon chocolate?) and generally had an altogether genial time. Embarrassingly enough, I hadn’t read anything by the Guest of Honour (Julie Czerneda)  nor any of the special guests, so I tried to remedy this. I only got through one before the Con, as I got distracted by the Killer book that I reviewed last week. Ironically, I never actually ran into this author. She swapped places with Derek Künsken for the “Keeping your readers on the edge of their seats” talk, one that I think she’d have had a lot to say about, given the novel I just read. So without further ado, I present a brief review of Destiny’s Blood, by Marie Bilodeau.

The book is a space opera, starting on the planet Collar, a bit of a backwater desert planet ruled by the Solarians. Layela and her twin sister Yoma, simple flower merchants, try to make a life for themselves after a misspent childhood thieving. One day Yoma disappears abruptly, and Layela, sensesthat something larger is afoot. When her old friend Josmere, an ether-based humanoid, arrives the same day, she leaves the flower shop in Josmere’s care and heads out to find her sister. This simple excursion sets off a roller coaster of action and calamity. I won’t say too much, so as not to ruin it, but guns go off, flower shops fall apart in hails of bullets, space cruisers do battle, worlds change, escapes occur in the nick of time. The book does not relent. Layela and Josmere find themselves in increasingly perilous scrapes throughout the book, aided by Ardin and Avienne, the privateer children of the deceased captain of the titular ship Destiny. With them, they have to discover their destiny, linked by their blood (see that? I understand the title, go me!)

I had a couple of minor quibbles, but nothing too big. There are, for instance, several malapropisms in the text, e.g: “They were followed by the stylized gentleman…”. Also, there’s a scene where some of the characters return to a crippled ship, even though they don’t really have any reason to, and get into a scrape because of it. I found that scene hard to swallow, as with the sheer number of escapes and near misses in the middle of the book. I found myself thinking: “Sprinkler system set up in the back! Can you *fucking* believe it?”. Ten points if you can place the quote without looking it up.

All in all it’s a good read, with a satisfying ending. The author executed the action scenes with style. I particularly like when there’s so much going on that the viewpoint character gets overwhelmed, and Bilodeau pulled this off nicely. Layela’s arc worked for me, I believed her self-realizations and the strength that she gains throughout the story. I found the mystery of the twins, and why they warranted so much attention compelling as well.

This book is up for an Aurora Prize for best novel this year. I have the other books on the shortlist as well, so I shall try to get through them in time to vote on Oct 15th!