If you’ve already met Kari True in her previous adventure, Blood in the Air, prepare to be reminded,and surprised. This time around, Kari finds herself still partnered – some might say lumbered - with the snooty "special advisor”, the elf Elathir Alaenrae.They are investigating the mysterious death of Aldwin Heathley, a student, or"apprentice” as they are known, in the Royal College of Magic, that stands on Palace Hill in The City. It was from one of the five forbidding black towers that comprise the building, that Aldwin apparently spread his arms and dived to his rather messy doom, fifteen storeys later.
The decision to investigate the odd circumstances surrounding Aldwin’s death, one of four over a period of six months in the ranks of the apprentices, takes Kari on a trip to the country, escorting Prince Kevan on a journey to an estate which borders on Aldwin’s family lands. In a disturbing twist, an overnight stop at an inn leads to a fight and the knowledge that Kari now has a price on her head. After speaking to Aldwin’s family,before she can gather much more in the way of evidence, her trip is cut short by an urgent message summoning her to return: her best friend Enrico has been assaulted and left for dead, giving Kari yet another case to investigate, but this time, not in an official capacity.
From there on, things get worse. Many of us have become embroiled in a fight on the way home from the pub, but probably not one against two zombies, which is what happens to Elathir and Kari. Somebody is causing the undead to rise and walk the streets, and controlling them from afar in a bid to cause mayhem and chaos. Returning to the investigation of the College of Magic, Kari and Elathir stumble on more evidence which gives them the information they need to break open the zombie operation, and Captain Trollock orders a raid to pick up the culprits – an operation that goes dramatically wrong, with fatal consequences,and which in turn leads to the shattering set-piece climax of the book, which, as well as revealing the culprit, has staggering repercussions for all concerned.
Throughout the book, Kari is also fighting two more battles,alongside the ongoing one against evil in the form of zombies, murderers and assassins. Firstly she has to reconcile her burgeoning feelings for Elathir and also for Prince Kevan. But, perhaps more importantly, she is struggling with herself, in particular her dubious origins and the many unanswered questions they pose. For Kari, everything is overshadowed by the unfinished business from the encounter with her brother in Blood in the Air, and the challenges and issues created by this.
As well as the cast of engaging characters from the previous book, in this volume we make the acquaintance of several new people, or at least "entities”, notably the Dwarf, Earthsinger Carnelian, who plays a pivotal role in the denoument of the tale.
Sombre, yet sometimes funny, pacy, fast-moving, yet often lyrical, once more, in Towers of Blood,the author has again successfully merged the fantasy and police procedural genres and once more entertained and gripped us all with the exploits of the sassy,sparky, sarcastic and sometimes, ultimately, deadly persona of Corporal Kari True.