Channeling Morpheus series by Jordan Castillo Price – review

Rating: 9/10 ★★★★★★★★★☆ Title: Channeling Morpheus series
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Genre: Vampire/paranormal
URL: Changeling Press
Price: $3.49 for the first two of the four novellas in the series, Payback and Vertigo, $3.99 for the last two, Mannikin and Tainted.
Other Information/warnings: Violence, blood play, dubious consent, graphic m/m.
Michael is a vampire hunter after vampires who don’t just stop at feeding on humans. Wild Bill is a vampire who doesn’t want to get entangled with any human, least of all a hunter all too comfortable with killing his kind, even if it’s just the bad guys. But Michael and Bill have an attraction which transcends all their barriers and reluctance, so the only question now is – how the hell do they make it work?

My review: Jordan Castillo Price is one of the bright lights in the m/m genre – her prose is a joy, she’s the master of creating angsty, conflicted and yet appealing leading men, with creepy yet hotter than fuck partners. She also writes exceedingly good smut. She’s not quite so great at complicated plotting, but since the plot in the Channeling Morpheus series is very much secondary to the characters and the copious sex, you could call these four novellas the best of Castillo Price without any downside.

Unless you don’t like vampires, which I don’t. Yet Ms Price managed to overcome my dislike of an overused and frankly tired genre, and of stories heavy on sex scenes, by both the sheer quality of her writing, and creating a fascination with the interaction between these two very different men.

She turns a lot of vampire ideas on their heads – vampirism is spread by sex, not biting (or is it?), vampires don’t necessarily want to kill their prey, the prey is often willing because the sex is so hot, and so on. The parallels with HIV are, as often in these stories, irresistable, yet not belaboured. Instead she focuses on Wild Bill – a man still angry about being ‘turned’, still close enough to his human life to miss it, distant enough to want to keep away from real humans. Bill rarely does what’s expected of him, unless it’s screwing Michael, which he does at every opportunity, or being seduced by Michael, ditto. I thought Bill would be the character I’d find it hardest to relate to, but it becomes clear by the second story that the real enigma is Michael – the supposed human with steel-cold nerves and a willingness to kill which turns Bill’s stomach. Literally. Yet Bill can’t leave him, and Michael won’t go either. It’s a relationship built entirely on intense physical attraction, with much of each man hidden from the other. The author leaves us with a lot unresolved, and no sure promise of that happy ever after. It’s more a ‘good enough for now’, with many potential problems, and no easy answers.

Price uses the conceit of heightened vampire senses to really ramp up the description of the sex and the violence in this. You almost taste the blood in your mouth as you read the visceral text. There’s some ugly images here so lovingly wrought they become half-beautiful. I’m no more of a fan of gore than I am of smut, and yet Price uses blood like a perfume to lure the reader’s senses into the scene. Very clever, tight writing.

I prefer Price’s Pyscop series because I like more plot, but Channeling Morpheus is excellent, and the series is highly recommended.