http://abitterdraft.blogspot.com/2013/05/review-blood-skies-by-steven-montano.htmlBlood Skies is the first in author Steven Montano's series of the same name. The novel takes place in a dystopian Earth after it was ravaged by something called The Black. The world is composed of various factions and races, the primary being the human Southern Claw Alliance and the Ebon Cities, the vampire strongholds. After The Black, the vampiric legions of the Ebon Cities stormed the Earth, and the two powers have been in a constant state of war for the twenty-odd years since The Black occurred.These aren't your bighearted run-of-the-mill vampires who just want to find love that are so common in recent fantasy, they're soulless, cold-hearted and brutal bastards out for blood.Eric Cross, the protagonist, is a warlock - a magic user. He has a spirit attached to him with which he is able to use the different types of magical abilities that Montano presents us - from spears of ice to shields against other magic, warlocks are the wizards of Blood Skies. Using magic eats away at the soul of the warlock, so warlocks need to use apparatus to accommodate their spirits, such as a gauntlet wired to a battery. If magic is used without one, the soul is essentially devoured from the inside and the effects on the body are dire. Cross is the only character that we really see develop in Blood Skies because he's the sole protagonist, and the attachment to his spirit really adds to his development as an unwilling hero. Cross's sister, Snow, is a witch. Witches are the female variants of warlocks, but they don't need to use gauntlets or batteries to accommodate their spirits.Cross is selected for a mission to track down the traitor witch Red, who purportedly plans to sell stolen knowledge to the vampire hordes, which would guarantee the extinction of the human race. Cross's sister Snow is among the elite who are chosen to undertake the mission. Cross is naturally very overprotective of his younger sister and is opposed to her joining the squad, but she is the only witch available.Montano does a great job showing just how bad things are in this world. The sun never shines its vibrant yellow - blood-red light emanates from it, creating a very looming effect. The world is inhabited by these vampires and ghosts and other demonic beings and it is very apparent how hostile, gritty, and dark the story is. People die often and when they do their deaths are brutal. To go along with the creatures that make this world so savage, new types of weapons are introduced while modern day weapons such as the M16 assault rifle are present. Frost and hex grenades, arcane salts, guns and melee weapons of all shapes and sizes, you name it, they're here.Blood Skies is a dark, fast-paced, action-packed novel full of gore and grit, but there are some minor issues I had while reading. There are occasional parentheticals after sentences that are supposed to add humor, and while it works sometimes, other times they were unnecessary. Similarly there are times where full pages are dedicated to italicized almost dream-like sequences that didn't always make complete sense and I didn't feel that some of them added anything to the story. I would have loved a map and some more explanation of the other races and certainly about The Black, but perhaps Montano was purposefully vague and maybe they are explained in the sequels. These are only small problems though and took minimal enjoyment out of the novel.Steven Montano's Blood Skies was an enjoyable read that, due to its somewhat short length and very fast pacing, I could not put down. I look forward to the sequels in the Blood Skies arc.