Blood Oranges (A Siobhan Quinn Novel)

By Caitlin R. Kiernan, writing as Kathleen Tierney

(Roc trade, $16, 288 pages)

Who is this author?

First, let’s get the name thing straight: Caitlin R. Kiernan, who has written many novels, including “Daughter of Hounds,” “The Red Tree” and the presumed semi-autobiographical “The Drowning Girl: A Memoir,” set in Providence and narrated by an unreliable, fascinating, schizophrenic character named Imp, sometimes uses the pen name  Kathleen Tierney. Kiernan has been nominated four times for nominee for the World Fantasy Award and a twice for the Shirley Jackson Award and is known for her dark science fiction and fantasy works, which include her novels, comic books, short stories, novellas – and she has published scientific papers on paleontology.

According to Wikipedia, Kiernan is an unusual woman: she is a transsexual, a lesbian and atheist pagan. Born in Dublin in 1964, she grew up in Alabama and now lives in Providence, with her partner: photographer and doll maker Kathryn A. Pollnac. She also has a blog: Dear Sweet Filthy World: The Online Journal of a Construct Sometimes Known as Caitlín R. Kiernan.

What is this book about?

Think writers have exhausted the vampire/werewolf genres? Think the “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” series had the most interesting female characters? Well, think again, and meet Siobhan Quinn, a nasty-talking but funny high-school dropout who prefers to go by her last name. Despite being a formerly homeless smack addict, Quinn is pretty darn handy at killing supernatural monsters that happen to be roaming around Providence, perhaps hoping to watch the WaterFire shows on the river. But oops – Quinn gets bitten one night not only by a vampire but also by a werewolf, and that turns her into one of the demons she’s been hunting down. That raises questions and problems for Quinn to solve and for the reader to puzzle out along with her.

Why you’ll like it:

Kiernan/Tierney writes with a brash, sardonic and original voice quite unlike the standard stuff you’ll find in most paranormal romances, and in this book, she manages to both mock and manipulate a certain kind of fiction. You have to be good to do that successfully, and she is: she has partnered with the likes of Neil Gaiman on some projects and has carved out a top spot among those who write contemporary weird fiction. If dark and imaginative writing is to your taste, bite into “Blood Oranges.”

Here is how she defined herself as a writer in a blog entry: “I’m getting tired of telling people that I’m not a ‘horror’ writer. I’m getting tired of them not listening, or not believing. Most of them seem suspicious of my motives.”… “I’ve never tried to fool anyone. I’ve said I don’t write genre ‘horror.’ A million, billion times have I said that.”… “It’s not that there are not strong elements of horror present in a lot of my writing. It’s that horror never predominates those works. You may as well call it psychological fiction or awe fiction. I don’t think of horror as a genre. I think of it – to paraphrase Doug Winter – as an emotion, and no one emotion will ever characterize my fiction.”

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly says: The first urban fantasy title (and first publication under the Tierney name) for Caitlín R. Kiernan … brings an engagingly fresh perspective to well-trod territory. A gory whirl through numerous graveyards and the seamier parts of contemporary Providence, R.I., introduces readers to narrator Siobhan Quinn. Though Quinn is quick to denounce “Young Plucky Vampire Hunters” and “those trashy ParaRom paperbacks,” readers could be forgiven for putting her in the same category at first: she hunts “nasties,” supernatural creatures like ghouls, vampires, and werewolves. Then a werewolf and a vampire both bite her in the same night and she becomes a “nasty” herself, forcing her to adapt, improvise, and reconsider her allies as she searches for answers and vengeance. Quinn is queer, foul-mouthed, a formerly homeless ex-junkie, and a well-read high school dropout, and her idiosyncratic and thoroughly compelling voice will hook urban fantasy readers right away. Colorful side characters and a fully realized setting make this fast-paced series opener well worth checking out.

Says Kirkus Reviews: “First of a wisecracking supernatural horror series, from an author who’s better known as Caitlín R. Kiernan. … Narrator Siobhan Quinn–she insists, fiercely, on Quinn–a street-dwelling heroin addict, became a monster-slayer after killing a ghoul (though, as she finally admits, it was by accident). She has a steady supply of good dope and an apartment thanks to her benefactor, the mysterious fixer and manipulator she calls Mean Mr. B (he uses different names, all beginning with B, depending on circumstance and whim), since he considers it useful to have a monster-slayer in his debt. Having come to believe in her own notoriety, she goes werewolf hunting in Rhode Island. Instead of staying alert, however, Quinn shoots up and gets bitten by the werewolf–just as a vampire shows up! When she regains consciousness, astonished to have survived either antagonist, let alone both, she finds she’s now a werewolf and a vampire. At least she’s no longer an addict, and when Mr. B shows his pleasure at her new condition, she begins to suspect she’s now somebody’s weapon–but whose, and aimed at what? Clearly, she’d better find out–and fast. The New England setting is colorful and convincing, and Tierney populates it with a weird and splendid set of supernatural beings. Quinn isn’t the most reliable of narrators, though eventually she’ll stumble out with the truth; nor, as an investigator, does she prove the sharpest of wits, but she gets there. Add in the downbeat tone that somehow manages to be uplifting and the sort of gratuitously gory action that used to be called splatterpunk and readers are in for a memorably exhilarating and engaging experience. Sly, sardonically nasty and amusingly clever.”

Brit Mandelo, writing for, says: “As someone who has spent quite a lot of time in their life reading urban fantasy—across all of its definitions, and yes, even a little of the paranormal romance stuff—I can safely say that Kiernan has her finger jammed firmly on the pulse-point of all the silly, weird, idiosyncratic things that make the genre so very popular (and, as Blood Oranges makes clear, laughable). …. while Quinn’s voice is concrete and entirely believable (though she herself is entirely un-believable, as she makes clear to the reader repeatedly), the control required to manage it, knowing what a familiar reader knows of Kiernan’s style, is impressive.”

When is it available?

It’s waiting for you at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Ropkins branch.

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