I need to point out two important things before my actual review. Thing 1 is that the summary for the book is so much more exciting than the actual thing that I could just cry. Thing 2 is that I could not be more depressed about my rating for this book. It would literally not be possible.
Unlike other books I’ve read by Shan, Ocean of Blood was pretty much an endless sea of summary with the occasional pool of blood thrown in. Just about anything interesting was summarized including battle scenes. Some of the details were occasionally amusing and I do like Larten, but the characterization throughout Ocean of Blood for basically everyone was dreadful and not in a skin-crawling way. Instead of anything feeling authentic or even interesting, everything seemed forced, rushed, and stilted including anger, romance, and misery.
Characters rarely spoke more than one sentence at a time, and flashes of insight into their thoughts were offered up at inconvienient times. Such as when they were dying. Or instead of saying anything when the people they allegedly liked or cared about to make bad decisions or were treated badly, they would think about how they ought to maybe someday say something. Thus making all of these insights as incredibly useless as possible.
Around the very end of the book, things got a bit interesting since Larten ended up on a boat and also finally killing people. By then actions were finally occuring at a normal pace with actual conversations too so I definitely appreciated Larten creating an almost literal ocean of blood. Then I realized something even more horrific than anything else. I realized that this actually awesome section meant that everything else I had read had been filler of the worst kind whose sole purpose was to delay a few worthwhile moments and yet another cliffhanger.
Overall, I still feel bewildered and a bit used. I spent most of the book wondering how something so short could be so absolutely pointless. I kept wishing I could figure out what went wrong. How could Shan write a book about blood, war, vampires, piles of corpses, and history and let it be so dull? What happened? Does this series only exist for making money off of teens who liked other Shan books and who will now pick them up no matter what? I hope that isn’t true and because I am desperate to be wrong, I will be continuing on and reading Palace of the Damned in October.
In conclusion, Ocean of Blood was nothing remotely like Shan at his best. If you want something enjoyable, horrific and actually good? Read his Demonata series.
2 out of 5 stars.