Vampires, witches, and low-key Eldritch spookery is what you're going to have in store with this book. But more than that, there's a lot in here cherishing found family, grappling with expectations of blood family, casual and validated queerness, how parental transgressions almost always fall onto the shoulders of their children to fix...
But first, let me sum up what's going on because I don't believe that the synopsis does the actual framework of the story justice.
At the core, Blood & Vinyl is the chaotic culmination of a power struggle in Portland, Oregon, between two groups of vampires led by Sasha Aleksandar and Cailean Ainsley, who have invested interest in controlling the area after the disappearance of an infamously dangerous vampire called Neilos--control that extends to wrangling in his natural-born vampire children. Sasha, by all accounts, wishes to do right by his family and Cailean's own loyalties are hard to discern but one thing is certain: they're both determined to get what they want.
Interwoven is the doomed-from-the-start courtship of MJ and Uri, an outcast witch and a member of the aforementioned Aleksandar family, Leyl, a wayward born-vamp with no recollection of his life falling into a powerplay he's got no knowledge of, the grooming of young vampire Varina into a tool for her family to use, vampires that can cause necrosis in their fellow undead, and a whole hell of a lot of early 2000s punk culture goodness.
As the start to a new-adult/adult urban fantasy, Blood & Vinyl was entertaining, funny at times, tense at others, and laid the groundwork for what could be a fascinating world full of vampires who posses their own interesting lore, witches with deep-seated power in life and in death, and spooky things less comprehensible. With a huge cast, there were so many individual stories present in just this first book whether it was following MJ and learning about her falling out with her coven and seeing the intimacy between her and Uri, or getting to see Leyl attempt to experience normal life while not actually knowing what normal is for him--or even reading about Cailean's plans and being able to understand his position while simultaneously wanting to throttle him.
For everything that I adored, there were a few things that I did not, though given my overall enjoyment and interest in the continuation of this story, I feel that I should disclaim they're not things that would prevent me from recommending giving this book a shot. Mainly, I thought there was a lot of plot rushing; the book felt very keen to get from one point to the next and not so keen on allowing certain things to breathe and be developed (particularly if it related to character interactions or development. Occasionally I was forced to ask myself 'how did we get here?') This was not helped by the sheer number of characters and head-hopping that happened in individual chapters where we were given multiple perspectives. The end result was somewhat frenetic overall, which is something that, after reading, I believe has more to do with editing than with the actual writing or intended arcs; there were so many beautiful passages and the overall plot direction, characters, etc., are there in the foundations. A bit more focus and attention to detail and you've got yourself perfection, which is ultimately why I decided this, for me, was a 4 star vs a 3 star read. I like it too much in spite of the structural issues to give Blood & Vinyl anything less.
I'm intrigued by the world-building, and I'm left desperately wanting to see how these characters fare especially after reading the epilogue, Spoiler which introduces Lir, a sea-dwelling, man-eating fae following the semi-failed attempt at rescuing MJ. I so wish that this book was longer so we could have really gotten into the meat of what is going on not only between individual characters and groups, but also within this world at large--especially when it comes to learning about how the covens of witches and bevys of vampires work (side note: Blood & Vinyl is the first where I've seen a group of vampires be called bevies, and I really like it.) I also appreciated the casual queerness, and while certain things (transphobia comes to mind) did come up, there was more emphasis put on allowing the queer characters to just be queer and for characters of color to just be characters of color without queerphobia and racism being on every single page, or even a main part of the plot. I'll be interested to see what Limón does in the future.
I think the ideas of magic and vampires in this book were interesting, but it felt like there were too many characters and too little character development. There also wasn't enough world explanation for me to be able to follow the plot.
Minor: Violence, Emotional abuse, Physical abuse, Blood, Vomit, and Transphobia