"In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina doesn't really fit in. And being an assassin - the only profession fit for an outcast - doesn't help matters. But she's never brought her work home. Until now. Her latest mission is uncomfortably complex, and threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races. As Sabina scrambles to figure out which side she's on, she uncovers a tangled political web, some nasty facts about her family and some unexpected new talents. Any of these things could be worryingly life-changing, but together, they could be fatal"
This is a fantastic first book to a new series. Sabina is a tough half vampire, half mage who has spent her life trying to make up for her heritage, doing everything her Grandmother (one of the ruling three vampires) asks of her. But her latest task isn't entirely that of an assassin, but a spy. She's sent to infiltrate a cult headed by another half breed, this time vampire and demon, Clovis and assainate him. Determined to finally prove herself to the Dominae, Sabina agrees and starts letting it spread that she's turning against the Dominae to draw out Clovis' supporters. Quickly Sabina has the meeting she wants and finds herself falling in to a much bigger mess than she'd first assumed.
At the same time, she's being stalked by a hot mage, Adam Lazarus, and a red eyed white owl. The mage makes his presence well known, trying to convince Sabina she needs to embrace the mage heritage she's always ignored and begin to learn to control her magic.
As Sabina works to complete her grandmothers wishes, she learns a whole new side to vampire politics and realises not everything is as she thought, or was raised to believe. The more she discovers the more she fights the truth and questions motives, pushing boundaries further than before as she tries to find her place in the world.
Along the way it's entertaining to watch loner Sabina making friends with an overly peppy faerie Vinca, and a demon Giguhl (or Mr. Giggles as Sabina takes to calling his talking cat self). Giguhl in particular is fantastically funny relief from the increasingly dark and dangerous world Sabina finds herself in.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had a few slow moments with world building and scene setting, but it didn't detract from the overall package. Sabina is a conflicted character, but compelling and tough. There is popular myth smoothly blended with Ms. Wells' own twists and the world created observes a careful balance between the vampires and mages, with other creatures generally falling one side or the other. Red-Headed Stepchild has quickly become a favourite of mine and I really look forward to reading the second book in the series, The Mage In Black, next year. 8/10