Review: “Bound To Me” By Jocelynn Drake (Novella)

Fairly soon after I had finished reading Jocelynn Drake’s amazing “Dark Days” series (you can find my reviews of it here, here, here, here, here and here ), I was in a rather melancholy mood. This amazing series was at an end and I missed it.

And then I remembered that there was a prequel novella called “Bound To Me” – and, after looking online, I realised that there was actually a paperback edition of it out there 🙂 So, no prizes for guessing what I’ll be reviewing today.

However, although “Bound To Me” is a prequel to the ‘Dark Days’ series and can be read as a (mostly) self-contained story, it’s worth reading the entire “Dark Days” series before you read this novella. This is because a lot of references, character cameos etc.. will make more sense if you’ve read the other novels first.

So, let’s take a look at “Bound To Me”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2012 Harper Voyager (US/Can ?) paperback edition of “Bound To Me” that I read.

The novella begins in London during some unspecified period of history (implied to be the 19th century). The red-haired vampire Mira and her beloved, Valerio, are having an entertaining evening causing scandal at an aristocratic dinner party. Afterwards, they return home to spend some quality time together. However, they are soon interrupted by a mysterious visitor who carries a message from the vampire coven.

According to the messenger, both Mira and Valerio have been summoned to Venice because the coven has an important mission for them……

One of the first things that I will say about this novella is… wow! It is quite literally a miniature “Dark Days” novel 🙂 There’s a good mixture of Machiavellian vampire politics, steamy romance, interesting locations and even a couple of brief action-thriller moments too. It is literally a small “Dark Days” novel and reading it felt just like returning to something warm and familiar again.

And, yes, there’s a lot of wonderfully familiar stuff here. Not only do we get to see more of Mira and Valerio’s backstory, but a few other familiar faces turn up too. We get to see Jabari, Elizabeth, Sadira and Macaire. We also get to visit the vampire coven in Venice again too 🙂 Plus, to my surprised delight, Tabor and (what is implied to be) a younger version of Ryan also show up too 🙂 Alas, no Danaus though – even though he would have, technically, been alive at the time the novel’s story takes place.

In terms of the story, it’s actually a proper story too. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It includes character development, multiple locations, a plot twist and a (romantic) sub-plot too. Seriously, it’s great to see a full story that is so efficiently concise. It puts many other modern authors (and their bloated 400-600 page novels) to shame. Plus, the story is just as compelling as you would expect a full-length “Dark Days” novel to be too 🙂

My only minor criticisms of this novella are the relative lack of horror elements (there are a few, but not many), the spelling of “Doncaster” as “Duncaster” and the fact that the story contains relatively little suspense. After all, if you’ve read the “Dark Days” novels, you’ll already know who survives and who doesn’t. In a lot of ways, I’d have preferred to see a sequel that dealt with what happens to Mira and Danaus some time after the dramatic ending of “Burn The Night”. But, still, this is an extra “Dark Days” story and this is never a bad thing 🙂

In terms of the narration and writing, it is as good as you would expect. For the most part, Mira’s first-person narration still sounds pretty similar to the rest of the “Dark Days” series, although she’s a slightly more violent and emotional character in this novel (since she’s 100-200 years younger). The narration is very readable and even the bedroom-based scenes (which aren’t for the prudish) are well-written enough to ensure that there are no moments of unintentional comedy.

In terms of length, the novella itself is 94 pages long ( although the book is longer, because there’s a 21-page preview of another novel added to the end). This length is absolutely perfect, since it means that “Bound To Me” can be read in an hour or two in a similar fashion to watching a TV show episode. There’s no need to rush, you can just sit back and savour every page and not have to worry about how long it’ll take you to read the entire thing. Seriously, if publishers want to make reading popular again, then why are print novellas so rare these days? They’re literally the book equivalent of a TV show episode or something.

All in all, this novella is absolutely wonderful 🙂 If you’re a fan of the “Dark Days” series, then you’ll have a lot of fun with this book. Although the actual story is less than 100 pages long, it still reads a lot like a full novel too – which is amazing 🙂 Seriously, I wish more people would publish novellas. Plus, of course, this novella is something to take the edge off of that miserable “there’s no more “Dark Days” novels left!” feeling when you finish reading “Burn The Night”.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

Review: “Burn The Night” By Jocelynn Drake (Novel)

Ever since I accidentally rediscovered a horror novel that I’d bought on a whim about a decade ago and then forgotten about, I’ve been fascinated by Jocelynn Drake’s excellent “Dark Days” series. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. So, after reading the first five novels in the series (you can find my reviews of them here, here, here, here and here), I finally started reading the final novel – “Burn The Night”.

As you may have guessed, you should read the other five novels before reading this one. Not only will you be a bit puzzled about what is going on if you haven’t read the previous five novels, but you’ll also miss out on a lot of the significance and drama of various parts of this story. So, read the other “Dark Days” books before reading this one!

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Burn The Night”. This review will contain some mild-moderate SPOILERS.

This is the 2011 Harper Voyager (US) paperback edition of “Burn The Night” that I read.

“Burn The Night” is, as you may have guessed, the conclusion to the story that has been building over the past few novels. With Aurora free to build an army, Cynnia’s only chance of saving the world is to gain as many allies as possible. As such, she has sent her sister Nyx out in order to find Rowe and any other allies…

Meanwhile, in Savannah, Mira has her own problems. Not only does she still have to deal with Nick, but Jabari is also out for her blood too and the fanatics of the Daylight Coalition are also growing bolder and more aggressive…..

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that the second half of it is much better than the first. As regular readers might have guessed from yesterday’s article, my first impressions of this novel weren’t that great. Not only was I annoyed about the narration (more on that later), but I also worried that this novel contained too much fantasy and not enough horror! Yet, as the story progressed, I found myself utterly gripped. As the story progressed, it felt much more like a worthy part of this amazing series. Although this novel takes a while to get going, it is well worth sticking around!

I should start by talking about the novel’s fantasy elements. If you remember, I thought that the fifth novel was a bit like “Game Of Thrones”. Well, this novel is a lot more like “Game Of Thrones” and this is both a good and a bad thing.

On the plus side, it’s a gloriously epic drama about two opposing armies and, despite the relative lack of horror elements, this novel is still as merciless and bloody as you would expect. On the downside, this is more of a “traditional” fantasy novel than the other novels in the series (and, tellingly, it is also a little bit longer too – at 418 pages). Whilst the slight genre change isn’t an inherently bad thing, it’s a bit of a jarring change considering how the series has told more of a gothic horror/thriller story (with fantasy elements) most of the time.

But, once you get over this genre change, then the story remains as gripping as the first and fifth novels were. This is helped by the fact that the series’ action thriller elements are used to full effect here. Whilst you shouldn’t expect a dramatic fight on literally every page, there are enough fast-paced action scenes to keep the story gripping and to carry you through the slightly weaker first half of the novel to the much better second half. Likewise, as the novel progresses, the story’s “Game Of Thrones”-style politics gets more complex and interesting as the alliance takes shape.

It is also worth mentioning the narration in this novel too. Unlike the previous five novels, this one uses *ugh* rotating first-person narration (Why?!?!?!) – with some segments being narrated by Mira and some segments narrated by Nyx.

Thankfully, these narrator changes don’t happen too often and we’re given enough time (usually 3-4 chapters or more) to get used to each narrator between changes. Even so, some clear way of signposting the changes in narrator would have been useful. Although you can usually work out who the narrator is by looking at what other characters are mentioned, it is a little bit confusing to start another chapter and then only realise that the narrator has changed after a paragraph or so. Yes, this is much more of an issue in the earlier parts of the novel than the later parts, but it was a little annoying.

I really have mixed feelings about Nyx’s segments of the novel too. On the one hand, they help to add extra depth to several characters in addition to emphasising one of the main themes of the series. Like Mira, Danaus and Rowe – Nyx is something of an misfit. She’s basically the naturi version of Mira (even down to her complex romance with Rowe, which mirrors Mira and Danaus’ relationship) and this really helps to emphasise the uplifting theme of misfits being awesome 🙂 Plus, of course, these chapters also help to make the naturi seem more complex and sympathetic, which fits into the novel’s message of solidarity amongst those disliked by the mainstream.

On the other hand, the novel wouldn’t have lost a huge amount if Nyx’s adventures had been kept “off screen” and relayed through dialogue instead. Not only would the story be a lot more focused (both narratively and tonally) with just Mira narrating, but it would also be a little bit shorter. Don’t get me wrong, more “Dark Days” is never a bad thing – but I found that the increased length of the story meant that it sometimes diverged from the brilliantly sharp and streamlined storytelling of some of the previous novels – like “Nightwalker” and “Wait For Dusk”.

As for how this novel concludes the series, it does this really well. Without spoiling too much, the ending to this novel is a satisfying reward for reading six novels 🙂 Yes, the ending does leave a few things tantalisingly mysterious but there are so many spectacular and powerfully emotional moments that really provide a beautifully satisfying ending to an absolutely wonderful journey. Seriously, I’ll really miss spending time with Mira and Danaus.

All in all, whilst “Burn The Night” isn’t a perfect novel, it is a very good ending to an amazing series 🙂 Yes, you’ll have to grapple with multiple first-person narrators and a shift away from the horror genre and towards the fantasy genre. But, if you can deal with this, then the novel gets significantly better as it progresses. As I said, it’s a brilliant ending to a brilliant series – even if, on it’s own merits, “Burn The Night” is only an ok to good novel. Still, I’ll really miss this series 😦 It has been one of the coolest, most atmospheric and generally awesome series of books that I’ve ever read.

If I had to give this novel a rating out of five, the first half or so of it would maybe just about get a three, but the second half would get four and a half.

Review: “Wait For Dusk” By Jocelynn Drake (Novel)

Well, I thought that I’d review the fifth book in Jocelynn Drake’s excellent six-novel “Dark Days” series today (you can see my reviews of the previous four novels here, here, here and here). Although I plan to read at least one different novel before reading and reviewing the final book in the series, I’m definitely going to miss this series when it is finished.

Although “Wait For Dusk” begins a couple of minutes after the ending of the fourth novel, it tells a mostly self-contained story with enough recaps for newer readers. However, you’ll get a lot more out of this novel if you read the previous four books first.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Wait For Dusk”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

I read the 2010 EOS (US) paperback edition of this novel. However, I won’t include a scan of the book cover in this review, since it probably borders on being “Not Safe For Work”. Interestingly, this cover art is also a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover too. Although the cover art …technically.. isn’t misleading (if anything, it’s a plot spoiler), it doesn’t really represent the overall tone of the majority of this horror/thriller story either. So, don’t judge this book by it’s cover.

“Wait For Dusk” begins with Mira being threatened by a mysterious man who claims to be her long-lost father. Calling himself Nick, he claims to be the being behind numerous trickster gods (Loki, Anansi etc..) throughout human history. And he has plans for Mira. He’ll grant her a few extra powers, as long as she uses them to gain control of both Danaus and Jabari. If she doesn’t, he’ll turn her into an ordinary human. After giving her this ultimatum, he disappears.

When Danaus and Valerio find Mira, she downplays what has happened. After all, they have more pressing matters to attend to. Not only is Tristan badly-wounded and racked with guilt, but Mira has been ordered before the vampire coven in Venice in order to formally take her seat as an elder.

After going through the grisly formalities, the next session of the coven begins. Vampires from across the world lodge complaints about naturi attacks. After Mira angrily tells the vampires to take care of it themselves, Macaire suggests that an example should be made of the naturi and requests that Mira travels to Budapest. She agrees, but soon realises that she might be walking into a trap…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is… wow! Not only is it a gloriously macabre horror novel and an utterly gripping thriller novel, but it is also basically “Game Of Thrones, but with vampires” too 🙂 Albeit, in terms of the story rather than the setting (which, in this novel, is the modern world rather than a medieval-style fantasy world).

This novel is filled with so many clever political machinations and brilliantly witty dialogue exchanges that it makes the second novel in the series seem disappointingly shallow by comparison. And, as the cover art shows, there are also a few romantic/erotic elements too – but these are more of a background element most of the time.

Not only does this novel contain several different types of horror (suspenseful horror, paranormal horror, gothic horror, gory horror, moral horror etc..), but it also contains several different variations on the thriller genre too. In addition to some expertly-directed ultra-violent action thriller scenes, there’s also a lot of thrilling suspense, some emotional conflict between the protagonists and some very well-written political thriller elements too. Seriously, this is how you write a horror thriller novel 🙂

Plus, the horror and thriller elements dovetail very nicely too. For example, Nick’s ultimatum to Mira means that she feels that time is running out (thriller) whilst also feeling conflicted about using her new powers to force Danaus to kill more readily than he ordinarily would (horror). This then causes a lot of friction between Mira and Danaus, which only helps to add to the suspense. And this is just one small example, I haven’t even got onto the story’s intricate political plots and machinations. This novel is almost like a perfect symphony of horror, drama, thrills, suspense and intrigue.

The story’s romance elements are handled reasonably well too, with both Mira and Danaus forced to examine their relationship when it is put under strain. Of course, as the cover art so blatantly spoils, there’s also a scene that long-time fans of the series have been waiting for too. This scene is surprisingly well-written and it has the level of vivid intensity that you would expect from this series. I would say that it isn’t for the prudish but, if you’re reading this series, then you probably aren’t prudish anyway.

One of the major strengths of this novel is the dialogue. Although the narration is still the kind of gripping first-person perspective thriller novel narration that you would expect, the dialogue is absolutely exquisite. If you like formal dialogue where characters are being superficially polite to each other, whilst trying to sneak in veiled insults, threats, cruel pranks or witty jibes, then you’ll love this story 🙂 Seriously, the dialogue exchanges brought a cynical smile to my face on many occasions. Plus, of course, this is also excellently counterpointed with more “matter of fact” arguments between the characters too.

Earlier, I likened this novel to “Game Of Thrones” and the comparison is a really good one (aside from the fact that this novel is set in the 2010s, rather than the middle ages). Seriously, if you want to see machiavellian power struggles, gripping intrigue and cunning plots, then this novel is well worth reading 🙂 Not only that, this novel also perfectly captures the chillingly brutal attitude towards political power that makes “Game Of Thrones” so morbidly compelling too.

Another strength of this story is the settings. For most of the novel, Mira and her allies find themselves alone in the beautiful – but deadly – city of Budapest. They have to work out who is in charge and then find a way to gain power over the city. Although this is reminiscent of the Venice-based scenes in the second novel in the series (“Dayhunter”), it is handled even more expertly. You really get the sense that the characters are plunged into an unfamiliar and dangerous place that will require them to use all of their wits to survive.

All in all, this is the best novel in the series so far 🙂 It contains a perfect blend of horror, thrills, suspense, sophistication, intrigue and drama. As I said earlier, it is basically “Game Of Thrones”, but with vampires 🙂 Seriously, this novel really amazed me 🙂 But, don’t judge this book by the cover though.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a very solid five.

Review: “Pray For Dawn” By Jocelynn Drake (Novel)

Well, for my next book review, I thought that I’d review the fourth novel (“Pray For Dawn”) in Jocelynn Drake’s excellent six-novel “Dark Days” series. You can check out my reviews of the previous three books here, here and here. I’ll be reviewing other books in between these, but I really love returning to this series 🙂

As you would expect, this novel is best read after reading the previous three books in the series. However, it is also theoretically possible to jump into the series from this book onwards (since it contains recaps and is also the beginning of a new story arc). But, as you would expect, “Pray For Dawn” is part of a larger story and it also isn’t quite a self-contained novel.

So, let’s take a look at “Pray For Dawn”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2010 EOS (US) paperback edition of “Pray For Dawn” that I read. Needless to say, Danaus doesn’t actually walk the streets shirtless during the book but, well, artistic licence.

The story begins in a nameless city, where Danaus is hunting a vampire who has killed a young woman. However, when he gets close to the vampire, the vampire’s eyes glow red and he exhibits superhuman strength and reflexes. After the fight, Danaus is confronted by a mysterious misty creature called Gaizka who threatens him and everything he holds dear.

After this, Danaus gets a call from Themis headquarters ordering him to Savannah. Not only has there been a mysterious murder but Ryan is in town, Nicolai is suspicious of Danaus and, worst of all, Mira is acting very strangely too…

One of the very first things that I will say about “Pray For Dawn” is that it is slightly different to the previous three books and this can take a bit of getting used to.

It’s a really great novel, but prepare yourself for a shock when you start reading it. For starters, Danaus is the narrator (rather than Mira). Although my first reaction to this was something along the lines of “WTF?!?!“, this change in narrator actually works really well once you get used to it.

Not only does it allow the story to have a bit more of a film noir/thriller atmosphere (since Danaus’ narration is a little bit more “matter of fact” than Mira’s), but it also allows Mira to be a mysterious character for a change. And, although I was getting comfortable with the series before I read this novel, this change gives the series some new life that makes it feel almost as fresh as “Nightwalker” was when I first read it. Plus, of course, we also get to learn a lot more about Danaus, which is never a bad thing 🙂

In addition to this, there’s also a slight genre change which also works really well too. After the thrilling fantastical drama of the previous two books, it’s great to see the series go back to it’s horror genre roots too 🙂 Not only that, this novel also incorporates elements from the detective genre too.

Although the solution to the murder mystery at the beginning of the story is fairly obvious, it’s pretty cool to see Mira and Danaus being detectives. Not only that, the story also contains a couple of smaller mysteries (eg: why is Mira acting strangely?) that are actually more gripping than the main mystery at the heart of the story.

As for the horror elements of this story, they’re absolutely brilliant 🙂 Not only are there a few moments of gory horror, but there is also a really good mixture of gothic horror, supernatural horror, ominous suspense, grim tragedy and psychological horror too. Seriously, if you loved the gothic atmosphere and intriguingly dark mysteriousness of the first novel in the series, then you’ll feel right at home here.

Likewise, this novel also recaptures some of the sensuousness that made the first novel in the series so delicious to read. Although Danaus’ narration is a little bit more gruff, stoic and matter-of-fact, this just serves to make the novel’s moments of sensuality even softer and more vivid by contrast. In addition to some romantic moments between Danaus and Mira, this sensual element of the story is best shown when Danaus vicariously experiences the emotions of a newly-turned vampire who feeds for the first time.

Plus, this novel also works really well as a thriller novel too. Although the action-thriller elements of the story are kept slightly more subtle (although there are still plenty of fights, chases etc..), the story is also a more traditional story-based thriller too and this works really well. The plot is focused and the story moves along at a confident pace. It is neither fast-paced nor slow-paced, but it keeps you reading with lots of intriguing twists, drama and mysteries.

However, as I hinted earlier, this isn’t quite a self-contained novel. Although the story’s main plot is (sort of) resolved within the last few pages, this is the first novel in the series to end on a really major cliffhanger. Luckily, since the series is complete and the other two books are available, this isn’t the major issue that it probably was back when these books were new (seriously, never read an in-progress series! I learnt this lesson with Matthew Reilly’s “Six Sacred Stones” back in 2010. Then foolishly forgot it in 2011 and 2014). Still, it is a bit surprising – but not shocking- to see an ending like this being used in these books.

All in all, “Pray For Dawn” is an absolutely brilliant gothic horror detective thriller novel 🙂 Although the changes from the previous three books can take a bit of getting used to, it is well worth making the effort to do this.

Although the second and third books in the series were a lot of fun to read, this is the first book in the series to recapture the awe-struck feeling I had when I started reading this series a couple of weeks ago. It breathes new life into a series that is great, but was starting to get a little bit too familiar. And I cannot praise this highly enough 🙂

If I had to give “Pray For Dawn” a rating out of five, it would get a five.

Review: “Dawnbreaker” By Jocelynn Drake (Novel)

First of all, happy New Year everyone 🙂 Although I hadn’t planned to start the year with a book review, it’s been a couple of days since the last one. So, with that said, I thought that I’d take a look at the third novel in Jocelynn Drake’s brilliant “Dark Days” series (you can see my reviews of the first two books here and here).

Needless to say, this series is best read in the correct order. And, although it is theoretically possible to read “Dawnbreaker” as a stand-alone novel (since it contains a few recaps), it is a sequel to the first two novels and you’ll get a lot more out of it if you read those first.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Dawnbreaker”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2009 EOS (US) paperback edition of “Dawnbreaker” that I read.

“Dawnbreaker” begins during a spectacular car chase in Mira’s home city of Savannah. Mira, Tristan, Knox and Amanda are trying to escape a hit-squad of naturi who are out for their blood. More specifically, Mira wants to get out of the city in order to reduce any potential witnesses or human casualties from the inevitable battle that will follow.

Of course, when they stop outside town, the naturi attack in force and the battle seems to be turning in the naturi’s favour until Danaus shows up to save the day. After this, they all return to Mira’s mansion outside town where she reluctantly offers to begin a vampiric “family” in order to protect Knox and Amanda. After spelling out the risks, Mira gives them both a day or two to decide.

But, before long, Amanda has been kidnapped by the naturi, several werewolves are dead and Barrett is furious. Believing Mira’s presence to be the cause of all of the recent troubles, he warns her to leave the city or face his wrath…..

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is absolutely spectacular. It is a really good mixture of the fast-paced action-thriller elements of the first novel and the more suspenseful elements of the second novel. But, in addition to this, it also contains the kind of grand sweeping drama that you’d expect from the third novel in any series.

The structure of this novel is pretty interesting too – with the first half of the story taking place in Savannah. This is a tense, suspenseful and claustrophobic segment of the novel that is filled with eruptions of violence, daring missions, uneasy truces and frayed friendships. This is also helped by the introduction of a couple of new characters (Cynnia and Shelly) who Mira isn’t sure whether she can fully trust or not.

This then elegantly segues back in the main over-arching story of the series, with the rest of the novel taking place in South America – where Mira and her allies must try to stop the final sacrifice that will re-open the door between Earth and the realm of the naturi. Needless to say, this is the more “epic” part of the novel where Mira must try to stop the naturi returning in force or die trying.

In terms of the horror elements in this novel, there aren’t as many as there were in the previous novels. Yes, there’s a lot of vampiric stuff etc… (including a scene involving a besieged hotel that reminded me of something from a 1990s-style horror movie) but the main emphasis of this story is on drama, suspense and action rather than horror.

Even so, this works really well and the novel remains just as compelling as the previous two. This is also helped by the fact that the story expands on some of the background stuff introduced in the previous novel, whilst also adding some compelling new details too (eg: hints about Mira’s abilities, more details about the naturi, the implications of what Danaus is etc..).

In terms of the narration in this novel, it’s a little bit more on the “matter of fact” side of things, but it still works really well (since it’s a thriller novel as well as a horror/fantasy novel). But, after getting this far into the series, Mira’s constant descriptions of pain, injuries etc.. do get a little bit repetitive. Even so, the story’s first-person narration still retains a lot of the personality and uniqueness that you would expect.

Although this story introduces a few new characters and quite a few familiar ones make an appearance too, the story mostly remains focused on the core group of Mira, Danaus, Shelly and Cynnia. Although it was a little disappointing not to see more about Tristan and Amanda’s budding relationship, not to learn more about Michael’s replacement etc.. this novel’s focus on a small group of characters helps to keep the story dramatic, deep and focused. And it works really well 🙂

Interestingly, this novel both does and doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Although there’s a tiny cliffhanger at the end of the final page, this story somehow both provides a really satisfying sense of resolution to some of the plot threads that have been building over the past few books, whilst still leaving a lot of stuff unresolved at the same time. It’s a brilliant payoff for reading the first two novels, but also a reminder that there are still three novels left to go.

All in all, this novel is a really spectacular mid-point to a brilliant series. It’s a good combination of the suspense elements from “Dayhunter” and the action thriller elements of “Nightwalker”. It’s a compelling novel that resolves a lot and also leaves a lot tantalisingly unresolved.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Dayhunter” By Jocelynn Drake (Novel)

Well, after reading Jocelynn Drake’s excellent “Nightwalker“, I wanted to read more novels from the “Dark Days” series. And, although I’d only planned to order the next two books, I later ended up ordering second-hand copies of the whole series.

But, although I currently plan to review other novels in between reviewing these vampire novels, I was eager to review the second novel in the series – a novel from 2009 called “Dayhunter”.

Although it is probably theoretically possible to read “Dayhunter” as a stand-alone novel (since it contains recaps of the events of “Nightwalker”), you’ll get a lot more out of the story and characters if you read “Nightwalker” first. This novel is very much a sequel to “Nightwalker” (and part of a larger continuous story), rather than a separate story.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Dayhunter”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2009 Eos (US) paperback edition of “Dayhunter” that I read.

“Dayhunter” begins a few minutes after the ending of “Nightwalker”. Mira, Tristan and Danaus are travelling through the streets of London – battered and bruised from their encounter with the nefarious Naturi. However, once they find shelter in an alleyway, they are mysteriously attacked by a witch, a werewolf and a human. Even in their weakened state, the intrepid trio put up a good fight and soon prevail.

But, before they can work out why they were attacked, they remember that they have been summoned to Venice in order to meet the vampire coven. Of course, as soon as they set foot in that ancient city, they soon realise that they’ve stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire….

One of the first things that I will say about “Dayhunter” is that it is slightly different to “Nightwalker”. If “Nightwalker” was an frenetic feast of fast-paced action, then “Dayhunter” is a little bit more like a cross between a gothic horror novel, a political thriller and a character-based drama.

It’s still really compelling, but it tells a slightly different type of story. It’s more like watching a few episodes of a well-written TV show than watching a spectacular Hollywood movie, if this makes sense.

Still, whilst this novel places slightly less emphasis on action than “Nightwalker” did, it more than makes up for this with suspense, atmosphere and intrigue. The cut-throat politics of the vampire coven are fairly intriguing and they really help to add a lot of tension and horror to the story.

In addition to this, these parts of the novel also allow for a lot of character development too as we see the main characters torn between compromising and upholding their principles when faced with plots, machinations and unforeseen events.

The horror elements in “Dayhunter” work reasonably well too. Whilst the novel contains slightly less in the way of grisly, violent, blood-soaked horror (although it certainly has it’s moments), this is replaced with a more suspenseful, tragic and gothic style of horror. Not only are the main characters in a city filled with those who want them dead or want to use them as tools, but Mira also has to grapple with the tragic pain of her past too. The horror in this novel is a bit more subtle, but it lingers constantly in the background.

Another cool thing about “Dayhunter” is that it fills out a lot of stuff that is only briefly mentioned in “Nightwalker”. We get to meet characters who are only mentioned in “Nightwalker” (eg: Macaire etc..) and we also not only learn more about the world and mythology of the series, but also a bit more about some of the characters (eg: exactly why Danaus has magical powers etc..) too. It’s a very slightly deeper, slower and more contemplative novel that contrasts really well with the high-octane action of “Nightwalker”.

Like with “Nightwalker”, this novel also tells a fairly satisfying story that is also part of a much larger story. Once again, there is some sense of resolution when the story ends but it is also left very clear that there are many more things for the characters to do and much more of the story still to be told.

The writing and narration in “Dayhunter” is pretty good too. Whilst the novel’s first-person narration is fairly similar to the narration in “Nightwalker”, it feels almost subliminally more focused, sharp and efficient (although this could just be because I’ve got used to Drake’s writing style, or because I’d just read “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson and, after grappling with the narration in that novel, even more gothic narration seemed very direct, efficient and fast-paced by contrast).

Still, the narration here works really well and it helps to keep the story moving at a fairly decent pace, whilst also adding to the dangerous, suspenseful atmosphere of the story too.

All in all, “Dayhunter” is a really good horror/fantasy/gothic thriller novel. Whilst it dials back the frenetic action slightly, it more than makes up with this through lots of characterisation, suspense and atmosphere. As I mentioned earlier, reading this novel is like watching a few episodes of a well-written TV show. It’s reasonably gripping, it’s suitably gothic and it also helps to flesh out the mythology of the series too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Review: “Nightwalker” By Jocelynn Drake (Novel)

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’d originally planned to review “The Storm” by Clive Cussler & Graham Brown. But, due to various reasons, I ended up abandoning it after about forty pages. Since I didn’t want to fall out of the habit of reading regulary again, I wondered about what to read next. Luckily, since I read a lot during my teenage years and early twenties, I’m not exactly short of books.

So, digging around in the outer layer of one of my book piles, I found a novel from 2008 called “Nightwalker” by Jocelynn Drake that I’d forgotten that I owned. From the book’s condition and the publication date, I must have bought a new copy of this novel about 8-10 years ago. It was probably the coolest-looking paperback in the slender “horror” shelf of a Waterstones’ somewhere.

Although I somehow had no memory of reading “Nightwalker” before, the occasional dog-eared page and the pencil marks on a few pages (I always used to mark my place in a book with pencil, a habit I picked up when I was at school where some [expletives deleted] or other would think it was funny to remove the bookmark from whatever I was reading) showed me that I’d previously read about a third of this novel before abandoning it. Yet, I didn’t remember reading it. Eeerie!

Naturally, I was curious. So, let’s take a look at “Nightwalker”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2008 Eos (US) paperback edition of “Nightwalker” that I read.

“Nightwalker” begins in the American city of Savannah. Local vampire leader, Mira, has been stalking a mysterious vampire hunter called Danaus who entered the city a month earlier and has slowly been picking off the city’s vampire population. Finally, she decides that enough is enough and confronts him. Yet, although he’s a formidable foe, she notices that he tries not to use lethal force during their fight. In fact, he wants to talk to her.

To Mira’s surprise, Danaus produces an ancient dagger that could have only come from a member of a supernatural foe called the Naturi – faerie-like creatures who are a mortal threat to both humanity and vampires. Something that Mira knows all too well after suffering torture at the hands of the Naturi hundreds of years ago, before their banishment from the Earth via a vampiric ritual.

Since the ancient dagger belongs to Nerian – the Naturi’s head torturer – Mira decides to let Danaus live. A decision helped by the fact that he tells her that he has captured Nerian and is willing to let her get revenge.

After a brief, and bloody, conversation with Nerian, Mira realises that the Naturi are planning to return to Earth in force. Reluctantly teaming up with Danaus, she decides to investigate….

One of the first things that I will say about “Nightwalker” is that it’s one of the coolest novels I’ve read recently 🙂

The earlier parts of the novel pulse with the kind of richly gothic atmosphere, sensuous decadence and complex backstory of something like “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines“. There are nightclubs, leather trenchcoats, vampire politics and all sorts of other cool stuff. And, as the novel progressed, it also reminded me a lot of an absolutely badass action/horror film called “Underworld” too. Needless to say, I’ve already ordered the next two books in the series…

Anyway, one of the really cool things about “Nightwalker” is how it blends the horror, thriller, fantasy and romance genres. A lot of the novel’s horror elements consist of both subtle background things (eg: flashbacks, nightmares, creepy characters, mournful tragedy, mentions of horrific events, menacing meetings etc..) and the kind of sharp, merciless, blood-drenched horror that you’d expect from a good vampire novel.

The novel’s action thriller events consist of some brilliantly badass fight scenes, culminating in a brilliantly epic battle later in the story. The novel’s fantasy elements help to set up the background of the story, and the story’s depiction of magic follows reasonably well-defined rules (that stop it from becoming silly). Finally, although the story contains relatively little in the way of overt romance, the story sizzles with seductive sensousness at almost every opportunity – which really helps to add to the gothic and vampiric atmosphere of the story.

The narration in this story is, in a word, perfect. The novel is narrated by Mira and this not only allows the reader to vicariously experience being an utterly badass and powerful vampire, but it also gives the story the level of intensity that it deserves. Every thought and sensation that Mira experiences is relayed to the reader in lush, vivid, immediate and intense prose. The story’s narration also deftly switches between the kind of rich, slow, descriptive and atmospheric narration that you would expect in a gothic novel and the kind of short, sharp, fast narration that you’d expect from a thriller novel.

The novel’s structure, settings and pacing are absolutely brilliant too. Although the novel begins as a slightly slower and more atmospheric gothic novel, the pace gradually gets quicker and quicker as the story builds in intensity. Not only that, the story has a classic three-act structure. It begins in Savannah, the middle takes place in Egypt and the dramatic conclusion happens in London and Stonehenge.

Needless to say, all of these settings are really interesting. Savannah is depicted in the kind of gloriously ultra-gothic way that you’d expect to find in a game like “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” or in a novel like “Lost Souls“. Egypt is shown to be a timeless land that holds great power, great mystery and great danger. And, since I’m British, I was quite amused to see part of the story set here (that also includes a vaguely non-London setting [Stonehenge] at one point too…).

Although I could nitpick about a few small details (eg: a British character calling Mira a “wanker” – this insult is traditionally only used to describe men), I really loved how the story depicts a gleefully stylised version of Britain filled with 1970s-style punks and ancient wizards/scholars who live in gloomy old buildings 🙂 Plus, extra bonus points for referring to London/Britain as “ultracivilised” too, which brought an ironic smile to my face.

However, I should mention that this novel is the first novel in a series. Although it fortunately doesn’t end on a major cliffhanger, and there is some sense of resolution at the end of the story, it is still very much the beginning of a longer story. Without spoiling the ending too much, it mostly resolves the main thread of the story, whilst also very clearly setting the reader up for the sequel and leaving some major underlying plot points unresolved.

The novel’s characters are absolutely brilliant too. Not only is Mira more of a complex protagonist than she initially appears to be, Danaus is also a wonderfully mysterious and handsome sidekick too. Likewise, Mira’s complex relationship with her handsome human bodyguards is also fairly interesting too. The novel’s vampires, werewolves, hunters and magicians are also shown to be complex characters too (with, for example, many hunters only hunting because they have false information about vampires). Likewise, the Naturi are an absolutely brilliant foe – since they’re this creepily chilling subversion of the “goodness” that people typically associate with faeries, nature spirits etc…

The novel’s depiction of vampirism is pretty interesting too. Although it follows some of the traditions of the genre (eg: vampires need to drink blood, they can’t enter churches, they’re allergic to sunlight etc..), it also adds a few interesting new things too. For example, vampires are shown to possess a type of extra-sensory perception that allows them to “scan” the nearby area for humans and other vampires (but not, unfortunately, Naturi).

All in all, this is an absolutely brilliant vampire thriller novel 🙂 If you love games like “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines”, TV shows like “Angel” and movies like “Underworld”, then you’ll love this novel. It’s dark, gothic, sensuous, gripping, thrilling, atmospheric and bloody. Yes, it’s part of a larger series, but it’s still an utterly awesome novel in it’s own right. Seriously, there needs to be a film/videogame adaptation of this book!

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would just about get a five.