Review: “Bloodlist” By P. N. Elrod (Novel)

Well, it has been far too long since I last read a vampire novel. And, after a bit of searching online, I happened to notice the cover of a rather cool-looking vampire-themed “film noir”-style novel by P. N. Elrod . However, it was the seventh in a series.

So, after some thought, I decided to start at the beginning of the series and – to my delight – a second-hand omnibus of the first three P.N.Elrod’s “Vampire Files” stories was also going fairly cheap. So, I thought that I’d take a look at the first novel in the series, “Bloodlist” (1990).

So, let’s take a look at “Bloodlist”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2003 Ace Books (US) paperback omnibus that contained the copy of “Bloodlist” (1990) that I read.

The novel begins in Chicago, in the summer of 1936. Former reporter Jack Fleming is having a bad night. After waking up near a lake with no memory of the past few days, he suddenly finds that he’s being chased by a car. After taking a glancing blow from the car, the driver gets out and shoots him in the back. However, to Jack’s surprise, the gunshot doesn’t really hurt and isn’t even vaguely fatal.

After giving the gunman the scare of his life, Jack takes his car and decides to look into why he can’t remember the past few days. And, more importantly, why he’s still alive too. But, after feeling a hunger for blood, the answer to that question seems pretty obvious…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is amazing 🙂 Not only is it a really cool vampire novel, but it’s also a fairly gripping “film noir”-style thriller novel too, with a decent helping of comedy, quirkiness, atmosphere and personality too 🙂 And it’s from the 1990s too 🙂 Seriously, it is awesome 🙂

Interestingly though, although this novel is sort of a detective novel, it’s actually more of a streamlined thriller than many of the classic hardboiled novels it takes inspiration from. It’s kind of like a mixture between a less gritty/ less old-fashioned version of Mickey Spillane’s “I, The Jury” with a few hints of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories. In other words, if you’re expecting the kind of messy, puzzling, complex plot that you’d find in hardboiled classics like Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” or Raymond Chandler’s “The High Window“, then you’re going to be disappointed.

Still, this streamlined plot works really well – since it makes the story a lot more gripping and readable (and a bit “cinematic” too). Interestingly though, although the novel certainly has a rather cool “film noir” atmosphere to it, it also contains traces of something a bit older and more quirkier.

This is mostly thanks to the inclusion of a British actor, private detective and master of disguse called Escott, who helps to lend the story a little bit more of an eccentric Victorian-style “Sherlock Holmes” atmosphere 🙂 Plus, although this novel wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve (with references to things like Black Mask and old Dracula movies), it is very much it’s own unique thing 🙂

Although this is more of a horror-themed novel than an actual horror novel, the novel’s depiction of vampirism is fairly interesting. In addition to the usual thing about vampires being allergic to sunlight, this novel does some rather interesting things – such as giving Jack the ability to turn invisible and walk through walls. This allows for some truly brilliant (and occasionally hilarious) set pieces, but also has a few clever limitations which help the story to remain suspenseful too. Jack is also able to remain a fairly sympathetic character since he mostly drinks animal blood and, on the one occasion he bites another person, doesn’t kill them.

In terms of the characters, this novel is pretty good. Although many of the characters are fairly stylised “film noir” characters (eg: the evil gangster, the nightclub singer with a heart of gold, the hardboiled detective etc..) they all have a lot of personality. Likewise, the story includes a few characters you probably wouldn’t find in traditional 1930s-50s hardboiled stories too, which helps keep things interesting too.

Interestingly, whilst Jack is still very much a hardboiled detective, he’s probably slightly more of a likeable and friendly character than the classic hardboiled detectives of the 1930s-50s (eg: Mike Hammer, Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade). Likewise, he contains just the right amount of moral ambiguity to make him an interesting character, whilst also ensuring that he doesn’t become too unsympathetic either.

The best character-based part of this novel is probably the friendship between Jack and Escott, which is the source of lots of dramatic moments, amusing lines of dialogue and other such things. Seriously, although the characters in this novel are a little bit stylised, this is part of the fun of this novel.

In terms of the writing, Elrod’s first-person narration is really good 🙂 It is matter-of-fact enough to make the story moderately fast-paced, whilst also still allowing the story to have a reasonably authentic “film noir”-style tone too. Likewise, the first-person narration also helps to give Jack a lot of extra characterisation too. Seriously, this novel is wonderfully readable.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is really great. The omnibus edition of “Bloodlist” I read was a gloriously efficient 159 pages long. But, even accounting for the smaller print and larger page size in the omnibus, this novel is still a wonderfully streamlined and efficient story. Likewise, the story’s pacing is fairly good too, with the story never really slowing down or losing momentum. Although you shouldn’t expect an ultra-fast paced thriller, this novel moves along at a reasonable pace.

As for how this twenty-nine year old novel has aged, it has aged really well. Seriously, this could pretty much be a modern novel. Whether it is the slightly more critical attitude towards the setting (similar to what you’d expect in a modern historical novel) or the fact that the novel’s writing style is also retro enough to be atmospheric whilst still being modern enough to still be easily readable today, this novel has aged really well.

All in all, this novel is really awesome 🙂 It’s a hardboiled “film noir” detective story about vampires that was written in the 1990s. You don’t get much better than this 🙂 It’s a streamlined, gripping novel that contains a really great blend of atmosphere, thrills and humour.

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

Advertisements

Review: “Minion (Special Edition)” By L. A. Banks (Novel)

A while before writing this review, I was in the mood for some vampire fiction (what can I say? I’ve been looking for something as awesome as Jocelynn Drake’s “Dark Days” novels ever since I finished reading them). And, after looking online, I discovered an author I hadn’t heard of before called L. A. Banks. So, I decided to order a second-hand copy of the first novel in her “Vampire Huntress” series – a novel from 2003/4 called “Minion”.

However, I should probably point out that this novel seems to be the first part of a continuous series and it isn’t a self-contained novel. I was forewarned about this by a few reviews I saw, but don’t go into this novel expecting a full story. Likewise, the edition of “Minion” that I read is a “special edition” version, which apparently contains some extra scenes that aren’t in older editions of the novel.

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

This is the 2004 St. Martin’s Paperbacks (US) special edition paperback of “Minion” that I read.

The novel begins in New Orleans in the 1980s, when the wife of a preacher believes that her husband is having an affair with a mysterious handsome man that he’s met. Filled with jealousy, she ends up consulting a local magician for some kind of spell in order to exact revenge. However, this spell doesn’t exactly work as intended….

Flash forward to the mid-late 1990s and two people called Marlene and Shabazz are in a nightclub, searching for someone called Damali. When the band appears on stage, Marlene realises that the teenage lead singer is none other than Damali. After the concert, Marlene approaches Damali and offers to sign her to her record label – which is, of course, a cover for a group of vampire hunters. Since, although she doesn’t know it, Damali is the Neteru- some kind of mythical chosen one.

A few years later, in 2003, Damali is twenty and she is a well-trained member of the vampire hunting team. The team have travelled to Philadelphia to fight some vampires, but they find themselves in an alleyway where everything is mysteriously silent. Something is wrong. Of course, it doesn’t take long before the vampires attack. However, these vampires are different. They’re more powerful, more ferocious and are nothing like anything Damali has ever seen before….

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that, during it’s best moments, it’s kind of like a cooler and more badass version of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer“. Yes, it isn’t a self-contained story and it certainly has a few flaws but, when this story is at it’s best, it’s kind of like watching a really cool late 1990s/early 2000s urban fantasy TV show 🙂 Plus, it’s one of the few novels about vampire hunters that I’ve read which still manage to include a lot of the edginess of a good vampire novel 🙂

Interestingly, this novel is more of a thriller/drama novel than a horror novel. Sure, there are a few moments of gruesome horror, a suspenseful atmosphere and some fairly cool moments of paranormal horror too. But, for the most part, this is more of an urban fantasy drama novel with a few sizzlingly sensual moments and some well-placed action scenes. Surprisingly, this works really well.

In addition to some detective/crime thriller elements, a lot of the story also focuses on the lives of the vampire hunters, their plans, their conflicts and Damali grappling with her fate as a Neteru (which is presented as something of a second adolescence).

Although this novel is one of those stories where the main characters argue with each other quite a bit, this actually works quite well thanks to the general atmosphere of the story and the way that the characters are written. In other words, the conflicts between the characters emerge from their different perspectives, personalities and worldviews rather than just being there for the sake of drama. Likewise, the Los Angeles setting of most of the story is reminiscent of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, whilst also allowing for a lot more atmosphere and grittiness too.

Even though the story could have done with more action scenes, this is compensated for via a reasonably compelling plot and a suspenseful atmosphere in many scenes. Likewise, many of the story’s more action-packed moments are pretty cool too – with the highlights including a fight involving a three-sided sword and a rather cool chase scene that not only includes some beautiful descriptions of Chinatown, but also includes some fairly suspenseful combat scenes too.

Plus, even though this story contains a clear “good vs. evil” conflict, it is thankfully a little bit more sophisticated than this. In other words, most of the “good” characters aren’t joyless, self-righteous bores and some of the story’s villains are a little bit more ambiguous too.

Even the novel’s most puritanical character, Marlene, is given enough characterisation for her more self-righteous moments to make sense in the context of the story. Best of all, Damali is actually a fairly realistic twentysomething main character who (unlike many thriller novel protagonists) actually wants to enjoy life – much to Marlene’s prim consternation.

Plus, one of the characters (Carlos) is initially presented as a villainous drug baron, but he gains a bit more depth (and even some reader sympathy) as the story progresses. In other words, this novel contains a bit more nuance and humanity than “good vs. evil” vampire stories focusing on vampire hunters usually do. This really helps to add atmosphere to the story too 🙂

Still, this isn’t to say that the story doesn’t have some hilariously cheesy elements too. Whether it’s a rival music label who are quite literally run by demons and vampires (and, in true 1980s/90s moral panic fashion, promote goth music and drug-fuelled rock music) or a scene involving an alliance between crime gangs, this story can be a little bit silly. Likewise, one scene involving a vampiric council who reside in the depths of hell is straight out of a cheesy horror movie. Still, these elements help to add some cheesy, light-hearted fun to the story and provide a bit of balance to the grittier and more serious aspects of the story.

But, although this story is reasonably atmospheric and fairly cool, it isn’t without flaws. Most of these happen near the beginning and ending of the novel, which are literally the last places where a writer should make mistakes.

After the prologues, the novel begins with what should be a suspenseful and gripping action scene – but it is bogged down by the fact that this scene introduces quite a few characters very quickly, which can get confusing. Likewise, the climactic moments of the story are basically a long-winded exposition-filled data dump about the series’ backstory. Yes, this segment does also serve as a cliffhanger ending, but it’s a fairly boring way to include one.

In terms of the writing, Banks’ third-person narration is somewhat on the informal side of things, whilst also being reasonably descriptive too (and fairly “matter of fact” during more thrilling moments). Although it took me a little while to get used to Banks’ writing style (probably because I read a slightly more formal novel directly beforehand), it works reasonably well – with the informal elements also helping to reinforce the story’s atmosphere too.

As for length and pacing, this novel is an efficient 286 pages in length – however, this isn’t a self-contained story (so, it’s more like the first part of a longer novel). Likewise, as mentioned earlier, chapter one overloads the reader with characters and the cliffhanger ending is far too slow-paced. However, the pacing throughout the rest of the story is reasonably good.

All in all, whilst this novel isn’t without flaws, it is still fairly interesting. When it is at it’s best, this novel is as fun as watching a really cool TV show. The middle parts of this novel are dramatic, atmospheric and compelling. Yes, both the beginning and the ending are a bit weak – and the story isn’t even vaguely self-contained. But, these flaws aside, this novel still has some really good moments.

If I had to give “Minion” a rating out of five, it would just about get a four (even though, in some parts, it’s a solid four and a half and in other parts is more of a three and a half).

Review: “Some Girls Bite” By Chloe Neill (Novel)

Note: Due to various scheduling reasons, the next book review probably won’t appear here until the 2nd April.

Well, after reading Lilith Saintcrow’s “Working For The Devil“, I was still in the mood for urban fantasy fiction.

But, since I have a rule about reading multiple books by the same author directly after one another (after reading eight Clive Cussler novels in a row a few months ago taught me that variety is the spice of life), I decided to read a second-hand copy of Chloe Neill’s 2009 vampire novel “Some Girls Bite” that I’d ordered a few weeks earlier when I was going through a bit of a horror phase.

So, let’s take a look at “Some Girls Bite”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2010 Gollancz (UK) paperback edition of “Some Girls Bite” that I read.

The novel is set in a version of Chicago where the existence of vampires is public knowledge. The story begins when a university student called Merit is violently attacked by a vampire on campus. The vampire mortally wounds her and leaves her for dead, but she is rescued by another vampire who turns her in order to save her life.

So, Merit finds herself in the middle of the confusing world of vampires and vampire factions. Not only is she eager to find out who attacked her, but she also has her fair share of misgivings about being a vampire too. Plus, in accordance with tradition, she only has a week before she must swear fealty to her vampiric liege….

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it’s like watching the pilot episode of a TV show. Yes, it’s well-written, the characters are good and the story is a little bit like a slightly more light-hearted version of “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” (albeit without the theme of secrecy etc..). But, at the same time, it is more of a scene-setting introduction to a larger series than anything else. In other words, the story’s detective and horror elements are kind of a background detail.

So, if you’re expecting a horror novel or a detective thriller, you’re probably going to be slightly disappointed. If you’re expecting an action-thriller novel, you’ll also be disappointed. Even though the chart on the back cover describes this novel as “Action Packed“, there is very little in the way of action here – there are a couple of “friendly” martial arts sparring matches, a tense confrontation or two and a rather brief action sequence near the end, and that’s about it.

Yes, this is a good novel, but it’s more of a character-based drama (with some romance and comedy elements) than anything else. Like with the classic computer game “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines”, this is more of a story about a new vampire adapting to life as a vampire and vampire politics. Although there are a few suspenseful moments, this isn’t so much a horror/thriller novel as it is a novel about friendships, loyalties, relationships, confusion etc…

Still, it works reasonably well as a drama novel. This is mostly because the premise is intriguing and the characters are all reasonably good too. The central focus of the story is the friendship between Merit and her best friend Mallory, who – unlike in a lot of thriller/horror stories – are actually friends. Sure, they trade sarcastic dialogue and snarky pop culture references occasionally, but they are actually best friends. Likewise, the story also adds a bit of spice with Merit’s somewhat fiery/antagonistic relationship with her vampiric liege Ethan, and a vague love triangle plot with another vampire called Morgan.

One major theme of this story is that of belonging, loyalty and family, with Merit being somewhat estranged from her snobbish, rich parents and getting along a lot better with Mallory, some of the vampires and her ex-cop grandfather. She’s also somewhat cynical about the vampiric traditions that she is expected to follow, and tries to walk a fine line between rebellion and obedience too.

Likewise, the “world” of the novel is pretty interesting too. It is set in a version of Chicago where vampires are public knowledge, and maintain a respectable and orderly system of traditions and “houses”. They also usually drink pre-packaged blood instead of biting people. They also face discrimination too. The story’s detective plot, which really doesn’t get enough focus, links into this since the presence of a vampire serial killer threatens to turn humanity against the vampires. Plus, of course, being an urban fantasy novel, there are also nymphs, shapeshifters, witches etc… too.

As for the writing in this novel, it’s pretty good and it is one of the main things that keeps the novel compelling. The story is narrated by Merit, which allows for lots of characterisation (since she’s a fairly ordinary twentysomething student, who is way out of her depth) in addition to lots of sarcastic humour and numerous pop culture references (which, for a ten-year old novel, still feel reasonably modern and fresh). The novel’s narrative style is reasonably informal and fast-paced, which helps to keep the story readable and interesting. Likewise, the chapter titles are wonderfully comedic too 🙂

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is ok. At 339 pages, it’s relatively concise by modern standards. Likewise, although there are long “everyday life” drama segments in between the few meagre moments of suspense, horror, detection and action, these segments are kept reasonably readable and compelling thanks to the strength of the narration and the characters.

All in all, although this novel was different to what I had expected, it was still reasonably enjoyable. The story’s narration, characters, premise and humour are reasonably good and they help to keep the story compelling.

However, not only is this an introduction to a longer series, but it also skimps on the horror, action-thriller and detective elements too. Even so, it’s a fun piece of light entertainment. But, if you want a more thrilling and horror-filled vampire story, then I’d probably recommend reading Jocelynn Drake’s “Nightwalker” or playing “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” instead.

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

Review: “Guilty Pleasures” By Laurell K. Hamilton (Novel)

Well, after reading Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall“, I wanted to read something shorter and more fast-paced. So, I thought that I’d check out Laurell K. Hamilton’s 1993 novel “Guilty Pleasures”. After all, it’s been a while since I last read a vampire thriller novel (I think that the last ones I read were Jocelynn Drake’s amazing “Dark Days” series, which I reviewed here, here, here, here, here, here and here ).

Surprisingly though, “Guilty Pleasures” isn’t actually the first Laurell K. Hamilton novel I’ve read – since I reviewed a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” novel by Hamilton back in 2013.

Anyway, I saw several of Hamilton’s “Anita Blake” novels in a charity shop in Petersfield last April but, for cost reasons, only ended up buying three of them. I’m not sure how many of them I’ll end up reviewing, since I’ve got a lot of other books on my “to read” pile, but I was eager to see what this series was actually like – since I’d always see these novels on the horror shelves of bookshops when I was younger.

So, let’s take a look at “Guilty Pleasures”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2009 Headline (UK) paperback edition of “Guilty Pleasures” that I read.

The story is set in St.Loius, Missouri. Anita Blake, a professional necromancer (or “animator”) and part-time executioner of criminal vampires, is sitting in her office when a friendly vampire called Willie walks in. He’s got a case for her. Someone has been killing vampires (without a lawful reason) and he’s been told to ask her to investigate the killings. Naturally, Anita doesn’t take the job.

But, later, Anita gets a phone call from someone called Monica who is helping out with Anita’s friend Catherine’s wedding. Monica asks Anita if she can be the designated driver for the bachelorette party. Reluctantly, Anita agrees. And, a few days later, she finds herself at a vampire-run nightclub called Guilty Pleasures.

During the festivities, Anita is paged by the police and makes a brief visit to a graveyard. Another vampire has been murdered. When Anita returns to the nightclub, it soon becomes obvious that she had been led there on purpose. Several vampires at the club tell Anita that the city’s head vampire wants her to investigate the killings, or Catherine will be in danger…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that although the first third or so of it is quite literally “so bad that it’s good”, the novel becomes more thrilling and creepy later on. The earlier parts of this novel are highly entertaining in a hilariously cheesy way (eg: were-rats, gruesome coffins, male strippers etc..) and they certainly put a grin on my face. However, as the story progressed, I found myself more gripped and, to my surprise, at least mildly creeped out.

I should probably start by talking about the novel’s horror elements. Whilst the earlier parts of the novel include some hilariously silly creature horror, some suspenseful/threatening horror and some fairly standard gory horror, this is all there to lull you into a false sense of security.

As the story progresses, it gradually starts to introduce other types of horror too – these include criminal horror, paranormal horror, age-related horror, character-based horror, religious horror, psychological horror and sadistic/cruel horror. Seriously, this is a creepier novel than you might initially expect it to be. So, the story’s horror elements work really well 🙂

The novel’s thriller elements are also fairly good too. Whilst this story certainly contains it’s fair share of fights, the thriller elements of this story are often achieved through atmosphere, story and suspense in addition to dramatic action scenes. Like a good “modern” film noir, this is one of those suspenseful stories that is constantly infused with both the threat of and effects of violence. In addition to this, the detective-based plot of the story helps to keep things moving at a decent pace too. So, this is a reasonably gripping and fast-paced novel that you’ll probably want to read in a couple of 2-3 hour sessions.

The novel’s paranormal/fantasy elements are handled in a fairly interesting way too, with the novel set in a world where vampires actually have some political rights. Although this topic, and the moral ambiguity of Anita’s job, is explored in a few scenes – it seems to be slightly more of a background detail. The rest of the story’s paranormal/fantasy elements (eg: re-animating the dead etc..) are handled reasonably well too, with enough explained to make the events of the story seem logical and enough kept mysterious to keep the story creepy.

As for the novel’s characters, they’re reasonably well-written. Whilst you shouldn’t expect ultra-deep characterisation, there’s still enough characterisation here to make you care about what happens to the characters. However, I had mixed feelings about the narrator/main character.

On the plus side, Anita is the kind of cynical, badass character you would expect to see in a story like this. She makes witty observations, has a few amusing quirks (such as a collection of stuffed penguins) and is both tough and intelligent too. And, on the whole, is a reasonably well-written character.

However, one part of this novel points out that crosses also require religious faith to be effective weapons against vampires. So, Anita is religious. Half of the fun of urban fantasy-style vampire fiction is vicariously experiencing the debauched, gothic, hedonistic and countercultural world of the vampire characters. Typically, this is achieved through the use of a vampire protagonist/narrator. So, telling the story from the perspective of a non-vampire protagonist who also lives a relatively puritanical life and tuts disapprovingly at various things etc… kind of ruins the fun a bit.

Still, some of this stuff is also satirised via the inclusion of a group of “mainstream” vampires (the “Church Of Eternal Life”) who also disapprove of the more debauched elements of vampirism – only for Anita to disapprove of them because, due to her religious beliefs, she’s creeped out by the fact that vampires have a non-Christian church.

In terms of the writing , Hamilton’s first-person narration is fairly well-written. In other words, this is a very readable thriller-style novel, with hints of old-school hardboiled/noir detective fiction too 🙂 Likewise, the first-person narration really helps to show the reader Anita’s personality and character too. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, there are quite a few witty observations etc..

As for length and pacing, this novel is fairly good. It never really gets particularly slow-paced or boring and, at 327 pages in length, the story never really gets bloated either. In other words, the pacing and length of this story are reasonably good.

As for how this twenty-six year old novel has aged, it has aged surprisingly well. Although there are a few obviously 1990s elements (eg: pagers, the phrase “peachy keen”, some of the fashions etc..), I often forgot that I was reading a novel from the 1990s whilst I was reading it. If you showed me a copy of this story without a publication date, I’d have probably guessed that it was from 2004-9, rather than 1993. So, yes, this novel is often somewhat ahead of it’s time.

All in all, this is an entertaining, creepy and gripping vampire thriller novel. Yes, as urban fantasy vampire stories go, I still prefer Jocelynn Drake’s “Dark Days” novels to this one. But, this novel is entertaining. It contains a good mixture of humourous/cheesy horror and genuinely creepy horror, the pacing is good and the story is certainly compelling. However, the choice of a non-vampire protagonist and the slightly judgmental tone of the story can drain some of the fun out of it.

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

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.