Wednesday, 24 October 2007
‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ – Jennifer Rardin (Orbit Books)
In the beginning there was the sub-genre. It was without form but chock full of vampires, were-wolves and other undead creatures, everyone knew where they stood so everyone was happy. Then came the one known as Buffy and she bought with her many clones who did her work throughout the sub-genre, the undead fled in fear and everyone was happy to see fine looking American women in their books. Then one day the vampires and werewolves realised they were actually really good looking and that what Buffy and her friends were really after was some hot undead action. So began the time of angst-ridden relationships and guilty sex; no-one was happy because vampires are supposed to be killed by the heroine, not all that other stuff!
And now we have another book with a gutsy heroine who’s got a ‘thing’ for her vampire friend, do we really need another one? The answer is ‘yes’ because, despite some faults, this is a great little book that shows potential for a cracking series…
Jaz Parks is a CIA operative who has been assigned to protect Vayl, a top vampire assassin. My first thought was, ‘why would a top vampire assassin need protecting? He must be at the very top of the food chain!’ After 290 pages of high octane action (gunfights, car chases and a rather nasty chaos monster) Rardin answers this question in style while posing a few more which should be covered in the next couple of books. Some unlikely stuff does happen but, for once, the first person perspective helps as you an tell that Jaz has as little an idea about what’s going on as we do. Deus Ex Machina happens but you find yourself prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt until an explanation is given.
A simple assassination suddenly becomes a lot more complicated and suddenly the future of humanity is at stake. Isn’t it always? Maybe so but when you’re being rocketed along by 200mph prose then you actually find yourself beginning to enjoy it.
Jaz Parks isn’t your normal ‘vampire novel heroine’. Okay, she does have a little crush on Vayl (I winced when I realised this) but she has a real mean streak of patriotism that is strangely refreshing when you take into account what you’re reading, it’s ‘country first, love second’ for her. Vayl ticks all the right boxes for a ‘generic vampire’ but when Rardin starts to mention his phobias you have to give her some credit for trying to do something a bit different. Some of the decisions that Rardin makes come across as a little odd when you consider that this is the first book in a series. People do die but one particular character’s death struck me as an odd move considering what could have been done with the character in later books. Having said that though; fair play to Rardin for throwing us a curve ball so early on, an element of uncertainty over the characters always makes things more interesting.
On the face of it, ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ doesn’t do an awful lot that is new but the blistering pace hides the potential for something a cut above certain ‘urban/supernatural fantasies’ (you know the ones I mean!). I think I’ve come in at the start of something really good…
Eight out of Ten