Tuesday, 26 August 2008
‘Bitten to Death’ – Jennifer Rardin (Orbit Books)
I don’t know what it is with me and the whole ‘sassy young woman who has loads of issues but offs loads of vampires but secretly loves one particular vampire but is always full of angst about their doomed relationship’ urban fantasy thing. On the one hand it feels like a one trick pony constantly being ridden by a different main character, each time, but on the other hand I always seem to find myself going back for just one more read... I don’t know what it is, am I just stuck in a comfortable rut or are there just enough car chases and undead punch-ups to whet my appetite for future reads? Whatever the answer is, I’ve found myself back in the zone again with the latest in Jennifer Rardin’s ‘Jaz Parks’ series.
The last two books in this fledgling series did just enough to keep me reading but if you were to ask me now what they were actually about then I’d have real trouble remembering anything other than the main points of the plot (these being the adventures of a sassy young woman with issues who is the bodyguard of the CIA’s top vampire assassin and she happens to be in love with him and... you get the picture). ‘Undead Special Ops missions’ stills sounds cool though doesn’t it? It does and it is, Rardin really hits her stride with ‘Bitten to Death’ which promises great things for future books in the series if they continue in this vein (no pun intended, honestly).
The series, so far, has been all about Jaz Parks and Vayl tracking down master criminal and vampire Edward ‘The Raptor’ Samos and ‘Bitten to Death’ sees them in with their best chance yet to take the Raptor down. Samos is trying to take over Vayl’s former Trust (this series’ collective noun for vampires) and a forthcoming meeting will prove pivotal for any number of vampires and were-creatures all looking to advance their own agendas. Nothing is as it seems and Jaz’s main objective will prove to be almost a side note when another vampire makes her move...
On the face of things ‘Bitten to Death’ will appeal to fans of the series in that it has exactly the same mixture of action and romance as the previous two books. You know what you’re getting with this series which will keep the fans happy but may prove off putting to readers who were hoping for a change. Like I said at the beginning, a hot young chick gets to wrestle with her issues while she’s wrestling with the undead and the fact that there’s a lot going on (a very good thing, ‘Bitten to Death’ is very fast paced with plenty that held my attention) doesn’t do a lot to hide a plot line that you can find in most other books of this genre. And don’t think that it’s just Jaz that I’ve got a problem with, oh no... Dracula must be spinning in his grave (a good name for the next Hammer Horror Film?) at how vampires have had their metaphorical fangs pulled out and turned into sissies who get full of angst over a woman instead of ripping her throat out and drinking some of that good old red stuff. Yes Vayl, I’m looking straight at you in this case...
At this point I’m normally gearing up to dish out a right savaging but Rardin has a few tricks up her sleeve that makes ‘Bitten to Death’ step up a gear and has me grinning ruefully, saying that I’ll be around for one more book at least.
Although the story and plot was what I’d come to expect, in terms of content and pacing, Rardin added a little spice by steering things in a different direction so that the climax to the story isn’t the one that you’ll be expecting. She’s not afraid to bring plot lines to a close so it’s almost like you get two explosive endings for the price of one book! By taking this approach, Rardin gives us a little more of a glimpse into the tortured psyche of Jaz Parks (always interesting) and carves out new and intriguing directions for future books to head in.
Rardin also paints one of her most devious scenarios yet in the Vampire Trust, a tightly bound community that is at the same time completely dysfunctional with all of it members seeking personal gain at the expense of another. No-one can be trusted and the great thing is that sometimes this includes people like Jaz and Vayl... There’s plenty to keep you guessing and it’s all drawn together in a logical way at the end. The introduction of two were-clans (wolf and bear) hints at a wider world that I hope is explored in future books.
‘Bitten to Death’ looks like another ‘same old take’ on urban fantasy but give it a chance and there’s a lot more going on under the surface that will excite fans and maybe persuade jaded readers of the series to keep on reading. I’ve certainly been persuaded but then, like I said, I always seem to keep going back for more...
Seven and a Half out of Ten