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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Some Girls Bite' by Chloe NEILL

From the BLURB:

First in a brand new series about a Chicago graduate student's introduction into a society of vampires.

Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was Merit's. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker - and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.

Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she's traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan 'Lord o' the Manor' Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries' worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude - and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan's attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone's still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war - and there will be blood.

This is Chloe Neill’s premiere series and latest addition to the Urban Fantasy genre. I loved Neill’s take on vampire politics and feudal structure. Each state in America has different vampire ‘Houses’ – in Chicago there’s Cadogan, Nevarre and Grey – they are similar to sorority or frat houses, even though every vampire associated with the respective houses are not required to live on the premises. There’s lots of vampire political intrigue surrounding the ‘outing’ of the vampire race a few months prior to Merit's turning, which is fascinating.

I also really appreciated the succinct explanation Neill provides for why vampires existence has been so wholly welcomed by the human population. This is a plot footnote present in many Urban Fantasy novels, but never so beautifully explained as in ‘Some Girls Bite’. Merit’s grandfather, who acts as supernatural/human police liaison for the Chicago mayor, tells Merit;

this is the first supernatural outing in modern history, and it happened in the post-Harry Potter era. In the post-Lord of the Rings era. Humans are a little more comfortable thinking about supernatural beings, supernatural happenings, than they were in the days when witches and vampires burned.”

In some novels the explaining of why supernatural’s are so easily accepted by humans after years of demonizing is long-winded and never really satisfying. Chloe Neill has summed it up beautifully in one paragraph that had me totally willing to believe all of the ‘vampires in modern day’ plot that followed.

I really loved the world Neill created, but that’s about all the enjoyment I got out of ‘Some Girls Bite’.

My main problem was with the main character; Merit, and the fact that she was very, very boring. And her blandness was made excruciatingly obvious by more interesting secondary characters. Case-in-point; her witchy roommate, Mallory. Not only does Mallory have dyed blue hair to counteract her classically beautiful features, but she’s also sassy, fashionable and quick with the verbal sparring. When confronted with an ex Sorcerer who sports a buzz-cut and impressive bod, Mallory is quick to quip about her shattered pre-conceptions of what a sorcerer should look like -

“You know-old. Grizzled. Long white beard. Scruffy robes. Lovable. Smart, but a little absentminded professorish.”

Added to Mallory’s intrigue is her instant attraction to the Sorcerer, Catcher. When we first meet him Mallory comments on his stand-offish persona and hidden agenda – yet Mallory seems to pretty quickly break down his walls and the two of them are firmly in love by books end. For me, that relationship alone would have merited a book in itself.

Secondly, because of Merit’s boring character, I found the attraction between her and Cadogan housemaster, Ethan Sullivan, totally implausible. Mallory comments that;

“…Just being in the same room, you two melt the drapes.”

I, personally, did not read any such drape-melting.

Neill did what so many paranormal romance and urban fantasy writers tend to do – the protagonist and his/her lead having an intangible ‘something’ connection that can’t really be explained but is there regardless so even if the spark isn’t really coming across for the reader, the writer can just fall back on the pretext that these two are ‘fated’. And Neill does just that… Merit and Ethan stare across a crowded room and Merit unsuccessfully explains feeling a little ‘something’ click inside of her. I didn’t buy it, and it didn’t help that Ethan, like Merit, was just a big blob of bland for me. He seemed like a watered-down version of Charlaine Harris’s Eric Northman. Merit comments quite a bit on Ethan’s politicizing and the fact that he will happily sacrifice her for the greater good, regardless of his feelings. There was nothing that stood out about him for me, and the lack of chemistry between him and Merit made for a lackluster pairing.

With regards to Merit – I wanted more backbone. Or a wicked sense of humor. Or a totally klutzy persona that was at odds with her vampire stealth. Instead, Merit is a bit of a Mary-Sue. She’s not just a regular vampire – Catcher reveals that she has more speed, strength and mental barriers than normal vampires, and could possibly one day become a Master vampire herself. Not to mention the fact that the Cadogan Master has his eye on her, when he normally doesn’t take any personal interest in the new initiates.

It all came just a bit too easy for Merit for me to like her. Add the fact that secondary characters were upstaging her personality, meant I wasn’t in the least bit invested in her story.

I don’t know if I’ll give the second ‘Chicagoland Vampires’ book a read, at the moment, it’s not looking good.

1.5/5

3 comments:

  1. Hmmm...I didn't get that Merit was so wishy-washy, but think you are absolutely right about the secondary characters - they were terrific! I also agree that the world Ms. Neill built is very believable. I'm going to re-read this book in the next few days in anticipation of the 2nd book and will be keeping this post in mind.

    Nice honest review.

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  2. I thought Merit was pretty kick-ass.

    I can see what you mean with the "spark" with Ethan. I don't always like it when there is attraction without anything to back it up. However, I didn't get that feeling with this book. I think Ethan finds Merit challenging. She mouths off to him and she has all that power..it is almost like a need for him to conquer her..plus she doesn't just fall for his attraction to her.

    That being said, I loved Mallory and Catcher's relationship....so cute.

    Nice review - I liked to read your side of it!

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  3. I actually enjoying this book very much. I already got the second on pre-sale for next week :)

    right after I finished this one I emailed the author and she was very sweet and personally responded :)

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