UNREPENTANT. UNIMPRESSED. AND TOTALLY UNDEAD.Eric's got issues. He has short-term and long-term memory problems; he can't remember who he ate for dinner yesterday, much less how he became a vampire in the first place. His best friend, Roger, is souring on the strip club he and Eric own together. And his girlfriend, Tabitha, keeps pressuring him to turn her so she can join him in undeath. It's almost enough to put a Vlad off his appetite. Almost.
Eric tries to solve one problem, only to create another: he turns Tabitha into a vampire, but finds that once he does, his desire for her fades -- and her younger sister, Rachel, sure is cute. And when he kills a werewolf in self-defense, things really get out of hand. Now a pack of born-again lycanthropes is out for holy retribution, while Tabitha and Rachel have their own agendas -- which may or may not include helping Eric stay in one piece.
All Eric wants to do is run his strip club, drink a little blood, and be left alone. Instead, he must survive car crashes, enchanted bullets, sunlight, sex magic, and werewolves on ice -- not to mention his own nasty temper and forgetfulness. Because being undead isn't easy, but it sure beats the alternative.
‘Staked’ is the first novel in JF Lewis’s ‘Void City’ series, and straight-up I've got to say I LOVED it! This is a new favourite series for me.
Welcome to the Void...
Eric has it tough. All he wants is to run his strip club in peace – but his girlfriend is bugging him to turn her immortal, werewolves are turning up dead and rage blackouts are turning his mind to Swiss cheese.
Meanwhile, Tabitha (Eric’s vampire-groupie girlfriend) has finally convinced her man to give her the bite of death. And once she’s immortal Eric will finally be able to reveal his true, deep feelings of love and adoration for her and they will live happily ever in undeath... until one of those darn dead werewolves turns out to be the local Alpha’s son and things get really tricky... especially when Eric suspects someone is framing him.
You Shook Me
Fair warning – ‘Staked’ is a novel of anti-heroes. Eric and Tabitha are alternating narrators, but between them there’s not a speck of moral fibre. Eric is the anti-Edward, Tabitha spits on Bella and ‘Staked’ is the antidote (or poison, depending on how you look at it?) to all those paranormal fantasies that romanticize vampires.
Eric has no compunctions about killing – when he feels peckish he will hunt for a nubile young woman, drain her and dump the body. He draws the line at rape, but otherwise he is an unremorseful killer. And it’s not just humans who feel his wrath; Eric has rage blackouts where he can’t remember who he killed or where he dumped the body, which is especially frustrating when the Alpha werewolf’s son turns up dead. As a result Eric is very quick to temper and his human stripper employees are constantly walking on eggshells around him.
Eric is just awful. And as bad as the killings and rage black-outs are, Eric wins the jerk of the year award for the way he conducts his personal relationships. Eric has killed every girlfriend he has ever turned vampire, and he is 99% sure that Tabitha will go the same staked-way as his previous amours. Yeah, he’s a jerk of epic proportions. The only girl Eric hasn’t turned and killed is his ‘daughter’, Greta. He saved Greta from an abusive foster home when she was a child, and turned her and a brother when they turned 21... But before you go getting all tender-hearted and thinking this is a bad-boy with a heart of gold, you should know that at some point in 'Staked', Eric sleeps with Tabitha's little sister. Like I said, jerk of the year.
Tabitha is a vain and vacuous vampire-wannabe. Everything she knows about vampires she has learnt through glamorized and romanticized fiction... so she is blown away when Eric finally turns her and she finds out what it means to be a monster. Tabitha is a fairly smart woman, but she is so desperate to please Eric and be the perfect girlfriend that all she can think about his pleasing him. So she turns herself into a sex kitten, pandering to his every whim and sacrificing her self-worth and independence on the delusion that he loves her and they will have an immortal romance. She’s also about as deep as a puddle. Tabitha is willing to forgive a lot of the vampiric downsides for the sake of getting a great rack and pert ass in the exchange.
Nobody's Fault But Mine
To begin with I felt a bit ostracized by the sheer awfulness of Eric and Tabitha. As a reader it is hard to wade through the inner workings of such truly atrocious people, and it becomes disheartening to read for some semblance of virtue but find none. But after a few chapters it clicked for me – the reason I was struggling with the vampire characters in ‘Staked’ was because I had gotten used to reading vampires according to romance conventions. I was used to male vampires being protective alpha males who cherish and protect their women... and that is not Eric. J.F. Lewis seems to take twisted pleasure in throwing all those paranormal romance conventions back in reader’s faces;
“Am I supposed to go fight crime with you? Open a detective agency? Look for a cure? Because it’s not happening. You wanted a monster and you got one!” Waving his gun around as he spoke, Eric came toward me, his intemperate footsteps causing the dock to creak in protest.Eric is in no way a protective, caring vampire hero. Lewis’s vampires are not ‘nice’. They most certainly do not sparkle; they are monsters with no remorse who revel in their place at the top of the food chain. Once I accepted this I was okay. I stopped expecting romance, I quit waiting for Eric to have a revelatory moment and do the right thing (for once!). I had to accept the fact that Eric is not your traditional hero and Tabitha is no HEA love interest... and once I understood that, I could appreciate ‘Staked’ for what it is. A fucking great ride! Black and twisted humour, gross-out gore and a magnificent departure from run of the mill Urban Fantasy. I also think that to some extent I was a little more open to this book because of Stacia Kane’s ‘Downside’ series which is similarly about grey areas, anti-hero protagonists and questionable morals.
Good Times Bad Times
Sometimes Eric and Tabitha are hard character’s to swallow. Their actions and inner-monologues will occasionally repel you. You will cringe, and your jaw will hit the floor at least once. But J.F. Lewis makes up for a lot of the crassness by amping up the funniness. Eric is one sick puppy, but he is hilarious. If you like dark humour that is ‘so wrong it’s right’ then ‘Staked’ is for you.
“Did Eric ever say he loved you”? Talbot asked finally.
“No,” I whispered.
“What did he tell you when you asked?”
“He ... he would ...” I could feel my lower lip begin to tremble. Whether it was rage, sadness, or despair, I didn’t know. Maybe all three. “He would say I was a moist warm tightness with all the necessary parts.” I was crying again. Talbot turned away.
In My Time Of Dying
I loved how intricate the world of ‘Void City’ is, and the vampire mythology Lewis has customized. In this world, vampires are categorized according to their power-level upon turning. Vampires come in four categories – Drones, Soldiers, Masters and Vlads – with Vlads being the big-poombah’s and Drones the... well, Drones.
Lewis has written vampire mythology that’s a wonderful blend of practicality and far-out fantastical. He has written a very biologically plausible transformation process (that is disgusting!) but he’s also equipped his vamps with a plethora of cool abilities. Able to turn into animals, mist, disembodied blue-tinge thingys, built-in hologram telephones etc. This is one cool vampire universe J.F. Lewis has created.
Whole Lotta Love
I will warn you that if you like your vampire men to come with dashing romance then ‘Staked’ will be a rude awakening. Eric is a fantastic leading-man, but for all the wrong reasons. He is a jerk of epic, vampiric proportions – a cold-blooded killer, horrendous boyfriend and disturbingly self-aware while also unrepentant. He’s great. Equally wonderful is his newly-turned vampire girlfriend, Tabitha, who is getting an undead wake-up call about what it is to be a monster.
‘Staked’ revels in blood, sex and gore. It’s a disturbing, riotous thrill-ride that throws convention out the window. J.F. Lewis doesn’t just push the Urban Fantasy envelope. He takes a blowtorch to the envelope then gives its paper-ashes the finger.