Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book Review: Bite, by Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, MaryJanice Davidson, Angela Knight, and Vickie Taylor

Bite is a collection of supernatural romance stories, all featuring vampires. There is a range of writers featured, from the most famous and popular (Laurell K. Hamilton) to the virtually unknown (Vickie Taylor, who had only published mainstream romance before this).

The first story, 'The Girl Who Was Infatuated With Death', by Laurell K. Hamilton, is set in her Anita Blake universe and narrated by Anita. It takes place between Blue Moon and Obsidian Butterfly. I have read most of this series so I was already familiar with some of the characters. In this story, a woman comes to see Anita at work because her daughter is planning to become a vampire. The girl is seventeen and has bone cancer in both legs. Her mother wants Anita to find her daughter before she is turned. But this assignment means that Anita has to go pay a visit to one of the boyfriends she is avoiding, Jean-Claude, vampire Master of the City.

I enjoyed this story as I enjoyed all Laurell K. Hamilton's earlier Anita Blake novels, although the human-wanting-to-escape-mortality-by-becoming-a-vampire plot is getting a bit overdone. I did think the ending was quite rushed, and I've always found Jean-Claude to be a pretty cheesy character - French accent and silk boxers? No thanks!

'One Word Answer' is the second story. It's by Charlaine Harris and features Sookie Stackhouse and some other characters from the Southern Vampire Mysteries series. One evening, a limousine pulls up outside Sookie's home, and a Mr Cataliades gets out, to tell Sookie that her cousin Hadley is dead - and that she used to be a vampire. I hadn't read any of Charlaine Harris' writing before this, and I was intrigued by this story, but not enough to run out and buy "Dead Until Dark" immediately, although I look forward to reading it at some point in the future. It seemed to have only slight erotic undertones so I wasn't sure how it fitted in with the rest of the stories, which are more explicit, but the characters were interesting.

The third story is by MaryJanice Davidson, and is called 'Biting In Plain Sight'. Sophie Tourneau is a vampire and a vet - everyone in her small town knows she is a vampire, but they accept it and it is not discussed. Liam is 38 and has been attracted to her forever, regularly pretending his cats are sick just so he can see her. He finally decides to make his move and invites her into his home for a drink after she has overseen his cat having kittens, but whilst there a news report comes on the television. There have been several recent deaths of teenage girls, officially suicides, but their parents believe they were killed. Sophie decides to investigate, and Liam insists on coming along. I enjoyed this story the most. I thought the vampire characters were the least conventional, and although, having not read any of the novels in the Undead series, I did not understand a lot of what was going on when Sophie and Liam went to see Queen Betsy, it worked better as a short story in my opinion than anything else in this collection. The blossoming romance between Sophie and Liam was sweet and well-developed.

Fourth in this collection is 'Galahad', by Angela Knight. This story was weird. It's the King Arthur/Knights of the Round Table legend - if all the men were vampires, and all the women were witches. Caroline was an English teacher until she slept with a vampire and her witch - Majae - powers were released. Now she suffers from painful visions, but can do pretty much anything with magic. One day she has a vision which leads her to meet Sir Galahad, and together they attempt to save the world by defeating evil vampires and witches. I could have got along with the premise if it wasn't for the jarring modern tone of the story. Considering that King Arthur et al originated in ancient England, there were an awful lot of Americanisms, and there was very little historical atmosphere. The rules of magic were never explained - Caroline can do almost anything she wants whenever she wants, and the whole thing seemed a little too much to me like an excuse for sex scenes. Lots and lots of sex scenes. Cringeworthy sex scenes. There are puns. Bad lines. More puns. If I keep this book, it will be because the many cheesy lines in this story are great to read out with friends and cringe over! Some people may be into really cheesy innuendo...but I'm not!

The final story is 'Blood Lust' by Vickie Taylor. This story is a bit more original than the title suggests. Daniel has just finished his project of creating synthetic blood, when Garth, the man who sponsored his research beats him up and takes the only copy of the formula, and his home, lab, and money away. Even worse, he has turned Daniel's girlfriend, Sue Ellen, into a vampire. When Daniel recovers he decides that they only way to have his revenge is to become a vampire himself, so that he can fight Garth and kill Sue Ellen to save her living a life she would not have wanted. Daniel tracks down Déadre, a lonely female vampire, and attempts to persuade her to help him. Unfortunately, the romance was unrealistic - Daniel and Déadre fall in 'love' within a couple of hours. The twist was not that hard to anticipate, but as a short story, it was more self-contained than the others.

If you are a reader of supernatural romance and you have never read any of these authors before, reading Bite is a good way to test them out, and if you are a real fan of any of these authors you will probably consider this book a must-read. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants a good giggle at the bad puns in 'Galahad'. Regular short story readers, however, would probably be unsatisfied by these stories, which, apart from 'Blood Lust', are not standalone short stories. I would describe this book as a sampler for the writers and their fictional worlds, as most of the pieces are not true short stories but excerpts.

As most of these stories feature "adult content", I wouldn't recommend this book for younger urban fantasy/horror fans, but there are several more age-appropriate short story collections out now, for example, the "from Hell" books.

The BookDepository

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