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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jennifer Rardin: JAZ PARKS

Author:  Jennifer Rardin
Plot Type: UF
Ratings:  V5, S2-3, H3-4
Publisher and Titles: Orbit

      Once Bitten, Twice Shy (2008)
      Another One Bites the Dust (2009)
      Biting the Bullet (2008)
      Bitten to Death (2008)
      One More Bite (2009)  
      Bite Marks (2009)
      Bitten in Two (2010)
      The Deadliest Bite (2011) (FINAL)

     This blog entry was revised on 9/19/11 to include a review of the final book in the series: The Deadliest Bite. That review appears at the bottom of the page, following this overview of the series so far:

     If you haven't been reading the series, here is a summary of the action so far: Jasmine “Jaz” Parks (aka “Lucille Robinson”) is a CIA assassin with a few magical skills, lots of fighting skills, and plenty of sarcastic attitude. Her partner, and love interest, is Vayl (aka Vasil Nicu Brâncoveanu), a sexy, three-hundred-year-old vampire with the ability to control ice (i.e., freezing a person, or creature, into a solid chunk of ice that can then be shattered). Together, they travel the globe with their team, hunting down and killing supernatural enemies of the U.S. government—with many up-close and violent battles.

     Other members of their team are Cassandra, a seer; Miles Bergman, an inventive genius; Cole Bemont, former private investigator and skilled sniper; and special ops commander David Parks, Jaz’s twin brother. Also part of the action is Raoul, Jaz’s spirit guide, who allowed her to come back to life after she was killed in a battle that took place just prior to book 1.

     Bergman’s inventions are of the James Bond type (e.g., contact lenses that blink into either telescopic or night vision, impenetrable armor that bonds with the wearer’s DNA). Sexual tension between Jaz and Vayle builds up to a fever pitch, book by book, with a release (finally!) in an extremely brief scene at the very end of One More Bite.

     The humor, much of it dark, comes from the sarcastic quips traded back and forth by the team members, often in the thick of the action. The books cover about one year of Jaz's life, and in that time, the team battles vampires, werewolves, dark magic wielders, gnomes, and demons all over the world—all of this in just a single year. 

     If you've been following this series, you've probably been wondering if Jaz and Vayl's romance will ever run smoothly.  I can tell you for sure that it doesn't happen in the second to the last book in the series: Bitten in Two. This  book is set in Morocco, where Jaz and her friends hope to find an artifact that will help her rid herself of the demonic Brude, whose possession of Jaz is slowing causing her death. Unfortunately, things really go wrong when Vayl wakes up believing that he is back in the 1770s and that Jaz is his valet's wife. Jaz and the rest of the crew must pretend to go along with Vayl's false memories while they work behind the scenes to remove the curse and locate the artifact. What a bummer—and after Jaz and Vayl have just spent an idyllic vacation on a tropical island celebrating their engagement. Ah, the life of a UF heroine! In a subplot, a beautiful demon (Kyphas) falls for Cole, but really wants his soul, with horrifying after effects for the poor guy. In this book, a new character with a past connection to Jaz joins the crew: Sterling, a powerful warlock. Also, Bergman finds a girlfriend in Morocco, which is earthshaking news!

     As The Deadliest Bite begins, Jaz and Vayl are living in Vayl's palatial home just outside Cleveland, Ohio. Who would have thought that Vayl was a Midwesterner (and one of my neighbors)! No sooner do they begin to relax with a bit of love play when an assassin shows up at their door determined to stake Vayl. After Jaz's spirit guide (Raoul) saves them from the killer, they learn that the young assassin is, in fact, Vayl's long-lost reincarnated son, Hanzi, who now goes by the name of Aaron. Vayl has been searching all of his long life for his two reincarnated sons, who were murdered centuries ago after Badu stole a horse and wagon and Hanzi forced him to return it. Unfortunately, the farmer who owned the rig didn't stop to ask questions; he just shot the two boys. As it turns out, Aaron is the unknowing and innocent participant in a devious plot by the evil werewolf, Roldan (Vayl's long-time enemy), to kill Vayl once and for all. As Jaz, Vayle, and Raoul investigate the situation, they must deal with many of their enemies from past adventures, including Roldan's gorgon mistress (Sthenno) and Cole's demon, Kyphas. Vayl's long-dead, adopted daughter, Helena, also turns upin hell, of all places. By the end of the book (and the series), all of the couples get their HEA endings, even Cole (in an unexpected twist). Vayl also finds his second son, Badu (now named Lotus), who has undergone a highly unusual physical change since his first death. This is definitely not a stand-alone novel. The reader must have knowledge of past events to make sense of the plot.

     I have enjoyed reading this series. It has generous amounts of action, unending dark and sarcastic humor, and masses of angst spread among all of the characters. Both the main and supporting characters are well developed. All of the characters begin with interesting back stories and go on to experience various life-changing events. Although the series teems with villains, most are not all bad to the core; they have their own, sometimes twisted, reasons for what they do and we can sometimes sympathize to a certain extent with the reasons for their wicked ways. Jaz and Vayl make a great soul-mate couple, each with a tragic past and each firmly on the side of justice. 

     The only compliant I have with the series is the amount of time Jaz spends listening to her many inner voices. This is difficult to explain, but several different mental voices speak to Jaz in sarcastic and humorous ways (and always in italics): Teen Me (Jaz's teen-brat self), Inner Bimbo (Jaz's slutty self), and Granny May (Jaz's dead grandmother). These voices pop up at various times in the stories, commenting on the action and frequently providing clues to solving various parts of the conflictbut they can be annoying.

     Rardin passed away unexpectedly on September 20, 2010, so The Deadliest Bite  is the final book of the series.

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