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Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Series: OLDEST CITY VAMPIRE (CH trying to be UF)
Ratings; V3-4, S3-4, H3 
Publisher and Titles: Berkley: La Vida Vampire (2008); Last Vampire Standing (2009); Always the Vampire (2011)

     In this world, vampires have revealed themselves to the mortal world, and they are regulated by the Vampire Protection Agency (VPA), which implants each vampire with a GPS chip. Francesca ("Cesca") Marinelli is a 228-year-old vampire living in St. Augustine, Florida. She has recently been freed from an underground crypt in which she was was trapped for more than two hundred years. Cesca survived all that time by drawing small amounts of energy from people passing by on the street adjacent to her burial site. During the renovation of a Victorian mansion that was constructed over Cesca's crypt, her casket was discovered and opened by Maggie O'Halloran, a renovator of old properties. Under VPA regulations, Cesca is required to have a human sponsor, and Maggie has stepped up to take that position in Cesca's life. Cesca is an unusual vampire in that she can day walk, hates the smell of blood, never drinks from humans, stays away from other vampires, and lives a very conservative, quiet life. And—believe it or not—she shops at WalMart. For nourishment, Cesca drinks a bottle of caramel-flavored Starbloods each day, holding her nose as she gulps it down.

      As book 1 opens, Cesca is living in Maggie's penthouse condo and starting her first jobas an Old Ghost Town tour guide. Unfortunately, a vampire hunter (Gorman) shows up on her first tour. He has connections with the Covenant, a vampire-hating pseudo-religious organization. Also on that first tour is a honeymooning French couple who are enamored with vampires. When the wife is murdered and the body bears fang marks, Cesca is hauled in for questioning. At that point, she meets her love interest, preternatural crimes special investigator Deke Saber, who at first comes across as being as anti-vampire as some of the Covenant members. When Cesca's truck is vandalized and she comes under attack, Deke is assigned to stay with her while Maggie is out of town with her boyfriend, Neill. You know what happens next, right? 

     But in the meantime, a mysterious wizard named Cosmil is bringing Cesca's childhood boyfriend to St. Augustine. Triton is a shape-shifting dolphin who disappeared from Cesca's life while she was buried away. At the end of the book, we're not sure what Cosmil has in mind for Cesca and Triton, and we're not sure if her relationship with Deke can stand up to her childhood crush on Triton, her lost love. One last thing: The mysterious Cosmil keeps muttering about an evil Voidsome kind of magical constructthat is threatening every supernatural being. We don't find out much about the Void in this book, but it will be a major part of the next books.

     In the opening scene, Cesca and Maggie are celebrating their move into their new homes, Maggie in the big Victorian at the front of the lot and Cesca in the small cottage at the rear. Peaceful times don't last very long, however. Right in  the middle of the party, a new vampire shows up and begs for Cesca's protection. Jo Jo is a former medieval court jester who has run away from the Atlanta nest, where all sorts of nefarious activities are going on, most of which will affect Cesca at some point in the story. Cesca helps Jo Jo get back on his feet, and in exchange, Jo Jo attempts to help Cesca learn to fly. In the meantime, there is trouble at Lord Ike's place in Daytona Beach. We met Ike in the previous book when he made a few threats against Cesca and accused her of trying to take over his vampire kingdom. Since then, they've tried to stay out of each other's way. Now, however, a human has been found robbed and nearly drained, and he claims that it was done by one of Ike's vamps. 

     Back in St. Augustine, a ghost-busting videographer latches on to Cesca, determined to prove that she is a ghost magnet. On the videos he shoots of Cesca, there are eerie shadows winding around her body, some black and some whitevery creepy. As all of this is going on, Triton communicates with Cesca telepathically to tell her that she must beware of the Void. Hmmm...Black shadows, dangerous Void. Could there be a connection? The housecat/panther shifter (Pandora, whom we met in book 1) is back as Cesca's protector. Needless to say, there is a LOT of action in this book, and the whole Void/blackness/creeping-evil story thread is moving right along. An enemy from Cesca's past also shows up to complicate her life. more thing. Deke Saber confesses to Cesca that he is a bit more than humanand that's all I'm going to say about that! (Just a note here: We never hear another thing about the mysterious video shadows—not in this book or the next. Why were they included in the first place? Who knows?)

     In this book, the series story arc kind of falls apart. New characters are added (including the primary villain) and minor characters from previous books take on much larger roles (Cosmil and Triton). Amongst all of the MANY clothing descriptions (Cesca changes clothes multiple times each day), hair-care moments, and cutesy love talk between Cesca and Deke (way too many eye-brow wagglings), the Void begins to infect most of the supernaturals in Florida, including Deke and Triton, but not Cesca. Cosmil turns up with his sorceress girlfriend to tell Deke, Cesca, and Triton that he suspects that his estranged brother (Starrack) has created the Void and is controlling the spread of the blackness. Now Starrack is after the amulets that Triton and Cesca need to stop the Void. In the midst of all this save-the-world-from-the-Void action, Cesca insists that she can't miss a single night of hostessing her ghost walks and can't postpone a single one of her maid-of-honor duties for Maggie's upcoming wedding. ("Oh you say that the world as we know it is about to end, and my boyfriend is dying of some sort of black plague. Well, I'll take care of that right after I finish sending out these wedding invitations and taking a few tourists to see the local cemetery." Yes, it gets to be just that silly.) Not to mention that we get an overdose of descriptions of various menial household tasks. Let me just say that we learn exactly how many times Snowball's litter box is emptied, disinfected, and refilled—crucial information, I'm sure. This was such a disappointing book. The entire plot can be summed up in this statement that Cesca makes to Maggie when Maggie asks what is going on: "The short version is that there's a power-mad wizard on the loose....He conjured up this thing we call the Void that's infecting and killing vampires with some kind of illness." (p. 214)

SERIES CRITIQUE: This is a chick lit series trying to be urban fantasy. Clothing descriptions abound, as do descriptions of Cesca's decorating efforts (e.g., "I found Saber's note on the turquoise 1950s retro kitchen table..., p. 64). The series starts out well enough, with Cesca trying to catch up with the 21st century and creating a new life for herself. The early parts of the romance were O.K., but the couple never has any disagreements, not ever. Booorrrring...and totally unrealistic. Even when Deke withholds the fact that he is not totally human, Cesca isn't bothered a bit. Not that it matters, since his supernatural abilities are never important to the story, except for the fact that he is susceptible to the Void. 

     Cesca's relationship with Triton is also unrealistic. Although the two frequently bicker about minor issues, Cesca isn't very upset that Triton waited seven months to contact her, even though he was well aware that she had been rescued from her crypt. Now really! This guy was her childhood BFF. He hasn't seen for for hundreds of years. Yet, when he finds out that she has risen, does he call? Does he e-mail? No, he doesn't, and she never bats an eye. Again, not true to life (or even undeath) at all.

     Another problem is that we never see the villain until the very end of book 3. He never pops in to taunt the Cesca and her friends. When the good guys get his description, Haddock waits a long time before she shares it with the reader. He's just this unimaginable evil thing, without personality, and without a physical appearance. I don't know about you, but I like my villains to be complex characters, and I like to meet them early on in the story.

     There is one more time when Cesca has no reaction to someone who has done her wrong. Cesca discovers that Cosmil knew that she was buried underground all that time, and he did nothing about it. In fact, he consecrated the property, thus cutting off her telepathic contact with Triton and preventing Triton from rescuing her. Cosmil says that he did it for everyone's good, and Cesca says, O.K. then, no problem. What a wimp she turns out to be!

      All through the series, I promise that you, the reader, will be miles ahead of the characters in interpreting the clues. I'm sorry that this series doesn't pan out in the end (at least, so far) because it has a great premise and a truly fresh approach to the vampire mythos.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this sounds messed up. Chick lit isn't my thing. Swords over shoes :D But I totally agree, having a "romance" where there's no tension or fire is boring as hell. I also don't like that we don't have a villain until the third book. What the hell has been happening all this time then. I might check this out just for kicks but man, I feel like ranting and I haven't even read it yet LOL! Great series review hon, thank you :)