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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pamela Palmer's VAMP CITY SERIES

Author:  Pamela Palmer
Series:  VAMP CITY
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF) with a touch of horror 
Ratings:  Violence--5; Sensuality--4; Humor--1
Publisher and Titles:  Avon
        A Blood Seduction (6/2012)
        "A Forever Love" in Vampires Gone Wild (3/2013)
        A Kiss of Blood  (6/2013)

     This post was revised and updated on 8/5/13 to include the second novel in the series, A Kiss of Blood. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first novel:

          NOVEL 2:  A Kiss of Blood         
     After the gory horror of the first novel in this series, book 2 is almost a walk in the park. Palmer has drastically dialed down on the bestial brutality this time around, changing the focus to the developing romance/lust between Quinn Lennox, the series heroine, and her one-time captor, now hot lover, Arturo Mazza. At the end of book 1, Arturo helped Quinn and her brother, Zack, escape from Vamp City (aka V.C.). Now three weeks have passed and they are still safe, but their lives are by no means normal. Zack is sick with some sort of magical illness that is related to V.C., and his girlfriend, Lily, is still a vampire captive somewhere in V.C. When a pair of Traders breaks down Quinn's door, Arturo appears out of nowhere to rescue her, with the help of her new neighbor, Mike, who turns out to be Arturo's friend Micah.

     Arturo convinces Quinn that the only way her brother will get well is for him—and her—to return to V.C. so that Quinn can fix the broken magic. Quinn is smart enough to know that Arturo can't be trusted, but she desperately wants to save her brother's life, so she reluctantly agrees. The rest of the story follows two tracks: the romance (which is much more important in this book) and the action plot that involves tracking down information as to why Quinn's magic isn't working as well as it should.

     Thankfully we don't see much of the evil Cristoff in this book, but he's just as depraved as ever in the brief scenes in which he appears. At this point in the story, Arturo has come to grips with the fact that the broken magic has transformed Cristoff into a monster who probably can't be saved, and he has also come to realized that he's in love with Quinn. Quinn has her own problems as she wavers between lust and distrust for Arturo and tries to get control over her sorcerous powers so that she can fix the magic and save her brother—and her treacherous over. In this book, we learn that Lily is indeed still alive and trying her best to survive, so the Zack-Lily story will probably appear in a future book or novella.

     A few facts are added to the mythology in this book, primarily the fact that the Traders are actually a race of demons, which explains their super strength. We also meet the werewolves, the Rippers, and the Fae for the first time. Since the magic broke in V.C., these groups have not been able to leave V.C., so they are having severe food shortages that are being made worse by their enemies' attacks on the few Traders that will still deliver to them. Speaking of the broken magic, we also learn exactly what caused the magic to fail two years ago. The Fae play a key role in this story as they have important information about Quinn's magic problems. In one humorous scene, Arturo bribes a Fae woman by giving her the latest DVDs of CSI and So You think You Can Dance

     This book is not nearly as dark as book one although it does have several scenes of mindless violence—just not as many and with fewer horrific details. Love is now a possibility—really a probability—between Quinn and Arturo, so we have a number of hot love scenes and lots of angst-filled conversations between the two. Arturo's friends are much more important in this book, particularly Micah, Neo, and Kassius. This means that Quinn begins to realize that all vamps aren't evil, and that's a difficult concept for her to accept after her treatment during her initial trip to V.C.  

     This book reads more live a dark paranormal romance, but if you want to read it in the context of the series story arc, you'll have to get through book 1, which is really an effort, unless you're really into sadomasochism, over-the-top torture, and sociopathic behavior of the worst kind. 
Click HERE to read an excerpt.

     Washington, V.C. (aka Vamp City, aka V.C.) is a sunless city created by a sorcerer back in 1870. In structure, it is a duplicate of Washington, D. C., with most of the same streets and buildings, but looking like they did back in the 19th century just after the Civil War. Vamp City is a shambling wreck of a place, with broken-down buildings that the vamps are uninterested in keeping up. V.C. is home to about 400 vampires who are divided among nine kovenas (similar to clans). Each kovena lives within its own stronghold, existing apart from and in opposition to the other kovenas. There are two races of vampires: the Emoras, who feed on both blood and emotion (fear, pain, and pleasure) and the Rippers, a smaller group who feed exclusively on blood. This world also has werewolves, who are born, not made, but we don't see much of them until book 2.

     Vamp City's biggest problem is that the magic that holds it together is breaking down, allowing beams of sunlight to penetrate more and more frequently. That sunlight brings instantaneous death to any vampire it hits, so the vamps are desperate to find a sorcerer who can renew the magic that keeps their city alive. Phineas Blackstone, the sorcerer who created the city, used his magic to create a trap for vampires. After they all moved into V.C., he withdrew his magic and the city (and the vampires) began to die.

     Here, a vampire describes V.C.: "The vampires wanted a large dark Phineas Blackstone rode to nearly the center of the ten-mile square that was originally D.C. to perform his magic. The city he created extends out approximately three miles in every direction from that spot. The Boundary Circle is where the vamps enter and exit the dark city...or did when the magic was intact. Most of the kovenas have strongholds near the Boundary. The unclaimed land around the kovenas we call the Nod. The large, unclaimed center, the Crux. It's a dangerous place, home to the wolves and Rippers and anyone else who longs to stay away from the kovenas and has the fortitude to survive." (p. 226)

     As one vampire explains, V.C. "is the perfect place for vampires....No sun, no need to hide for fear of detection by the far more numerous human race. Vamp City was promoted as a utopia....Where else can vampires hold horse races and soccer matches, hunts and other games at any time, day or night, free to use our full range of abilities, free to feed on the humans in our midst without fear of reprisal or discovery? Without fear of the sun?" (p. 130)

     A few vampires still have enough power to travel back and forth between the real Washington, D.C. and Vamp City, but not manyonly the ones who were lucky enough to be in D.C. rather than V.C. when the magic failed. The vamps who happened to be in V.C. when the magic failed are stuck there for goodor until the magic is fixed. In this world, vamps have varying needs. Some feed on fear, others on pain or pleasure, but they all need human blood to thrive. These vamps are brutal, degenerate perverts who view all humans as prey and entertainment. Most humans who are dragged into Vamp City die, but those who live in V.C. long enough eventually become Slavas, identified by their glowing hair. Slavas are immortal, and they live their lives either working for or entertaining the vampsbeing sucked dry of blood while being tortured during public "banquets" for the benefit of the pain-sucking and fear-eating vamps. Food for the human slaves of V.C. comes from Traders, who move back and forth between V.C. and D.C. The Traders often grab humans from D.C. to sell as slaves to the V.C. vamps.

     The series heroine is Quinn Lennox, a young human woman, who lives with her half-brother, Zack, in a Washington, D.C. apartment near George Washington (GW) University. Quinn is a lab technician at the National Institutes of Health, and her brother is a GW student and a computer geek. Quinn never knew her mother, who died when she was quite young. When Quinn's father remarried, her new step-mother made life miserable for Quinn. The only good part of Quinn's life after that was her loving relationship with Zack. Quinn has always been considered a bit of a freak. She once threw her step-mother across a room without using her hands, and was punished severely for that. The step-mother always called Quinn's real mother "that witch," but Quinn never thought that she was seriousuntil now, that is.

     The first book in the series is very violent, portraying the vampires as sadistic monsters, even Arturo, who is supposed to be the hero. The vampires brutalize all humanswhipping, beating, burning, raping, and/or beheading anyone who does anything at all that is disagreeable to themor if they're in need of some fear or pain to feed fromor just because they view humans as nothing more than prey or entertainment. The humans in V.C. don't stand a chance against their vampire masters. They are all doomed to either a quick but painful death or an immortal life filled with misery and brutalization. 

     Click HERE to go to a page on the author's web site entitled "Welcome to Vamp City," which includes a description of V.C. and fun facts about D.C. in 1870. Click HERE to read the author's explanation of how she came up with the V.C. world. Click HERE to read the first 3 1/2 chapters (59 pages) of the book. Check out pages 35-39 for Quinn's first gut-wrenching encounter with Arturo. If that scene makes you flinch, you need to know that her situation (and her brother's) only gets worse. 

          BOOK 1:  A Blood Seduction          
     Lately, Quinn has been seeing Shimmersglowing rainbow bands of light that change the color of her clothing when she walks through them. Sometimes, when she looks out of her apartment window, she sees crumbling, old-fashioned row houses and horse-drawn carriages instead of modern buildings and automobiles. She doesn't know what to make of all this, but she's very worried.

     When Zack's girlfriend, Lily, disappears on her way to meet him, Zack and Quinn search for her, but get sucked into Vamp City instead. They are immediately set upon by hungry vampires, and Zack is dragged away into brutal slavery. But Quinn is rescued by a handsome, 600-year-old vamp named Arturo Mazza who recognizes almost immediately that Quinn is a sorcerer who can save V.C. by renewing its magic. Arturo (whose nickname is Snake) convinces Quinn that he will help her find her brother, but instead turns her over to his cruel and heartless master, Cristoff. The story follows Quinn as she desperately tries to escape her captivity and find and rescue Zack while warding off Arturo's never-ending sexual advances, even though she finds herself falling under his spell. Arturo, by the way, has one unlikely (silly) human trait: he's crazy about SweetTarts.

     Reading this story is not a pleasant or enjoyable experience, and although the series been labeled as a romance, this book is closer to horror than to any other genre. The frequent scenes of vampire violence are dark and sadistic. In Arturo's first scene with Quinn, he sexually abuses her (not quite rape, but the next thing to it) and lies to her continually. She knows deep down that Arturo can't be trusted (he keeps telling her that), but she keeps falling for his liesnot the smartest heroine in paranormal fiction. Quinn has a number of TSTL moments in which she underestimates the vamps and overestimates her own abilities. She is essentially a passive female who must constantly be rescued by stronger males. Arturo comes across as pragmatic and heartless, warning Quinn over and over again that his allegiance is to Cristoff, and that he will always choose Cristoff over anyone else. Quinn, somehow, keeps forgetting this and sees goodness in Arturo that just isn't there. Even after Arturo manhandles her, lies to her, betrays her, and passes her off to Cristoff, all it takes is a kind word or a soapy shower for Quinn to melt into Arturo's sexy vampire arms.

     I can't say that I enjoyed this book. The torture scenes and the male domination were way too disturbingstomach-churning, really. Here's one of the worst: "the woman lay...spread-eagled on her back. her wrists and ankles had been tied with barbed wire until the blood ran down her arms. More barbed wire wrapped around her head, the blood soaking her hair as it ran in rivulets from her scalp. Worst of all was the picture of Cristoff standing naked between the woman's spread legs fastening a spiked band around" his private parts. (p. 170) By the time I finished this book, I was wishing for a memory wipe or a brain wash to banish some of the images from my mind. The ending is a cliff hanger, that lets us know that, unfortunately, Quinn hasn't seen the last of Arturo. Click HERE to read an excerpt.

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