Once Bitten, Twice Shy
By Jennifer Rardin
Published by Orbit Books (UK) October 2007
Review by Mark Yon / Hobbit
I’ll start this review by stating the obvious, and something that I’ve said before: just in case you haven’t noticed, the tough-female vampire/werewolf urban-fantasy story is pretty much on a roll at the moment. In the post-Buffy publishing world, you almost can’t move along the bookshop’s shelves without encountering the Anita Blake’s, the Rachel Morgan’s, the Vicki Nelson’s. There’s masses of this sub-genre being published at the moment.
However, my reason for stating the obvious (bear with me!) is that as a consequence, there are many books about that are little more than variations on the same theme. To my mind, the current popularity of this subgenre is rather like the Horror glut of the 1980’s: there’s a lot of this stuff about: some good, some very good, lots at best mediocre.
It’s a tough, competitive market out there. Luckily for this review (and reviewer!), Jennifer’s book is one which stands out from the bloated pile as a superior read. Not too deep, not particularly original, but well written and very entertaining, and thus perhaps worthy of your attention.
Jasmine Parks is an ex-soldier, once deep into covert action. Now part of a secret CIA group, she works with 246-year-old vampire named Vayl, dealing with those things that can’t be easily explained: vampires, such as Edward Samos, the Raptor, with a long life history who are keen on world domination and the subjugation of those humans who take life too much for granted.
But there’s more to this than the James Bond type scenario. Add to that her complicated ‘interesting’ family – grumpy Dad, pregnant sister – and her complex relationships with those around her – vampire with a crush, grumpy boss - and you have a wise-cracking, seemingly-self-sufficient woman with deeply submerged ‘issues’ (that as you might expect, appear through the unfolding plot) dealing with espionage and subterfuge on a daily basis.
OK: so there’s a lot we’ve heard of before. But we’re here for the ride, so to speak. And how could anyone not be at least interested by a book that involves elements of Dracula, Alias and James Bond in one book?
As often is the case, things move pretty quickly (usually in order to cover over the plot holes), and generally things finish quickly, with enough to keep you interested for the next one.
It’s not one to be taken too seriously, as reading the book will tell you. Its tone is generally lightly humourous. If you can cope with a lead character called Jaz, and a vampire called Vayl, (and let’s face it, in the fantasy genre, we’ve had worse) then there’s a lot here that’s entertaining. The style is respectfully post-modern and self-knowing, quoting sources as diverse as Barbie to Desperate Housewives: ‘ In my defense, given time he could worm the true ages out of the entire cast of Desperate Housewives’ (page 7), which is amusing (but it will be interesting to see how well this holds up in, say, 20 years time.)
Back to my original statement: the present popularity of this genre means that it would be very easy to miss some really good books out there amongst all the mundane. This is one that should be read: one for me that stands with my current faves Jim Butcher and Mike Carey. A great fun read, lighter than Carey, faster than Butcher. This is possibly one to show those who don’t normally read it how much entertainment there is in Fantasy (or Horror) these days.
Mark Yon / Hobbit, November 2007
Copyright © sffworld.com. If quoted please credit "sffworld.com, name of reviewer".