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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

After Ringworld, I needed something lighter. I figured that Some Girls Bite would be just the antidote I was looking for, the kind of trashy novel that doesn't require a lot of thought and can act as a kind of recharge period. While it did act as a recharge period, my initial opinion was perhaps a bit harsh.

Some Girls Bite follows Merit, a graduate student who is changed into a vampire after she is nearly killed after an attack by an unknown vampire. To say that she is unhappy about this turn of events would be an understatement; in fact, having been torn away from her contented life of research and academia, she is determined to hate the one who forced the change on her, a master vampire named Ethan Sullivan. This is only complicated by some serious sexual chemistry between the two of them and his expectations regarding her unquestioning loyalty and gratitude. When she finds out that she is only one of a series of women attacked by vampires, however, she finds that she may well be safer in allying herself to Sullivan, as well as a few other supernatural allies, as she tries to figure out who tried to kill her.
From the description, this sounds like it's going to be your standard trashy vampire romance novel. And initially I was fully expecting it to unfold in the exact way these books always unfold. I was pleasantly surprised. The cliched route to take would be for there to be the alpha male vampire with either a wilting flower needing his firm but tender touch to guide her through this new world, or with a fiery sarcastic minx who would challenge him at every turn but eventually be melted by his somewhat dubious charms. In some ways Merit and Ethan fit the second mold, with one rather important difference: their affair fails to start. Fairly early on, Ethan manages to essentially ruin his chances of getting together with Merit precisely because he is a fairly standard alpha male "romantic" hero; by insisting on asserting his superiority, he pushes her away because, in the long run, that just is not something you want to have to deal with. There's chemistry, but Merit knows full well that chemistry alone won't make a relationship work if there's such blatant power issues and obviously different agendas between them, and that was really surprising and pretty damn cool. It's the main good thing that I brought from Some Girls Bite. The other main thing that the novel pulled off well was the characterisation and relationships between Merit and her friends, with Jeff, the flirtatious, if utterly hopeless, shapeshifter being a particular favourite of mine.
But, of course, few books are perfect. If it were perfect, I would be having the equivalent of a stutter right now. There are a couple things that were just kind of average, where they could have been really interesting. First, the world-building needs some work. It's your standard urban fantasy world where if you can think of a humanoid supernatural or mythical creature, then it exists. It also does the whole "vampire coming out" thing, which has been done to death by now. There's the hint of interesting politics, not only between vampire houses but between vampires and other supernatural creatures; unfortunately, it's frustratingly vague in this book, and after the intense world-building in Ringworld, it's all the more obvious. Additionally, the mystery isn't all that well developed. For one thing, most of the book is focused on Merit's attempts to fit into this new rigidly hierarchical society, with the murders being almost a side issue. Also, after a certain point in the book, the culprit becomes disappointingly obvious after one of Merit's friends makes a prophecy regarding what the fallout of the murders will be; seeing as the person being hinted at isn't going to be Merit, there's only really one person who fits the bill otherwise and the big reveal at the end fell a bit flat. Admittedly though, it has set up an interesting set of circumstances for book number 2 in the series, so I'm curious to see where it will go.

Overall, an above average vampire novel. I know, all the ones that I've picked up seem to have been above average; either I'm just easy to please or I've been lucky so far. An interesting subversion of romance tropes and good characterisation is brought down by vague world-building and a subpar mystery. I'd still be interested in reading the next installment though. 3.5/5

Next review: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

Signing off,

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