Friday, October 9, 2009

Some Girls Bite

Some Girls Bite (softcover)
Author: Chloe Neill
Publisher: New American Library/$26.99
Date of Publication: 2009
Reviewed by James J. Gormley (member, National Book Critics Circle)

Kind of over the puling teenage angst of books titularly related to dusk, moons and dawn? Well then, author Chloe Neill’s Some Girls Bite may be just the book for you. Told in first-person by a character who’s a sharp, sassy and pretty third-year Chicago grad student, Merit, Some Girls Bite introduces us to a world that has, just eight months prior, found out---thanks to a vamp-called press conference---that bloodsuckers really exist.

With some of the freshest writing in vampire fiction today, after Merit is attacked by rogue vampires and then made a vampire by the aristocratic head of high-class Cadogan House, Ethan Sullivan, she writes: “The blood was gone---and I’d been manicured.”

Filled with deft touches that are clever and smart without being cutesie, Neill takes us through Merit’s training as the official protector (Sentinel) of Cadogan House, and shares with us the friendship of her blue-haired housemate with growing witchly powers, Mallory, a sorcerer named Catcher and a houseless vamp named Jeff, for whom Mallory falls head over ruby slippers.

Merit’s Cadogan House is part of a vampiric world of manor-like power centers that feel, to the reader, like a blending of the Talamasca motherhouse in Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles and the vampires’ castle-like manse in Underworld but sans the doilies or the decadence, respectively.

As Merit trains and awes the vampires of Cadogan with her fighting and weaponry skills, there is a growing war that is threatening to endanger the entire undead society that has just been voluntarily exposed.

One of the most satisfying aspects of this book, Neill’s inaugural entry in her Chicagoland Vampires series, is that it taps into the concerns and conflicts of younger (pre-30) people today without becoming shackled by cliché or stereotypes.

Merit really hates her father, but loves her grandfather. She cares about her nails, but can destroy almost anyone (masterly male vamps included) with her sword-wielding skills. The same goes for the secondary characters; Mallory, for example, may be a blue-haired clubgoer, but she’s also a savvy businesswoman.

So, all in all, this debut by Chloe Neill is a bold fresh piece of vampire lit, indeed, and we are truly fortunate that the sequel, Friday Night Bites, has just been released.

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