Archive for top vampire novels
Book Review: Last Breath (Morganville Vampires)
by Rachel Caine
In Last Breath we get a chance to return to Morganville and once again follow with Claire, Amelie, Michael, Eve and of course Myrnin. Even if you have never read this series, I think you will find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat, nails bitten down to the quick as this is one of the most gripping and emotional stories in this series. The twists and turns of the plot and where you follow it will keep you up at night unable to put this book down.
Things are kinda strange in Morganville, but then even with the uneasy truce between humans and vampires in the small Texan town, they have always been that way. But when Claire realizes she has seen something, or someone, in the town that no one else seems to see, she begins to wonder just what kind of creature he could be. There is also the problem of an upcoming wedding in town that no-one, not the vampires nor the humans, want to see happen. And then vampires begin to go missing, and no one knows why.
Things begin to shake up the community when Amelie decides that perhaps it is time to close the town down. Mysteries pile on top of mysteries and yet in the midst of this, many questions that have floated around about who the citizens of Morganville are and why they are here begin to be answered. This book is the eleventh in the series and by far the one that gets into the heads of all the characters the most.
Even the mysterious Amelie, founder of Morganville is revealed. The personal stories are opened up more and as we watch Claire unravel the mystery of the town and perhaps open up a Pandora’s box that should have remained closed, we too get to share in the peek at the mystery behind the door that is Morganville.
If you have never read any of the Morganville Vampires series Last Breath may come as a bit of a shock for the first time visitor. But for those of us who have followed this series from the first book, this is one we have been waiting for. And it proves to be well worth the wait.
This is a very cool series that has vampires, ancient gods and a druid that just can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble! The wit in it is charming, the action is awesome and the whole concept is very addictive. The basic idea is that the various gods, no matter what religion we are talking about, exist. The ones that people are actively worshiping are more powerful, but even those that have been largely forgotten are still around, often simply because we still read stories and myths that have them as main characters.
In the series we meet Atticus O’Sullivan, an ancient Druid who is now living in Arizona and continuing to survive by keeping his head down and avoiding conflict. Well, sort of. The trouble is he is a Druid of his word, so when he promises something, like the apple from the Tree of Life in Asgard, he tends to go through with it. So even if he really wants to just live a quiet life away from all the heroic happenings amongst the gods, he can’t seem to avoid it. And that, of course, is where the fun begins. And it usually involves his lawyer and good friend, Leif Helgarson, who just happens to be a Viking Vampire. Well, you were probably wondering where the vampires came into the story- this is a good example of how an unexpected vampire can turn a perfectly nice day into one filled with murder and mayhem. Here are the three in the series so far, with the fourth one due to come out soon, in April.
This is where we meet all of the fun characters. Atticus is living in Arizona, happily running an occult bookshop and hanging out with his Irish wolfhound on his days off. The fact that he shape-shifts to run alongside the dog is beside the point, to him at least.
While his customers may think this tattooed dude is only 21 years old, we soon find out he is a 21-century-old druid who draws his power from the earth and uses his sharp wits as much as his sharp magical sword Fragarach the Answerer. But it is his sword that a Celtic god has been coveting for centuries. When the god tracks Atticus down it will take the help of his lawyers, a vampire and werewolf team, a very tasty goddess of death and a Hindu-witch possessed bartender friend to help him kick some Celtic butt.
The witches have arrived in Arizona, and they unfortunately are not the kind that Atticus cares for. In fact, these witches are downright evil, and just when he had signed a non-aggression pact with the local coven!
But he has his hands full with evil happenings at the local high school that involve a fallen angel, and worshipers of the god Bacchus who love to party just a bit too much. Not to mention a certain goddess of fire who wants his attention in the worst way! Thank goodness he has Atticus, his vampire attorney to help him out, because he is going to need all the help he can get!
Atticus may have tried for the last few centuries to stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts, but when his vampire friend and lawyer Leif Helgarson comes to him for help in taking out the Norse god of Thunder, Thor, he knows he has to be there for him. This isn’t so easy since life isn’t exactly quiet in Tempe right now.
With Russian demon hunters running rampant in the streets of Tempe and a turf war brewing amongst the vampires, things are getting just a little busy for our favorite druid. Can he stay out of trouble long enough to stay alive?
This time around Atticus must pay the piper when the Norse god of thunder, Thor, comes to Tempe for some revenge (see last book for details). Well, a druid doesn’t survive this long without a few tricks up his sleeve, so he enlists the help of that great trickster, Coyote, to fool his enemy into thinking he has chopped Atticus into little pieces and left them in the desert to rot.
But one good trick deserves another and now he must help Coyote fight Skinwalkers. They are ancient shape-shifters and of course are up to no good, no good at all. Just when he thinks he has this handled, he is betrayed, and by the one he is least likely to have expected it. Who has betrayed him and even with that, can he get out of this one with his skin in one piece?
As you can see, this is a very fun series with plenty of vampire action mixed in with a great concept to embrace every kind of fantasy you can imagine. Hearne is a skilled writer with just enough tongue in cheek to keep his readers laughing while enjoying a bit of magical mayhem. Not to be missed!
Title: I Am Legend
Author: Richard Matheson
Release: October 2007
Genre: Urban Vampire
Sometimes the oldies really are the goodies. Someone recently mentioned the movie remake of this classic vampire book and it made me curious to reread the original book once again. I must say that it stands the test of time – still as scary and as dark as it ever was.
These are not the vampires of Bon Temps – these guys are the end of the world vampires that will search you out and rip you apart. And in the book, that is exactly what has happened to pretty much everyone else but Robert Neville. Somehow – he has survived the holocaust that has enslaved the earth and now is hunkered down in his city apartment, surrounded by the hoards of vampires that come out each night and search for fresh blood.
The most chilling part is when his neighbor, who has now become one of the undead, taunts him by calling him by name. Left alone, Neville almost imagines the man to be a friend. Almost. In the movie that came out recently we saw Will Smith wander the deserted streets with a dog he has befriended. In the book, it isn’t quite the same relationship.
I Am Legend is indeed legendary in its portrayal of vampires as robotic mindless beings who hunger while Neville searches for survivors and prays he is not alone. It is the kind of book that will haunt you and leave you thinking of the situation long after you have closed the last page.
Title: Vampire Pond
Author: Peter Joseph Swanson
Release: Feb 12 2012
Genre: Historical Vampire
During medieval times monsters were everywhere and vampires lurked in the most likely of places. A little band of gypsies arrive in the countryside of an English village, fleeing the fears and inquisitions of Spain. Along the way, they meet up with ancient curses, wolves that circle but don’t kill and an Abbey that was built to celebrate a miracle. What they are told is that the village is cursed, by a vampire that lives in a nearby pond. If they want to be accepted by the village, to stay and live in the place, they must help them to destroy the vampire and his curse. For the village has not had any luck at all since the vampire appeared, and the only way they know to be able to rid the village fields of their wealth of boulders and grow wheat again is to first be rid of the vampire.
Green magic is afoot in this charming little novel of a time when many believed in the dark side of the supernatural, and who is to say it wasn’t there? With some remarkable characterizations that will have you picturing this novel as a Peter Jackson film, the author has brought to life a fine village of personalities, including witches, ghosts and even the Goddess herself. A magical journey to a realm of both forbidding darkness and sly humor, Vampire Pond is another wonderful little gem from the pen of Peter Joseph Swanson.
If you love vampires then you probably know that one of the most influential books for the entire horror genre is coming up on a big anniversary. This March will see the 100th anniversary of the death of Bram Stocker, the author of the granddaddy of all vampire books – Dracula! To help celebrate this major landmark, the Horror Writers of America are going to award one book as the most influential vampire novel in the 100 years since the death of Bram Stoker. This make the time period we are talking about to be from 1912 to 2011.
They have already narrowed the choices down to six novels, all of which could easily in my humble opinion be worthy of the choice. It is really amazing to think of how many great vampire books have been written over the last 100 years and I would imagine that coming down with this final group of six must have taken some work and probably a certain amount of politics, with various members pushing for their favorite.
The Six Finalists
No matter how you look at it, these final six choices that the judges will vote on to decide the final winner are all winners already. I think it is fair to say that they would make a great “got to read” list for anyone who is coming to this site. Here are the six books they have winnowed it down, before the announcement in March:
Some may argue that this short story disguised as a novel isn’t even a vampire tale, since he doesn’t really state that is what they are. It is the basic tale of the earth being hit by an epidemic that leaves people acting like vampires, except for our hero. For many- this is the classic post-apocalyptic tale.
This is one of King’s earliest works, and it still packs a punch today. Of course, being King it takes place in a small New England town, and centers Kurt Barlow, a vampire who is running the town until a writer shows up in town to put things back the way they should be. Sorta. But it is classic King.
For many this is the book that introduced the modern interpretation of a vampire. Dark, gothic and more than a little homo-erotic, the tale of Lestat and how he became a vampire is told to a young reporter in flash-backs. The New Orleans setting doesn’t hurt the atmosphere, either.
This is from a wonderful series that has the vampire Count Saint Germain travelling through Europe (and time) as we follow his adventurous life. A great fun romp through history and a well told set of stories that bring a bit of fun to the vampire genre.
This is a classic tale of evil vampires taking over a small town, but done with such classic horror style as only Grant can do. It takes place in a small town in Connecticut as we follow the evil Count Braslov and his attempts to take over bend the population of the town of Oxrun to his will. It is part of a trilogy but is easily read on its own.
What if Dracula, instead of being defeated by Van Helsing, was to survive? What if he went on to marry Queen Victoria and in fact had a life full of adventures with other great historical and fictional vampires? That is the premise to this wonderful alternate world vampire tale. Published in the early 1990s, it went on to be so successful that Newman followed it up with The Bloody Red Baron and a few other fun little vampire alternate world concepts.
Making the Vote
So there you have it, the six finalists for the title of most influential vampire book of the past century as named by the Horror Writers of America. I even made sure to link them, in case you got curious and decided you just needed to read one of them once again. Or maybe even, for the first time! They are all great books, and some might have even been forgotten in the recent slew of vampire tales, so be sure to check them out.
As far as what I think is the best of the lot, well anyone who reads this site knows how partial I am to Anne Rice. That would be my vote for the most influential. So let us know – what would your vote be?
I am always fascinated by the story of how some writer came to start on their current project. With university professor and author N.E. Tovell, that beginning was simply a desire to allow her granddaughter to read a story. When her eleven year old granddaughter became engrossed in the Twilight series, the child’s mother did not want her to read “Breaking Dawn” because she felt her daughter was not old enough for be reading the birth scenes. So Tovell said she would rewrite a PG version for her to read.
In the course of writing it, she began to think about the implications of a half-human half-vampire being. What kind of child would that be and when they grew up, what kind of person would they be? It is the kind of question authors often ask of characters. In this case, it led to her writing A Vampire Trilogy and the latest in the series: Tides of the UnDead.
She describes the second book in the series as a look at the lives of two newlyweds named Galian and Delbeth McDermot. Theirs is an arranged vampire marriage that looks to fulfill an old Celtic prophesy, one that places them in Ireland as the heralds of a new world order. This story follow up the coming-of-age story in book one, and takes us into a world of two species that mirrors so much of our racial tensions.
She calls it a tale of contemporary love surviving in a modern world. But here, the stakes are high as Galian’s headstrong ways and gifts from the world of Faerie clash with Delbeth’s dark vampire ways. It will take their discovery of humility and courage together to overcome the differences and triumph in a world filled with dangerous enemies looking for them to go down in defeat.
USA Today had an interesting little story the other day. It looked at the popularity of vampires and asked some leading romance writers what they thought was the reason for this popularity. While it is true that only a year or so ago most editors in traditional publishing were announcing the death (pun intended) of vampire stories, it seems that they are still here and going strong. How could some supposedly well-informed publishing-types be so wrong?
It isn’t that surprising to find that the end result is the same as it has always been. The whole “forbidden love” and “dangerous romance” concept continues to fascinate us, and we aren’t about to give it up just because a couple of desk jockeys in New York have decided that vampires are so yesterday. When romance authors the likes of Jenny Jones and Elizabeth Naughton agree that vampires are the dangerous lovers that so many readers are drawn to, someone is on to something.
Avery Flynn (Up a Dry Creek) calls them the “ultimate in the tortured alpha hero” and I have to agree with her on that one. True Blood may just be the poster child for this kind of hero, but it seems to me that most of the vampires in the “romantic” styled vampire books continue to portray our dark heroes as angst-driven and doomed.
Jane Graves (Heartstrings and Diamond Rings) commented that in vampire tales we ultimately have heroines who control the hero; something I never considered before, but she is right! In the end, most of the vampires find that no matter how big and dangerous they are; love is the thing that holds them. And the heroine, usually a human, is the one that holds that love.
So I guess the end result is always the same – we love our vampires because even though they are the ultimate dangerous bad boy, in the end we love the stories because it is the woman who saves him. For all his dark majesty he is bound and held by a simple thing called love.
Title: The Falstaff Vampire Files
Author: Lynne Murray
Release: September 2011
Genre: Urban Vampire
It starts with The Thing in the Shed – and the files we get to read in the package. Kristen Marlow is a therapist, she views herself as someone who is “sane for a living”, but things have been revealed to her that leaves her with that identity in question.
And so we begin to follow the clues left behind, the digital tape recorders, handwritten notes and typed case files. They are the remnants that reveal the chaos left behind when Kristen encounters something that in the end changes not only her own life, but the lives of those around her irrevocably.
It all centers around Hal, a somewhat mysterious but in the end selfish man whose need for power sends him and those around him into places they should never have ventured. Then there is Mina, innocent and just looking to find love. Unfortunately she finds something far darker, and far more dangerous. The twists and turns of the plot take us to unforeseen places, to organizations in the shadow and to knowledge of beings that have dwelt amongst us for centuries, unseen and unknown.
Lynne Murray does a fine job of leading us down a somewhat familiar path, the concept of the “found diary” by in the end showing us more than just notes on paper. The journey is enticing, mostly because the main characters have enough depth to them that you truly want to know what happens. Sir John Falstaff, the charming vampire that is the catalyst for the action in the story, is brought in well into the story and brings a new take on an old tale. His is the story I am most interested in, and I am hoping Murray will consider telling us more of the charming rogue. His story of how he met Shakespeare alone makes the story worth reading!
To tell too much of the story would take away from some of the charm of discovery that makes this story work so well. Suffice to say, if you are someone who likes urban vampire tales with a humorist twist, you will enjoy The Falstaff Vampire Files.