Tour’s Books Blog

June 12, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang by Katie MacAlister

It would seem I’ll once again be breaking with the pack to say while I found Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang moderately entertaining, it was too choppy and convoluted to be really enjoyable and the ending was yet another of those annoying ‘to be continued’ things. We have 2 lead characters, Pia Thomason, a somewhat frenetic personality in the usually chatty, sassy MacAlister mold. The ‘hero’ is Kristoff, a suitably hunky, handsome German/Eastern European vampire with an Italian accent and lots of personal secrets. It does not help that Pia is a Zorya, a channeler of light, who must ‘technically’ be married to a sacristan Mattias (not consummated, in name only) is also the Beloved of the 400 year vampire Kristoff – who denies her. She wants Kristoff, but he’s severed the mental link and she’s lost and hurt.

Unbeknownst to her, Kristoff is in the process of slowly starving. Having found his Beloved, he can no longer seek nourishment (blood) from another and he sent her away to ‘save’ her. Fuzzy logic at best, but it does serve to make his brother and the vampire council assumes the worst of her. That silliness is resolved only to have many more obfuscations and half truths create more havoc as they hunt for the missing vampire, Alec, the one Pia had initially been attracted to only to have Alec’s friend Krisoff proclaim her his Beloved. Disgusted with the Brotherhood who want nothing but to slay all vampires, evil or not, and hurt by Kristoff’s rejection, Pia wants to be done with both sides, surrender her status as Zorya and just be plain old Pia again. The Brotherhood places a price on her freedom – see the vampire Moravian Council and gain the release of two important Brotherhood of the Blessed Light members Kirstjana, a priestess, and Mattias, the sacristan.

Pia heads to Austria at the combined insistence of the vampires and the Brotherhood to find an emaciated Kristoff.  He had refused to consummate their relationship by taking her blood and is slowly dying of hunger.  Once that issue is resolved – along with some sexual healing – it’s on to other things, like getting the prisoners free so she can shed the Zorya powers and responsibilities.  Kristoff’s brother, Andreas, doesn’t exactly trust her, but like everyone else, what he says and what he means are two different things.  Anyway, soon Magda and her boyfriend Ray, Kristoff, Pia and a light-struck Mattias are off to Iceland to continue the quest (with more sexual healing involved – cue Marvin Gaye) which eventually takes them to the west coast in search of Alec, Pia former ‘boyfriend’, Kristoff’s best friend and another vampire who may or may not have betrayed hs own kind.

Like many MacAlister books, the cast of characters is large, the conversations elliptical and hard to follow and the whole POINT of all this elusive. I’m as game as the next person for a good screwball comedy, it’s one of my favorite tropes, but I must admit, MacAlister has a talent for getting on my nerves with her diversions, loose threads, and complex stories often with characters at cross purposes even with themselves that result in nothing more than mass confusion. I don’t find this devious, entertaining or thrilling, just damned annoying. It’s like trying to watch a complex play while someone throws smoke bombs the stage and half the dialogue is down out by screaming children. Motives are ambiguous, logic tenuous and the rational for all the secrecy that causes so much angst is as fragile as a spider web. More importantly, the ‘romance’ is lost somewhere in this maze of confusion and only occasionally surfaces. It’s almost as if MacAlister is doing a parody of herself.

While Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang is amusing at times, the storyline is a confusing mess and frankly, I could not even tell where in the world all the various characters in the story were by the end of the book. This made for frustrating reading. Three times I put the book down, hoping when I went back I would find it was me not being in the right mood that was the problem. It wasn’t. It stayed a confusing mess with occasional moments of excellence. I have no desire to play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego and Clue while sitting in the middle of a Marx Brothers comedy. There are times when I yearn for a good, old fashioned pie fight like the one in The Great Race.

Even though I liked the characters, especially Pia and the vaguely out of focus Kristoff, things like Mattias wanting to kiss and lick Pia got old real fast. I kept wondering where the hell this was all going and I never did find out. This trend in leaving the endings as non-endings and more questions unanswered and new ones created than those that are resolved, is not one I particularly enjoy. I don’t mind some story elements moving to the next installment, but I want the primary romance wrapped up. This just left me unsatisfied on many levels.

While this is not germane to this book alone, the entire hierarchy of both the Brotherhood and the Vampire Council needs to be diagrammed out somehow. Trying to keep relationship of all these various creatures/job/talents is just like trying to read alphabet soup. Give me and other readers a fighting chance. Provide a dictionary, give me diagram of who goes where in the organizations, jobs, whatever, but please, stop throwing all these made up positions and talents and expect me to just remember it all. The difference between a ghost, a zombie, a lich and what each is to the soul. Why must a Zorya be married to a sacristan? Are the talents conferred or inherent? How could Magda NOT be something like the Zenith? What are all these other things? Give the reader a break. Even Tolkien had definitions and a cast breakdown.

My Grade: C- (2.7*)

Who would enjoy this book: Followers of MacAlister’s vampire series. As a stand alone, it does not work at all. The rating would be PG-17 to NC-17

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