Tour’s Books Blog

January 17, 2010

Book Review: Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

  • Title:  Some Girls Bite
  • Author: Chloe Neill
  • Type:  Paranormal
  • Genre:  Vampire in Chicago society
  • Sub-genre: Series; destiny and the unwilling vamp
  • My Grade:  B+ (4.3*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel; 80,000+ words for $14.00 list, but discounts available
  • Where Available:  Where books are sold
  • FTC Disclosure:  The book was purchased from an online bookstore

Chloe Neill is a new author and a good one.  Though kick-ass heroines are pretty thick on the ground these days, good ones are still emerging and I really LIKED Mertit.  Merit is the daughter of a self-made Chicago millionaire mover and shaker, Joshua Merit.  She’s also a scholar, doctoral candidate, and teaching assistant.  The last thing she remembers is walking across the quadrant one night and realizing someone is following her, then a lot of pain.  She wakes in the back of a limo with a middle aged woman telling her she’ll feel better soon – she’s a vampire after all.  Merit is none too thrilled to hear THAT piece of news.  Helen helps her into the house she shares with her best friend Mallory, gives her a huge book on vampire etiquette, and generally annoys both Merit and Mallory.  Then Helen finds herself on the door step being given an unexpected bums rush out the door.  A rock through the window with a threatening message against the new vamp sends Merit off for help and advice.  Merit ends up at her grandfather’s house, always her place of refuge and comfort. 

Chuck Merit was a Chicago cop his whole life.  He married a society girl who was disowned by her family and later refused her inheritance.  Joshua, his son and Merit’s father, never forgave his parents for denying him what he viewed as his rightful place in Chicago society.  Even though her father and grandfather didn’t get along, Merit was always close to Chuck.  He welcomes her and then adds to her new life by letting her know he’s the Ombud, the special human interface between the newly emerged magical creatures and the very human police and politicians that run the city.  His two helpers are unusual – Catcher Bell, a disowned sorcerer who looks like an ex-military guys,  and Jeff, a young shifter who is also a computer hacker.  As she leaves, Catcher sits her down and demonstrates his magic, and then suddenly starts speaking what seems to be a prophesy of some sort.  Even that wasn’t enough, he tells her she needs training in martial arts and she should clear it Ethan Sullivan, the Master of Cadogan House, the vampire who made her a vampire.

Back at Malloy’s house the night’s drama isn’t over.  Suddenly Ethan Sullivan is at her door accusing her of spying on Cadogan – though how a newly made vamp with no knowledge of Cadogan is supposed to be a spy is profoundly unclear.  Merit’s reaction is not what Ethan expects.  Vamps are in strict House systems, and only Master vamps can make more vamps.  The system is very feudal in nature and only the Master Vampire has two names.  Merit is anything but grateful or respectful to the head of Cadogan House, not something a 400 year old Master Vampire is used to.  But Merit proves to be anything but the usual vampire..  Ethan Sullivan might be blond and beyond handsome, but Merit is not one bit happy about having been made a vamp. Each House is allowed 12 new vamps a year, so saving Merit’s life meant Ethan used one of the 12 spots for her and here she is mouthing off to him!

Merit struggles with her change to vampire.  Vamps ‘outed’ themselves and Chicago is pretty much US vamp central, so it isn’t like people were unaware of their existence, but Merit spent her life keeping out from under her father’s thumb, now she has an even more demanding “master” and a system of rules the cut against her grain.  All her own goals, her life, the one she fought so hard to get, is wiped away.  Her job is gone and she’s no longer in the graduate program – all because she’s a vamp.  She’s angry and understandable resentful.  But the way she challenges Ethan has the other Cadogan vamps on edge.  Ethan isn’t even exactly sure what kind of vamp she is, but he senses her power.  But as she begins training in martial arts, even Catcher Bell realizes there’s something very odd about Merit. Merit becomes convinced that she’s ‘broken’ in some way, not fully a vampire.

The relationship between Ethan and Merit, and the unwanted attraction they feel for each other plays out against a backdrop of treachery and deceit that has the vamps and humans growing uneasy with each other.  Ethan is old enough to remember the last ‘cleansing’ that decimated the vampire population and wants good relations with humans, but not all vamps feel that way.  The second murder of a young woman, one whose description is very like that of Merit, has the general populace on edge.  The killings worry humans and vampires.  Celina Desaulniers, the narcissistic Master of Navarre House, has become the public ‘face’ of the vampires and seems to operating on an agenda of her own.  Merit more than dislikes her, she doesn’t trust her.  But she was warned by Catcher, vamps are the ultimate schemers, always plotting and strategizing on what will be best for them and their houses.  Merit is named Sentinel of Cadogan House and it is she who ends up investigating the murders.

Like all paranormals, there are some weaknesses in the plot and characters, but nothing that’s especially irritating to the reader, like Ethan’s silly tantrum over Merit visiting her grandfather.  The Chicagoland Vampire world is well developed and Merit’s relationship – or lack thereof – with her father is believable.   Merit’s character doesn’t radically change just because she’s a vamp.  Yes does start growing into her new role, but doesn’t relish it.  The not really wanted attraction to Ethan, the way her skills kick in and out, even the strain between Merit and Mallory as their lives both change dramatically, is all far more believable than usual in this kind of book.  I didn’t call this book a ‘paranormal romance’ for a reason.  While the relationship between Merit and Ethan is  central to the plot, t’s just one of the main plot elements.  There is also Merit’s resentment that she and her family connections are being exploited, but her family and her House.  She struggles to NOT become a pawn in the power games of others, a fate she feared and avoided even before her change to vampire.  To me, the most interesting part is Merit’s sense of separateness from from her vampire, as if she hasn’t become a vampire as much as she has acquired a vampire – a vampire who she fights to control and submerge.

Some Girls Bite lives in that area between paranormal romance and straight paranormal.  It has romantic elements, but then so do many books classified as ‘fantasy’ and sold in the si-fi and fantasy sections of the bookstore.  I rather like this new category that many woman authors are exploring these days.  They function as so much more than chick-lit with weres, vamps and magic.  It’s the same sort of equivocal category books like Vicious Circle fall into – designed to appeal to women readers, but not a formula romance with a ‘happily ever after’ ending.

Some Girls Bite isn’t a breakthrough novel that will redefine a genre, but it avoids the annoying pitfalls of the usual “chick-lit” paranormal, and delivers a solidly entertaining and a worthwhile read.  Recommended.

NOTE:  I bought and read the second book in ehe Chicagoland Vampires series, Friday Night Bites, and it was a B (4*) as well.  Often second books disappoint, but not in this case.  I will be buying the third installment later this year.  It’s already on my Amazon Wishlist.

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