If this book by Alyxandra Harvey has a flaw, it’s that some of the action scenes are kind of sketchy â€“ not the actions in which best buds and alternate narrators Lucy and Solange take part, which seem very solid, but those they observe often come down to things like, “And then there was flipping and kicking in a deadly ballet of stakey death!” instead of going into detail on the flipping and kicking. It’s hard to really worry about these characters when I can’t get a good grip on what’s actually taking place. I sympathise, though, because action scenes are the very devil. Sarah Rees Brennan and I have had a conversation several times that goes like this:
SARAH: I hate action scenes, Karen. I hate them very very much.
KAREN: Writing action scenes is awful, Sarah! Just awful!
SARAH: I wrote this trilogy where one of the main characters is a master swordsman and another is a crack shot.
KAREN: My protagonist has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
SARAH: WE ARE SO SMART.
KAREN: I KNOW, RIGHT?
Karen, you say, we do not care. Tell us more about the deadly ballets of stakey death. Do you implyâ€¦ vampires?
READERS, I DO.
As ever, spoilers ahoy.
I like vampire books where vampires are not all the one thing â€“ where there are varying groups with different aims and philosophies. If your book has vampires where some of them are crazy sociopaths, and some of them are snooty aristocrats and some of them are Just Trying To Get By and some of them are upstanding members of the community with an unusual diet, I will be more inclined to read it. My Love Lies Bleeding does this in spades, and really well â€“ several vampire groups, often with competing agendas, who all combine in the final spectacular showdown.
But the focus of the novel is the relationship between Solange, who is the only female vampire born, not made, and is thus in hot demand, and her human best friend, Lucy. Y’all, I love paranormal books about close female friendship SO DAMN MUCH. But don’t despair, het romance fans! Not only is this book about how awesome these two girls are and how much they love each other, but there is bonus cuteness, to wit:
SOLANGE: What’s up?
LUCY: Your older vampire brother Nicholas is SO ANNOYING, with his snarky comments and his tousled hair and his great smell and all that fake kissing to lull our enemies that turns into real kissing and-
LUCY: Huh? Nothing! What’s up with YOU?
SOLANGE: That vampire hunter boy Kieran is SO ANNOYING, with his erroneous belief that my family killed his father and his heartbreaking confusion and his irritating habit of risking his life to save mine and the way he watched over me while I slept in bloodchanging stupor-
LUCY: You’re kidding.
LUCY: You mean we’re two awesome girls with crushes on two different awesome guys over whom we’re not going to fight in a stupid love triangle?
SOLANGE: EW, like I would fight you for my BROTHER?
LUCY: GOOD POINT. Want me to help you crank call your crush?
SOLANGE: Yes, please!
Oh, I love these girls. Solange is a slobby cargoes and tees girl who loves making pottery and hates the fact that being the only female vampire born makes her pheromonally irrresistable to all her non-family male vampires. There’s a prophecy that she’ll be queen of the vampires one day. She regards this prophecy with weary horror, not least because it marked her for enmity by the current queen the moment she was born, but mostly because she has not the least desire to fulfill it. She has loving vampire parents, and seven older vampire brothers, who are all insanely over-protective.
Lucy is an only child with peacenik hippy parents who counsel love and tolerance for all beings, including their bloodsucking neighbours. She LOVES cool dresses and jewellery, and also loves weaponry. The scene where she roams around the vault of weapons drooling at all the goodies is totally hilarious. Plus, she likes to slay enemy vampires in style, like so:
NICHOLAS: Is that stake decorated withâ€¦ pink rhinestones?
LUCY: Yup! And this one has a skull and crossbones in black marker!
NICHOLAS: You are so awesome.
LUCY: Oh, I know.
In fact, both girls are accomplished fighters, since they were trained by Solange’s fierce mother. There are physically adept women are all over this story, on several different sides. I approve!
Also, Nicholas, Nicholas, Nicholas. This is one of those relationships where he has obviously has a crush on his little sister’s bestie for years, and has striven to nobly ignore it by acting like a sarcastic twelve year old in her vicinity. Lucy, on the other hand, is blithely ignorant of his crush until WHOA fake kissing turns into real kissing* and what are all these feelings she is suddenly having?
Oh, little vampire boys, bless! Born vampires are more or less human until they go through the somewhat dangerous bloodchange at sixteen, an age Solange is rapidly approaching. Nicholas has already undergone this ordeal, and a worried Lucy asks him to talk her through it.
NICHOLAS: Well. You have to sort of um. Have to have something to cling onto. To make yourself get through the change. You need a reason.
LUCY: What was yours?
NICHOLAS: Um well.
LUCY: You’re stalling!
NICHOLAS: OKAY. IT WAS YOU. I HELD ONTO THE THOUGHT OF YOU.
LUCY: Suddenly that picture of me in your room makes much more sense.
I like how this relationship proceeds with limited angst. They work out that they like each other without too much drama, but they don’t really have time to do much about it because they’re too busy trying to keep Solange alive. But when they can be, they are cute. INCLUDING an awesome bit where they are being dragged to meet Big Enemy Vampires! And Nicholas is all, “Don’t bump my girlfriend!” And Lucy’s response is, “Oh my gosh, he thinks of me as his girlfriend!” And then she is an awesome fighting badass, because proximity to a cute guy she likes does not actually remove all her brain cells.
In conclusion, I hit the end, saw that the sequel isn’t out until July, and howled my impatience to the uncaring fates. Highly recommended.
* I love this trope so bad. It is my dearest hope that some day I will be able to press someone cute up against a wall and hiss, “Kiss me if you want to live!”