by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
If you’re looking for some Spring reading and you love fantasy and horror, check out these reviews of Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, Drink Deep by Chloe Neill and Bloodstone by Nancy Holzner.
Inheritance, or the Vault of Souls by Christopher Paolini
Remember Christopher Paolini, the home-schooled teenager from Montana who wrote Eragon, an epic fantasy novel that his parents published for him in 2002? Best-selling author Carl Hiaasen discovered it during a family vacation in Montana, brought it to the Random House group, and it exploded nationwide. About a thousand pages into the third book in the trilogy, he realized that he was going to need a fourth book. So, after Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr, we come to Inheritance, or the Vault of Souls.
Eragon, who was only fifteen at the beginning of the saga, is now a dragon-riding magic-wielder, rapidly growing more elf-like than human. He has battled many creatures, including his own half-brother, trying to defeat the forces and powers of Galbatorix, the evil ruler of Alagaësia. He is allied with elves, dwarves, the horned Urgals who once were his enemies, and humans like his cousin Roran.
Eragon loves Arya, daughter of the elf-queen. He and Saphira, his dragon, are being tutored long-distance by Glaedr, an old dragon whose rider had died, through an extension of himself that is part wifi and part hairball, sounding like a morose Yoda. Arya and Eragon is one of those romances where they both feel it, but you know it can never be, like Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.
Nasuada, the tough-but-winsome female leader of the rebellious Varden, has to deal with the different factions that are trying to overthrow Galbatorix, then endure torture from the evil ruler, who really just wants to stop magic-users from having an unfair advantage in their world. She forms a Stockholm-syndrome-type attachment with one of her tormentors, and finally gets her own point-of-view storyline, after all those books where she was just a background character.
Cousin Roran has gone from farmboy to battalion leader, bashing the foe with his hammer. He is magically protected beyond reason, but so are most of the leading characters. The battle scenes could have been shortened or combined, because the war runs on and on and on like a marathon Dungeons & Dragons campaign fueled by Red Bull and Starbucks.
For all of the gee-whiz quality of the series, the final outcomes of the plotlines are decidedly downbeat, providing a happy ending that really isn’t very happy for most of the characters. I admire him for the courage to end it this way, but his end-notes suggest that he might return to these characters in the future, so it all could wind up as a set-up for further adventures in Alagaësia.
Paolini has always acknowledged his literary debt to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books. The question for the future is whether he will play forever in the playgrounds created by others, or if he will be able to create new jungle gyms for others to climb.
Drink Deep by Chloe Neill
Some people just don’t like vampires, and when the waters of Lake Michigan turn black and start sucking all the magic out of the shoreline area, that includes most of Chicago in Drink Deep, a Chicagoland Vampires novel by Chloe Neill.
Merit is a new vampire who has been learning to bungee jump without a bungee, and a security Sentinel for Cadogen House, one of the city’s gathering places for the undead. Her search for the source of the strange occurrences in Chicago takes her to the realms of fairies and Sirens, the cell of the former mayor who is a drug-pushing paranormal of unknown origin, her ex-roommate who is studying for her exams to be a sorceress, and dreams of her recently-staked lover, Ethan, who was Master of the House. Then there’s Jonah, captain of the guards for another House, and her jumping teacher, who would like to teach her other things. On top of that, there’s Frank, an official from the Greenwich Presidium, a European council overseeing America’s vampires, and he seems intent on abolishing Cadogen House by putting its vampires on starvation blood rations and devising lose-lose tests for its security personnel—How long can a vampire stand atop a telephone pole while the sun is coming up?
As the elements are disrupted around them, Merit and Jonah struggle to pinpoint the source of disruption before all the paranormal personages of Chicago are rounded up as enemies of the people. Merit is one of those currently-popular two-fisted vampire heroines thrust into higher levels without sufficient training, which would make her a good subject of study for a management theory class. She does have a weakness for junk food, which is endearing. This is the fifth book in the series (following Some Girls Bite, Friday Night Bites, Twice Bitten, and Hard Bitten), and this one sets up situations that are open-ended, so it doesn’t show many signs of stopping in the near future.
The mystery starts at a slow pace, but events start cascading after a while, building to a near-apocalyptic showdown. The climax makes sense when you think about it, but it does cause a few “Say What?” moments when it is happening; but on the whole, you still have to admit that Drink Deep has “Merit.”
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Bloodstone by Nancy Holzner
If you’re a demon slayer in Boston, Massachusetts, it helps to be more than human. Victory Vaughn is a shapeshifter from a long line of shifting women who lose their abilities to change when they have their first child.
In Nancy Holzner’s Bloodstone, the third book in the Deadtown series, Vicky tries to discover the identity of the South End Reaper, a killer who carves his victims with a curved blade. The vampires, were-folk, and zombies of Boston and its region have been forced to live in the neighborhood of Deadtown, behind electric fences and with a strictly-controlled border-crossing zone. The zombies are doubly victimized, felled and reanimated by a local plague and accused by politicians and hate groups of things they didn’t and couldn’t do. The good citizens of Deadtown (and the not-so-good-ones) are being blamed for the murders, so Vicky and Kane, her lover/lawyer/werewolf friend, follow clues that keep leading to the Old Ones, nasty-looking beings who prey on vampires like vampires prey on humans. With all the pressure, curfews, and restrictions on entering and leaving Deadtown, something is going to happen soon, and it won’t be nice.
With the Old Ones after Vicky’s vampire roommate, THE Juliet Capulet (Shakespeare didn’t understand the whole story about Romeo), who Vicky busts out of protective custody when the rat-faced villains attack the holding block, the demon slayer needs the help of her Aunt Mab in Wales when she is captured to provide life to a comatose demi-demon.
There’s dream communication, ancient grudges, big swords that can burst into flame, demon possession, a massive barkeep of indeterminate origin, throwing knives, travel through mental space, magical mishaps, bronze daggers, underground passageways, carved runes, silver bullets, protest marches, wolfsbane ointment, flailing chains, virus manipulation, and a bloodstone of many powers and uses. It’s a lively mix, told with cheeky humor and a sexy swagger. Victory is a bold hunter who needs her powers of regeneration to heal from all the damage she racks up.
Somehow, in and around all of this action, Holzner manages to insert a good deal of rewritten myth and legend, along with lessons on tolerance, bigotry, and family love. The most human characters in Holzner’s Boston seem to be the ones labeled by society as monsters.