Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alternatives to True Blood

In which I come clean as a recent devourer of vampire fiction and lover of kick-ass heroines...

Here are some enjoyable alternatives to True Blood, for those of you who are weirdly intrigued by vampire fiction and love the mash-up of romance novels, violence and fantasy that it represents.

The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. Mercy is a VW mechanic and shape shifter who lives in Eastern Washington and can transform into a coyote. She has run-ins with vampires, some friendly and some less so, with other creatures, and most frequently with the local pack of werewolves that live in her neighborhood. She shares a fence line with the Alpha and of course they . . . well, won't spoil it for you. LINK

Very well written as this genre goes, good plot lines, and romantic tension. Four in the series so far plus a spin-off series about an Omega werewolf (female couterpart to an Alpha). I ran into the author doing tarot card readings at our local B&N which was disappointing because the series feels much more authentic and original than stuff like those tired and silly cards.

The Hollows series (aka the Rachel Morgan series) by Kim Harrison. Rachel is a witch. Her best friend is a vampire named Ivy. Who wants to get in her pants. And onto her neck. Or not. Rachel cavorts with demons. And lots of vampires. And a few Machiavellian elves. And a rasta hip hop type dude who lays tracks that only vamps can hear. I haven't read True Blood (and certainly haven't read that vampire series that's made it to the big screen) but I'm sure Rachel and Ivy can take Sookie Stackhouse and her kin any day of the week. LINK

Six books in this series and I seem to recall there will be nine in total. Complex plot lines that weave consistently throughout the series and put the JK Rowlings to shame.

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. If I had to pick the bottom of this heap of four, it would certainly be this series. There are three so far. I didn't read #2. It's decent enough. It's the only one where vampires aren't the classic sexy goths but are instead scary remote controlled creatures that are sort of like big human spiders. You have to give the author credit for not going the party line there. Kate--like Mercy and Rachel--is a kick-ass heroine but she too does in the end fall for the man she doesn't think she'll fall for. In this case it's a shape-shifter boss-man who lives on the other side of the tracks. The author is particularly imaginative when she introduces some strange creatures out of Indian mythology. That all holds promise but the writing just isn't quite as tight as the other series. Still, if you like this sort of stuff, Kate Daniels should make you happy. LINK

The Marla Mason series (Blood Engines, Poison Sleep, Dead Reign, and Spell Games) by T.A. Pratt (aka Tim Pratt). The only of these four series written by a man, it's also the only one where the lead female character doesn't in the end fall for the muscled allure of a strong male lead and temporarily transform into a heroine in a supermarket romance. She does have sex, but she's less consumed with it and the attendant romance than Rachel, Kate or Mercy. All four books in this series are good, but the standard set by the first book for strange and fantastic antagonists isn't quite reached in the subsequent three. LINK

Another distinguishing characteristic of the Marla Mason series is that it has a different cover artist, one who doesn't appear to be moonlighting from his job as a van customizer or romance novel illustrator--all three of the other series have covers that show their heroines to be fantasy babes of comic book proportions, doing some injustice to the characters of Mercy, Rachel and Kate (though Ivy in the Rachel series certainly does look just like the cover art).

And of all the heroines, Marla relies least on magic (except for that demonic cloak). This is the series that got me first hooked because Blood Engines was and still is offered on the Kindle for the wonderful price of $0.00. So Briggs, Harrison and Andrews can thank Pratt for the subsequent revenue they got off of me.
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