Narrator: Cynthia Holloway
Series: Chicagoland Vampires #1
Published by Tantor Audio on December 23, 2010
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Length: 11 hours 10 minutes
Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was Merit's. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.
Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she?s traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan Lord o the Manor Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries? worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude? and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan?s attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone's still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war and there will be blood.
My Initial Reaction…
I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to seeing more of these characters. I do think it suffered a little bit from what I call “first book syndrome” – all the world building and character development promise better books in the future, but make for a less exciting reading experience at first.
Cynthia Holloway isn’t great and she isn’t horrible as a narrator. I’ve heard much worse; there are no horrible, distracting accents and the pacing is fine. However, she doesn’t manage to create characters with her narration, let alone bring them off the page. You only get to know the characters through the words she’s reading, not how she’s reading them. She’s not distracting, but she doesn’t improve upon the reading experience at all.
As this is the first book, we’re only starting to get to know the key characters, but we’re already seeing a variety of richly written personalities. Merit, the heroine of the series, starts the book as a new vampire, deeply confused and unhappy about her current situation. She was an English Lit graduate student at the University of Chicago, but when a vampire attacked her late one night on campus her whole life changed. Ethan Sullivan, master of Cadogan House, interrupted the vampire attack and saved her life, but only by turning her into one of his novitiates. Suddenly Merit has to face a life very different from the been planning for, not to mention not knowing the person staring back at her in the mirror (yes, she has a reflection!). I love the way Neill wrote Merit – her frustration comes across vividly and realistically, especially her anger.
Merit has a marvelous group of supporting characters that I look forward to knowing better. Her transformation to vampire has had a deep impact on her relationships – most of the characters we see in the book are new to her, the few that aren’t she’s relating to differently. A quick rundown of my favorites, sans spoilers: Mallory Carmichael, Merit’s roommate and best friend extraordinaire, is snarky and supportive; Ethan, Merit’s Master/employer is equal parts handsome, controlling, secretive, annoying, and sexy – so basically the perfect combination to make you (and Merit) frustrated with him and lust after him; Chuck Merit, Merit’s grandfather, a retired CPD officer and probably the best grandfather a girl could hope for; Jeff (who I adore) and Catcher (who cracks me up) are also great characters, but I will let you find out about them when you read the book, because I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you.
We start the book as confused as Merit; she’s being returned to the home she shares with her roommate Mallory after a few days away making the transition from human to vampire. She may have foggy memories of the events since her attack on campus, but it’s perfectly clear to her that she does want to be vampire, wants back her life as a graduate student, and is pissed at Ethan Sullivan for changing her without her consent. But there’s no going back – even if Ethan hadn’t already withdrawn her from the graduate program her fame as daughter of Joshua Merit would have made her change general public knowledge in no time – and thankfully she has her best friend Mallory, who has always been a fan of the supernatural, to guide and support her through her adjustment.
Adjusting to her new life would have been difficult enough if her attitude hadn’t managed to make her less than popular among her fellow Cadogan House vampires and if several other young women weren’t being found dead, most likely from vampire attack, around Chicago. Merit gets involved in the investigations, while also learning how to be a vampire. Both aspects of her life are interesting, fun to read, and often exciting.
This is clearly the start of really great series. I especially loved the way Neill intertwined details about Chicago into the story; it’s clear she knows the city and it made that setting so believable. I have to admit, though, that I found myself rolling my eyes more than once. Some aspects were less-than convincing and too may pieces just fell into place way too easily. Yes, I’m complaining about the believability of a book about vampires – that’s how unbelievable some of these developments were. That aside, I’m hooked. The characters are really compelling and I can’t wait to see them develop throughout the series.