Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: Shadow of the Vampire by Meagan Hatfield

Shadow of the Vampire by Meagan Hatfield was a book that made both a positive and a negative impression on me.   Parts of the book were very well-written, and other parts were cliche-ridden.  

The main male character, the hero, is a dragon-man.  I'll admit to a fascination with dragons that started in my early teen years with the first Pern book I ever read (though these dragons' resemblance to Pern dragons ends with the word dragon).  Declan is a strong figure, physically attractive, and head of the dragon clan after his parents' deaths.  He's full of angst over their manner of death and his unexpected ascendance as head of the clan.

Alexia is a 125 year old vampire, daughter of the current Queen, and heir-apparent.  In some places, she's smarter than she appears to be, and in others, she's just dumb as a rock.  I don't really understand why she puts up with Lotharus at all, except to appease her mother, whose "lover" he is.

There's a feud between dragons and vampires, a la Underworld's vampire/lycan struggle, and the background for this feud is scattered about in little bits and pieces, with not much organization.  Ultimately, all I really understand is that the vampires hate the dragons and vice versa, with no real inkling as to why exactly this is so.  Maybe there's a previous book or story I missed reading before this one.

The villain of the piece, Lotharus, is easy for me to hate, as he is abusive (verbally, physically, sexually) and a bigot.  His secret plot to take over the vampire clan is threaded throughout the story, until the denouement decides his fate once and for all.

Alexia's mother, the Queen of the vampire clan, is mostly an afterthought tucked into chapters here and there, though she does play a major role in the climactic fight for "survival" of the clan.

The chemistry between Alexia and Declan fairly crackles, and this is a part of the book with which I'm pleased.  Their growing care for each other, and the internal struggles each experiences, create obstacles with which most of us can identify from our own romantic hobgoblin-strewn past.

The most obvious place for my displeasure in this book is one single word:  conscious.  In no less than six places, this word is incorrectly used instead of conscience.  As the daughter of an English teacher, I tend to see mistakes like this in blinking neon letters, and it not only irritates me that a mistake of this kind passed the editing process, but also these mistakes tend to take me out of the story in a highly abrupt manner.  Thus does even an otherwise nearly perfect book lose a star, or even two, in my own personal rating system (not that this one was nearly perfect).  No, I do not use the English language perfectly, though I do try to keep my errors in the spoken arena of use, rather than the written.  I have high expectations of a published work, and this one fell down on the job.  Conscious and conscience just aren't interchangeable in the English language, and the repetition of the mistake really chapped my hide. 

Fight scenes are an obvious part of the plot, both between the dragons and the vampires, and internally amongst the vampire sects.  For the most part, the fight scenes are well-written, though sometimes they do spring up from practically nowhere.  The private scenes with Declan and Alexia are probably the most engaging, and there are enough to keep the reader interested in finding out how this relationship resolves in the end.

In this universe, dragons have powers, and sometimes those powers (such as telepathy) appear out of nowhere to move the overall arc forward, but in reality as a form of exposition.  It's not overused, but often enough that I remember it.

One of the biggest wtf's (and yes, I am aware that is not proper English, lol) in this book is an entire chapter dedicated to Declan's sister, Tallon, and her newfound attraction to lone wolf Griffon.  Had it been interwoven into the book from the beginning, it might have worked.  As written, though, one single chapter in the middle of nowhere, it stuck out like a sore thumb, and did nothing whatsoever to impact the plot in any way.  It deserves its own story, not being stuffed into the middle of Declan's, particularly as this chapter shows Tallon and Griffon dancing around her sprung-out-of-nowhere attraction, and finally falling into a fairly hot love scene.  Turn the page, and we're back to Declan and Alexia.

Bottom line:  I enjoyed parts of this book, but none of it was really memorable beyond reading, with the exception of the word conscious and the fact that the villain was an abuser.  I remembered those two points!  In order to write this review, I had to open the book a couple of dozen times to random pages and rescan to remember names or plot points.  If you like dragons or vampires or feuds or paranormal in general, you might enjoy this book.  If you read with a critical eye, you will probably not enjoy this book.  

I got this book as a sample-pack of four paranormal/suspense/thrillers from Harlequin.  I got nothing else from this except the on-again, off-again pleasure of reading this book.

Shadow of the Vampire (Hqn)