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Sunday, December 03, 2006

**** Fangs 4 Freaks by Serena Robar. Contemporary fantasy/YA.

I was at a bit of a disadvantage with this story, which is the second in a series, because I hadn't read the first one. There was enough information that I wasn't lost completely, but there were still some things that weren't quite explained and left me wondering.

Colby Blanchard is a young woman (teenager?--one of those things that wasn't explained), a half-blood vampire (another thing that wasn't explained, though I surmised that it's someone who was turned into a vampire by a sire who's not powerful enough to make a full-blood vampire). Because she's won the right for half-bloods to exist (another question), she's been put in charge of training and protecting the other half-bloods, and keeping them under control. To that end, she's established a sorority house on the campus of a local university.

Not everyone is happy with her accomplishments, though, and her life (un-life) and those of the young women in her care, are in danger. Then one of them is murdered, and it seems as though there's a traitor in what she'd expected to be a happy little group of sisters (another thing I'm assuming was addressed in the first book--why all the half-bloods are female).

So Colby has to find the killer, with the help of her best friend Piper and her boyfriend, vampire investigator Thomas--when she allows him to help, that is.

The mystery aspect was pretty good, almost Christie-esque. The limited pool of suspects, all living together, all with opportunity, and all seemingly innocent, except the one suspect that no one likes, so you know they can't be the guilty party.

The world-building, on the other hand, was such that I'd say it's important to read the books in order. I could follow the story, but there was quite a bit that left me scratching my head.

Then there's the story of Colby herself, how she's growing into her role as protector, and the relationship between her and Thomas. And that, I think, was the book's biggest weakness. I realize that, as an ongoing series, you don't want the character to change too much, but Colby didn't change at all, and I was expecting her to. She's blundering ahead, thinking she knows everything, refusing to listen to advice, and angry when things go wrong. I'd have liked the book much better if she'd learned that sometimes you need to ask for help.

I was also a little confused by the tone of the relationship between Colby and Thomas. Throughout the book, she's pressuring him for sex, and reminds me of the girlfriend in 40 Days and 40 Nights with her either/or attitude. Either they have sex, or they break up. There's a brief, very erotic scene about drinking blood, and quite a lot of frank discussion about desire, but the actual sex scene is blurred over. Here's where knowing her age might have helped make some sense of it. And despite my liberal beliefs about sexuality, I was still a little squicked that this is a YA book--intended for readers the age of my younger son.

(postscript: in the previous book, Colby is 16, making her 16 or 17 in this one. Thomas's age isn't mentioned, but he's obviously much older. I'm squicked.)

The voice, also, didn't grab me. It's too much like too many other paranormal and chick lit voices--rude, bossy, and know-it-all, even, or maybe especially when she obviously doesn't. And it doesn't have the saving grace of humor, except at the expense of others. In short, I didn't like the main character. She sounds very much like Betsy from MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series, but without the warmth. Maybe it's her immaturity.

Still, it was an entertaining story. The characters of the other half-blood vampires were interesting and unusual, and the mystery was very well done. I'm not intrigued enough to search out the first book in the series, but other readers might. Bottom line: it seems like a good series for teens who aren't quite old enough for MJD, and who'd presumably be more tolerant of Colby's voice.


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Colby was 16 (maybe 17) in the first one. It was fairly good. I haven't had a chance to read this one yet, the bookstore I go to hasn't had it in, but I've ordered it. The way she ended it had me wanting to read about Colby in the sorority house.
Thanks for the heads-up. I do think I'd have liked this one better (not that I disliked it as it was) if I'd read the first one first--I hate when I read out of order.
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