It’s not often that books keep me up til 1 am reading these days (I have two littlies – I’m woken anytime between 5 and 7 am, so try to hit the hay by 10.30pm!) but this week I’ve hit two of them. The first was the “YA” novel “New Moon” by Stephenie Meyers (sequel to Twilight, which I haven’t read – yet – and released from Hachette soon), and the second is installment 14 (on the book, depends on if you count “Micah” in your count though I guess) of Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, “Harlequin” (also Hachette – Orbit – simultaneous UK, US, Oz release in June).
Two different books in their audience but both set in realities that look like the present day but have things like vampires and werewolves inhabiting the world at large. Hamilton’s vampires are out in the open, citizens of the USA, part of society but still supernatural beings; Meyers has hers still in the shadows, but known to a select few, in this case, the 18 year old heroine, Bella.
I’ve been an Anita Blake fan for a long time, and I’ve read many of the complaints by readers as the series, and indeed, the main character, changed significantly over the course of the books. I’m not sure I agree with all those complaints, but I have had my concerns about the growth of the character, which has been exponential to the length of the series. Anita is a supernatural being herself, but she doesn’t fit any of the “rules” that other supernatural creatures adhere to. She has also lost many of her inhibitions and now “dates” at least six men, and has sex with more, sometimes MANY more, in the course of the novels.
Interestingly, in this story, Anita is trying to come to grips with a more emotional block, as opposed to the sexual ones that we’ve been bombarded with in the past. The plethora of sex that has been a concern to many fans, is wound back a bit in this novel (although we do get a bit on girl on girl for what I think might be the first time!), and the character development takes a step forward. And Edward is back – yay! He’s one of my favourite characters, and I love how his relationship with Anita has changed – I read him like a big brother figure to her, although I’m not entirely sure I should.
But now I have another concern. There are so MANY central characters in the story now that some of them are becoming a little superficial. This was most noticable in the Micah character in Harlequin, and Asher was almost totally sidelined. At different times, characters become very two dimensional, and while this book was probably the best one in a while in terms of plot and character, this issue detracted from my enjoyment. We’ve gotten to know these characters well over the past few years, and when there’s simply not enough room in the book to feel their “realness”, it’s a great loss.
On the other side, Bella’s story is much more concise. There are far fewer characters, although to be fair, it’s only the second book of the series, compared to Anita’s 14th (or so, and not counting the extra novelettes and shorts in Anita’s world), but Meyers doesn’t seem to be working on such a grand scale.
The writing in New Moon is simply gorgeous. I *ached* for Bella and her broken heart. I half fell in love with Jacob and his devastating sweetness (although I did pick the plot twist from a fair distance), and I felt for Bella as she struggled with the decision to survive. The story focusses so strongly on the characters that the action is secondary, but this is not derogatory by any means. What happens is as important and well written as who it happens to, but it feels totally real, not just like the characters were thrown into the situation to advance the story. I loved it, really loved it, and that’s why I stayed up til 1 am to finish it. Now I’m going out to find the first one, and get to know Bella better.
I’ve read three vampire novels in the past week. The first one was an Angel novel, and while I enjoyed it, it’s still a TV show to me, and I bring all the background of the show to the book (characterisation, past history, all that), so it’s a different reading experience. What *is* interesting though is the variations in the treatment of vampires and other supernatural beings in the different “worlds”. In Anita Blake, most supernatural beings aren’t inherently bad or good, they’re just like regular people in that they could be either, depending on who they are – some are corrupted by power, or by circumstance, but sometimes the humans are just as dangerous or evil as vampires are often portrayed.
In Meyers’ world, most vampires are “evil”, but some are trying to redeem themselves, although it goes against their nature to resist the call of human blood. At the same time, some of the vampires we are introduced to are very political beings, and are in fact the shadow rulers of cities and have been for hundreds of years (that sounds more far out than it is actually written in the book, trust me!). Most people know the Angel story, where only vampires with a soul can be “good” – all other vamps are definitively “evil”.
I just thought it was an interesting juxtaposition, to read three vampire books in the one week and enjoy them all, for very different reasons, and to see the very different perceptions of vampires portrayed in them, and I wanted to share :)