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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Red-Headed Stepchild

Parajunkee's View Vampire Reading Challenge #4 - Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

I knew from the first sentence of this book that Sabina Kane was my kind of heroine. Tough, sarcastic, with a taste for black nail polish (and a ridiculous 'I'm so badass even my name is badass' name, but for me that's one of the perks of urban fantasy...). According to Sabina, digging graves plays hell with a manicure. Unfortunately, when you're a vampire assassin, it kind of fits with the job description.

Sabina doesn't have much of a good time during this novel; she is regarded as an outcast by the Lilim (vampires) as she is a mixed-blood - her father was a mage - but does the dirty work for the Dominae, leaders of the Lilim, striving for their approval and acceptance, as well as the vaguest signs of warmth from her grandmother, one of the three Dominae.

Sabina has been trained to follow orders like the most loyal soldier, and does so, even when she is ordered to execute a friend for his treachery. This leads to her being coerced into infiltrating a growing rival vampire cult to spy on behalf of the Dominae - a complex and dangerous mission, more so when the supernatural communities are already teetering on the brink of war.

The undercover mission pulls Sabina into a tangled web of politics, intrigue, and deceit, until she is no longer sure who she can trust and where her loyalties lie.

Worse still, she has accidentally trapped her unwanted, shopping-channel-addict demon flatmate (they met when he appeared in her living room and tried to kill her) in the form of a hairless cat; and an annoying but hot mage called Adam Lazarus alternates between stalking her, seducing her, attempting to convince her to learn how to use her magic, oh yeah, and dropping huge life-changing family secrets into the mix.

At times the plot becomes a tiny bit convoluted - remembering who is betraying who - and Sabina is often a little slow to catch on, surprising for such a battle-hardened, ass-kicking assassin - but overall this was a great read with a charming cast. The romance aspect is light and doesn't take up too many pages; although there is the usual sexual tension and sexy scenes, the book is neither heavily erotic nor too lovey-dovey. The story is fast-paced and energetic so despite all the political intrigue does not get bogged down at any point. For a debut novel, it's fantastic.

Another different take on vampire myth - in Sabina's world, vampires are not undead, simply supernatural, and they are marked by their red hair, ranging from strawberry blonde for the young vamps to deep mahogany for the oldest beings. (Due to her mixed heritage, Sabina's is bright red streaked with black.) When I picked up the book, the title made me expect faeries rather than vampires, so this was an interesting twist.

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