Saturday 29 December 2007

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

Jaz Parks works for the CIA as a partner to Vayl - CIA assassin and vampire. A supposedly straightforward assignment becomes complicated by the threatened release of a deadly virus. But it's even more complicated than straightforward terrorism, and with the end of the world looming, time is running out for Jaz and Vayl.

This is one of those books that ended up on my Amazon wishlist with me not quite being aware of it. But I am so glad I bought it! When it arrived with a Patricia Briggs quote on the cover, I thought hmmm, maybe I did know what I was doing.

Jaz is a female character who knows (relatively speaking) her own mind. She knows what her capabilities are and isn't afraid to stand up for herself, or for others. Written in first person point of view, this allows us to see that as well as a sarcastic outer voice, she has a sarcastic inner voice too. Which I love.

This is not a romance, though there is a strong chemistry between Jaz and Vayl, and their partnership is the central relationship of the story. In some ways it is like a marriage, their lives depend on one another, and they each have to know how the other thinks. I also have the feeling that their relationship will deepen over time. There is an emotional centre to the book, it's not all about killing things and saving the world.

Vayl is written extremely well. Unlike a lot of modern vampires, you believe he's been alive for nearly three centuries. There's a wonderful contrast between them - Jaz, so modern and now, Vayl a product of his long life and the experiences he's lived through. He has a delightful tendency to take Jaz literally ( a la Anya, my favourite Buffy character).
"If he's going to put some poor kid's face back on straight tonight I'll do the hula."
"Lovely dance, that. The story is all in the hands. I did not know you knew-"
"Vayl, I was kidding."
I don't think since I reviewed Magic Bites have I wanted to quote so much dialogue and share how good I think it is.

It's not all quips and banter though. There is an edge of darkness that runs through the story. Jennifer Rardin has written one of the most brutal, horrific and real vampire attacks I can remember reading for quite a while. It's clear that they are voracious predators, and it's only an individual's personal integrity that prevents them from becoming a monster.

You're also aware whilst reading that something very bad and very significant has happened to Jaz in the not so distant past. She's missing parts of herself, she'll have flashes of memory or something will happen and she'll be remembering an incident from her childhood. This gives the first person point of view an added depth, taking us further into her experiences. Even when we initially find out what happened to her, it still isn't the whole story.

In places I did feel the pacing was a little off. Kind of like when you want to fast forward through a movie to get to the good stuff. But this definitely makes it into my top five books of the year.

We're left at the end with the battle won, but the war still being fought. Luckily book 2 is already available so I don't have to wait to find out what happens next.

Also available
Another One Bites the Dust - Bk 2

Coming Soon
Biting the Bullet - Bk 3 - Feb 2008


Anonymous said...

Oh, I saw this book on the shelves but was put off by the cutesy title - it made me think it was chick-lit vampire-style.

I'll have to take a closer look the next time I see it :)


Anonymous said...


You look like you read a lot of books. I was wondering... there was a book that came out earlier this year that I read the first chapter of online and I couldn't find it later (of course I didn't write down the title or author). It was similar in genre to what you blog about and I thought you might know the book. It is about a woman who is a necromancer or medium and in the first chapter she goes to a crime scene to 'raise' the person who had been murdered so that they could be questioned. It is told from the point of view of one of the men on the scene who calls for her help (he may or may not be a vampire). Can you think of any books that came out that might meet this description? I have looked everywhere! Thanks!!


Nicole said...

This is one that intrigued me as well, but I have yet to buy/read it. I'll have to attempt to remember it next time I go to the book store. (I've been trying to do my book shopping at our local book store, when possible.)

LesleyW said...

Bookdaze - You're not the first person I know who's said they were put off because it looked like chick lit. I think we've come to expect dark/urban fantasy to have black covers. I think especially in the UK where Piatkus who publish Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R.Ward, J.D.Robb, use black covers for these authors.

Orbit publish Jennifer Rardin and I would keep an eye out for their white covers. Although Kelley Armstrong is my main Orbit author and she has dark covers. They also publish Justina Robson (I hope I've remembered her name correctly) and Marianne de Pierres who write I think I'd call it techno fantasy. Both those authors, along with Jennifer Rardin have white covers, and I wouldn't call any of them chick-lit. I haven't read JR or MDP (except a quick flick in Borders) so I'm not recommending them as such, just using them as examples. I keep meaning to try both JR and MDP but haven't got round to it.

I know when I'm pushed for time, and I've nipped into a bookshop for a ten minutes browse. (LOL). Unless I'm looking for something specific, I will speed up my searching by spine colour. So I'd recommend if you use this method - Piatkus - black, Orbit - white, black.

LesleyW said...

K - my first response is to say Anita Blake vampire hunter. Who is probably the most famous necromancer in urban fantasy. :) Her first appearance in Guilty Pleasures had a more crime fiction feel, and the story includes vampires. If you go to Laurell K Hamilton's website there should be excerpts up for you to read. If that's not the book, I have a couple more suggestions below.

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris. Though the character Harper doesn't really talk to the dead, but she finds bodies.

No Humans Involved - Kelley Armstrong. Jaime Vegas is a necromancer.

Only problem being with all these books is that I'm pretty sure they're told from the POV of the protagonist. And I think only NHI was released this year, but GP may have been reissued. This is gonna bug me now, until I know what this book is. :) Let me know if any of these titles help, if not I'll see if I can come up with some more.

LesleyW said...

K - Also check out Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow. Features a necromancer.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lesley - It was fantastic meeting up with you at the signing, I am glad I got this book as a freebie. Jammy or what !!!! I am going to get stuck into it as soon as I finish my current book.

Anonymous said...

LOL. And I thought *I* was obsessed by covers :-D Thanks for the tip!

Re K's query, I really want to know what book this is now too. I don't think it's the Armstrong, Harris or Hamilton book just because of the first chapter description - yes, I actually checked the excerpts online - but nothing else springs to mind!

Carolyn Crane said...

This sounds like an interesting book, and I'm intrigued by a vampire that actually feels old - a lot of times, the vampires don't seem so old, and I forget they are. And I love a first person narrative.

You know, I'm put off by those bright covers, too. Even if an urban fantasy is humorous, it can still be dark in content, so why make it candy-colored?

Hey K: I had the same thoughts as others - if it wasn't that man's pov, I'd say Hamilton. I would suggest you ask over at vampire wire
which is a sort of clearinghouse for paranormal reviews.

LesleyW said...

Mystery Book - The frustrating thing is, it's going to bug me now until we find out what it is.

I'm sure I read a description of a book this year. And thought - that sounds a bit Anite Blake. But I thought that was the new Jenna Black series with the exorcist. Which I don't think fits either.

LesleyW said...

Carolyn Jean - thanks for posting the vampire wire link. It's on my bookmarked sites now. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi All,

I was the one who posted about the mystery book. THANK YOU to everbody who posted suggestions. I have checked out the books suggested and none of those are it-but I really appreciate the help. Honestly, I have spent more hours looking for this book than I care to contemplate :) I just can't seem to give up. I will read the postings at that other site you listed Carolyn Jean see if I can find anything. If anyone happens to come across it please let me know... Thanks!!


LesleyW said...

K - if you ever find out what it is, please let us know.