Friday Night Bites
Published 2009 357 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Vampires in Chicago! You’d think headlines like that would have provoked the fine citizens of the Windy City to take up arms against us bloodsucking fiends. Instead, ten months later, we’re enjoying a celebrity status reserved only for the Hollywood elite – fending off paparazzi, who are only slightly less dangerous than cross-and-stake-wielding slayers. Don’t get me wrong. Joe Public isn’t exactly thrilled to be living side by side with the undead, but at least they haven’t stormed the castle… yet.
All that will change once they learn about Raves, mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle and drink themselves silly. Most civilized vampires frown on this behaviour – but that doesn’t make good copy for a first-time reporter looking to impress his high-society family.
So now my “master” – centuries-old yet gorgeously well-preserved Ethan Sullivan – wants me to reconnect with my own upper-class family and act as liaison between humans and vampires… and to keep the more unsavoury aspects of our existence out of the media. But someone doesn’t want people and vamps to play nicey-nice – someone with an ancient grudge.
Friday Night Bites is the second urban fantasy novel in Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series, which follows the adventures of Merit, a newly-made vampire. Merit was English literature student, who dreamed of one day working as an academic surrounded by dusty scrolls and manuscripts. Her life was turned upside down when she was turned into a vampire against her will, because vampires do not study medieval literature – they band together in Houses, wield swords and owe their allegiance to their vampire masters. So there is plenty of potential for conflict as Merit struggles to find her way in the vampire world.
Some Girls Bite, Neill’s debut novel, got the Chicagoland Vampires series off to a cracking start, with no shortage of drama as Merit moaned about her vampiric fate and entered into a conflicted relationship with Ethan, her vampire Master. Friday Night Bites starts a little after where the events of Some Girls Bite finished and Merit is still moaning and still conflicted about her relationship with Ethan.
Usually relationship conflict is a good thing in a novel (after all a story where everyone agreed with each other and got on nicely would be a bit dull) but here Merit’s conflicts just seem to go on… and on. Merit argues with Morgan, her vampire almost-boyfriend. She fights with her best friend Mallory (over something so trivial it defies belief). She falls out with her old childhood boyfriend. She despises her parents. She can’t decide whether she loves or hates Ethan.
Friday Night Bites is an exhausting round of bad tempered relationships which, for me, managed to completely swamp the mystery/action part of the plot. As a result, the first hundred or so pages of Friday Night Bites made for some slow reading, partly because of the whinging angst and partly because of Merit’s heavy recapping of the events of Some Girls Bites. Either way Friday Nights Bites was a hard story to get into.
Once past the first few chapters, the story was easy enough reading but never managed to achieve the higher level of “gripping” or “compulsive” reading. The mystery element of the plot was suitably obscure, and while it’s not hard to guess who the mastermind of Merit’s troubles is, the path to the big reveal is twisted enough to keep readers entertained.
Now I know from the emails in my mailbox that Chloe Neill’s fans are legion, so I shall probably be in the minority of opinion with this review but Friday Night Bites seemed a disappointing follow-up to Some Girls Bite. To me the main problem with this story was Ethan, and Merit’s relationship with him. Ethan’s character blows hot and cold, one minute is full of desire for Merit, the next he’s cold, aloof and acting like he despises her. He is an odd mixture of stud-muffin and stern father-figure which seems a big turn-off to me.
However, Merit’s reaction to his bipolar behaviour is just as irritating. She happily takes whatever crumbs he gives her, maybe because he’s her vampire Master and she has no choice, or maybe because her own father issues make her think that it’s a normal for a man to act that way. Either way she could do with a little more urban fantasy heroine independence and a little less mindless obedience to “the Master” - especially since she is an urban fantasy heroine.
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