I pretty much avoid sparkly vampire stories. I’ve never read Twilight, and have not seen the movies. I am only vaguely familiar with Anne Rice’s stuff. I have been “self-sheltered” from vampire fantasy fiction. But when I saw that Penguin Books was re-releasing Rachel Caine’s The Morganville Vampires in omnibus editions, I asked for a copy of the first one (Glass Houses and The Dead Girl’s Dance). I wanted to get a feel for this whole area of fantasy about which I was mostly clueless.
Glass Houses and The Dead Girl’s Dance were both written from the perspective of 16-(almost 17!)-year-old Claire Danvers, an exceptionally smart girl who got into college early. She wants to go to Yale or MIT, but before her parents will allow her to live on the other side of the country, they are making her do a two-year term at a close college in Morganville, Texas. This proves to be a rather unwise decision on the part of her parents, as Morganville happens to have a lot of vampires. Our little Claire ends up in the thick of them rather quickly.
In Glass Houses, Claire is getting harassed and beaten by other girls in her dorm, so she takes refuge in an off-campus house with three roommates. Claire and her roommates become the four central characters of the story as they try to unravel the bloody secrets of Morganville while trying not to piss off the local vampires. Glass Houses ends and The Dead Girl’s Dance begins in the middle of the same knife swing. In The Dead Girl’s Dance, the four girls get deeper into the vampire doodoo, and it’s fun to speculate about how they are going to get out of it without nuking the entire town.
The Morganville Vampires books are definitely intended for teenage girls. I suffered through several detailed descriptions of hunky dudes with windblown hair, various shoe selections, and lots of kissy-face action. But I knew what I was getting into and, to be honest, none of the girly stuff was overdone. I felt that Rachael Caine wrote the extremely smart 16-year-old perspective rather well.
I have only a few real complaints, mostly with the first book: In Glass Houses all of the characters except for Claire felt a bit shallow and the plot felt rushed. It’s almost as if Ms. Caine needed to get this opening book out of the way in order to get into the more juicy bits of her story. In The Dead Girl’s Dance several characters go through changes that bring them more depth and the plot is more complicated and feels more cohesive. I wondered whether these two books were originally written together, because it certainly felt that way.
I enjoyed The Morganville Vampires books, even though I’m way outside the intended demographic. I think it’s safe to recommend them to any fantasy fan that needs a break from their usual fare. I can definitely recommend them to our teenage readers. I would advise parents to read to them first, though, especially if your young one is under 15 or 16. There is some suggestive content, but all of it falls within a PG rating.
There are seven Morganville Vampires books out now, with #8 (Kiss of Death) on the way. I hope Penguin plans on publishing the rest in the 2-for-1 package, for it makes it a worthy purchase.
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