Books with a Bite: Two Contemporary Vampire Novels

Right now, vampires are hotter than the sun that will reduce their immortal corpses to flaming dust. Here are two reviews of two contemporary vampire novels.

Insatiable by Meg Cabot
c. 2010
[Adult Fiction]

Like everyone else, Meena Harper is sick of vampires. Unfortunately, the immortal undead are not only a plotline on the soap opera for which she writes, but a very real problem that presently invades her personal life. Meena unwittingly finds herself in love with Lucien Antonescu, a vampire prince. Being in love with a vampire is complicated enough, but Meena’s relationship with Lucien also lands her in the middle of a vampire war. Pursued also by a slightly unbalanced vampire hunter, Meena must find a way to deal with the undead without forfeiting her own life.

Meg Cabot is widely hailed as a master of her genre. In Insatiable, she succeeds in telling a story that is entertaining. Where Insatiable struggles is in the narration and its own politics. Cabot is far more successful and endearing as a first person narrator; in Insatiable, the shifting perspective often feels clumsy and inauthentic. Cabot also vociferously declaims the inherent sexism and misogyny of the standard vampire myth, but significant chunks of novel are frequently inconsistent with Cabot’s professions of feminism. Overall, Insatiable is a light and entertaining read, but definitely not one of Cabot’s better works.

Pros: Entertaining, quick read.

Cons: Inconsistent narrative quality, inconsistent politics.

Review by Martha

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
c. 2004
[Adult Fiction]

It is difficult to express how much I love this book without resorting to the use of excessive exclamation points. Fantasy author Neil Gaiman puts it best in his review of the novel: “Pretty much perfect.”

Sunshine is set in a post-apocalyptic world where vampires are not drool-worthy hunks, but extremely dangerous predators. No one escapes from vampires. And no one ever thinks about saving a vampire from a second death. Rae “Sunshine” Seddon does both and the consequences of her actions lead her on a fascinating journey of self-discovery.

There are a lot of things to like about Sunshine—it is deeply funny and set in a richly developed and original world. However, my favorite part of the novel is how very different it is from the standard vampire myth. Vampires are presented as dangerous rather than romantic and are consequently far more interesting than the dark, brooding dreamboats of contemporary vampire fiction.

Pros: Vivid, engrossing world, original and inventive take on vampires, excellent character development.

Cons: There is no sequel. This is not to say that Sunshine lacks a resolution–rather, it’s so well done that it both satisfies and leaves you wanting more.

Review by Martha

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