Nightwalker: This is how it’s done

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book review Jocelynn Drake Dark Days 1. NightwalkerNightwalker by Jocelynn Drake

I’ve been a fan of Buffy for a long time, but there was one thing I always wondered about. Namely, why would a vampire ever bother going to Sunnydale, knowing the Slayer lived there and was likely to dust the vamp as soon as he or she arrived in town? One would think a vamp could live a longer, more peaceful life simply by avoiding the Slayer’s stomping grounds, right?

After the first chapter of Jocelynn Drake’s Nightwalker, I think I get it. 600-year-old vampire Mira squares off against seasoned vampire hunter Danaus in a scene that just crackles with adrenaline. Danaus is a danger to Mira, but he’s also an equal to spar with, and the chase is exhilarating. Drake hooked me here and never let me go.

Before too long, Mira and Danaus find themselves making an uneasy truce in order to battle an enemy who threatens them both: the naturi, who have the distinction of being among the scariest iterations of the fae I’ve ever seen in urban fantasy. Mira has history with the naturi. Five hundred years ago, she was rescued from torture at their hands on a bloody night she doesn’t remember very well. Her quest to stop the naturi’s new plot will force her to revisit this trauma and to question everything she thought she knew about vampire politics and whom to trust.

Drake strikes the perfect balance between action and characterization. The globe-trotting, swashbuckling plot never lets up for a minute, yet there’s plenty of character development and interaction as well. We care about the characters, so the combat is never mindless hack-and-slash. The pace is relentless, so the story never slips into brooding inertia.

Mira is a delight. If you’re worried that a 600-year-old protagonist might be too powerful, don’t be. She’s actually more realistic than some urban fantasy heroines who are impossibly perfect despite, theoretically, being ordinary human women in their twenties. Mira makes mistakes, gets her butt kicked a couple of times, and isn’t good at everything. She mentions early in the book that she doesn’t know her way around guns. She gets a few lessons later on, so she’s no longer completely inept with firearms, but she doesn’t become Instant Annie Oakley, Just Add Blood. Mira is just powerful enough to win some of her battles, and just vulnerable enough to lose some, and that’s the way it should be.

And as for the relationship between Mira and Danaus — let’s just say they burn up the pages without even doing anything.

Also fun were the little nods to some of the older, better Anne Rice novels. See if you can spot the characters who are (almost certainly) tributes to Lestat and Louis!

I was frustrated with the ending of Nightwalker, but it’s the kind of frustration that gives me something to root for in the next book, Dayhunter. Go get ’em, Mira.

Dark Days — (2008-2012) Publisher: For centuries Mira has been a nightwalker — an unstoppable enforcer for a mysterious organization that manipulates earth-shaking events from the darkest shadows. But elemental mastery over fire sets her apart from others of her night-prowling breed… and may be all that prevents her doom. The foe she now faces is human: the vampire hunter called Danaus, who has already destroyed so many undead. For Mira, the time has come to hunt… or be hunted.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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