Vampires of Manhattan is the first book in Melissa de la Cruz’s latest urban paranormal fantasy series, THE NEW BLUE BLOODS COVEN. This new series is a continuation of her BLUE BLOODS septalogy, and Vampires of Manhattan picks up ten years after the events of Gates of Paradise, the seventh and last BLUE BLOODS book. Though there are many moments of exposition for the previous series, I would not recommend starting with Vampires of Manhattan, as readers may have a hard time keeping track of the complicated history and mythology de la Cruz presents. For my own part, I found Wikipedia to be tremendously helpful.
As is suggested by the series and novel titles, de la Cruz’s vampires belong to old-money families living in New York City, and are actually fallen angels who sided with Lucifer in his war against the Almighty; though these angels later repented for their betrayal, they were cursed to live on Earth in human bodies and experience an endless cycle of reincarnation, drinking human blood for sustenance and referring to themselves as “Blue Bloods.” There are also “Silver Bloods,” who did not repent and were banished to Hell with Lucifer, and seem to be locked in perpetual war with the Blue Bloods. Silver Bloods attack humans, while Blue Bloods protect them in an effort to spread peace on Earth and gain favor with the Almighty.
Beyond being trapped on Earth and unable to re-enter Paradise, there don’t seem to be any drawbacks to being a Blue Blood. They have tremendous wealth and influence, superior senses and reflexes, special powers like telepathy and the ability to access dreams, and if they so choose, the human body they’re inhabiting can be immortal. Along with the standard-issue vampire perks, Blue Bloods also can go out in sunlight, drink any beverage or eat any food they choose, and sleep in beds (as opposed to coffins filled with their native soil). Any preconceived notions of “typical vampire behavior” are a result of the Coven’s intentionally disseminated Conspiracy, the goal of which is to confuse humans and keep the true identity of the Blue Bloods safely hidden away. But with such an embarrassment of riches, it’s difficult to see any pathos or feel an emotional response other than irritation for many of the characters. Humans are being found murdered in the sewers of New York City beside pentagrams drawn in their own blood, which should probably be cause for alarm, but the current Regent of the Coven is more concerned with the upcoming Four Hundred Ball he’s holding at the Museum of Modern Art. The Ball itself is a celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the Coven’s defeat of Lucifer, but why should Oliver worry about the possible return of Almighty Enemy No. 1 when there are paintings to arrange and caterers to hire?
Vampires of Manhattan is largely presented through the perspectives of Araminta Scott, Oliver Hazard-Perry, and Mimi Martin. There’s a section in the middle of the novel which switches between Oliver’s human familiar, Seraphina “Finn” Chase, and Mimi’s husband Kingsley (the Duke of Hell), and takes place five weeks prior to the chapters headed by Ara, Oliver, and Mimi. The narratives themselves are surprisingly light on dialogue, focusing primarily on the inner monologues and reminiscences of one character at a time. While de la Cruz uses this technique to explain what the past ten years have been like for these people, as well as to put their inner lives on display for the reader, it frequently has the effect of bringing the present events to a complete stop. At one point, Kingsley and Mimi are in the middle of an argument, and one line of spoken dialogue is followed by ten paragraphs of Kingsley’s thoughts, then another line of dialogue which is meant to have followed shortly after the first. Another entire chapter is spent on Finn’s thoughts while she waits for someone to meet her. It’s difficult to maintain a sense of dread — where are the pentacles coming from, who’s killing these young women, will the entire party be derailed, will the Nephilim strike now that their leader’s been destroyed — when characters are so obsessed with their own thoughts.
Mind you, I do think that this self-absorption was an intentional choice on de la Cruz’s part, because of Araminta Scott and Edon Marrak. Ara is a Blue Blood member of the Venators (secret vampire police) and Edon is a Hellhound (in human form) who are tasked with investigating the murders, pentagrams, and a drug-dealing ring which could be connected. They’re action-driven, no-nonsense characters who are more concerned with solving this case than what vintage is listed on a bottle of white wine. Ara’s a classic hard-nosed cop while Edon has a more laid-back approach, and their dialogue and growing respect for each other are the best part of Vampires of Manhattan. Their partnership is very well-written, and I frequently found myself wishing that their narrative had comprised more of the novel. I don’t typically read urban paranormal fantasy, but I’d consider reading a series about the two of them hunting down drug-dealing demons or rogue vampires.
If you’re a fan of this genre, then I think Vampires of Manhattan will hit all the right buttons for you. I tend not to seek out books like this one, but I can easily see why it would be appealing to the New Adult market. It has scheming socialites, young characters with old souls, a complex mythos, and plenty of the small details which make New York City unique. Fair warning for parents of younger teens: there’s a small amount of gore and a few graphic sexual encounters. Other than that, it’s an entertaining diversion.