Review: Night of the Vampires

Night of the Vampires by Heather Graham

Quick Take:
The setting and integration with actual historical events is quite riveting. However, the romance and character development felt a bit flat to me. All told, I'm not sorry to have read it.

Book Description:
     As a soldier, Cole Granger fights to restore peace to a world divided by war and evil. His extraordinary talents are enlisted to prevent the president's horrific premonition from becoming reality. Nothing—and no one—will stop him from fulfilling his duty. Especially the mysterious young woman who claims to be his comrade's sister. Enemy or ally, he can't yet determine. But one thing he knows for certain is that he must keep her close. Very close.
     Megan Fox's quest to uncover a family secret leads her to the center of vampire riots in West Virginia. To find the answers she needs—and clear herself of suspicion—she must join forces with Cole. They work undercover to bring justice, but they can't disguise the potent attraction and need that draw them together. Yet trust doesn't come easily for Cole…and when Megan unearths the grim, dark truth, can she trust him to believe her?
This book initially caught my eye when I saw the title (anything starting with "Night of the" is bound to be horror-rific!) and read the book's description, noted above. You'll notice that the blurb is not completely clear on the setting of the story. So I'll begin this review by noting that the book is a piece of historical fiction and urban fantasy. It takes place on the borderlands created by the American Civil War, and involves characters that have varying degrees of involvement with the conflict. Against this backdrop, a threat has secretly yet violently been appearing throughout the country: vampirism. Far from seductive and romantic, this affliction of frenzy and bloodthirst threatens to stretch and possibly break the already-delicate tensions of the war.

I found the choice of setting to be quite appealing for the insertion of a vampire tale. Think about it: what better time and place for vampirism to boom than during a bloody ground war? Ms. Graham has obviously done a boatload of research on the Civil War; it absolutely shows in her descriptions. One is thrown into the chaos of battle at recognizable locales and amidst historically significant political events. Having myself lived in Washington, DC I could clearly envision the city at that critical stage in time. The overcrowded medic tents on the mall green, the construction of museums, the lush forests on the edge of the town…it's all quite vivid.

Given the attention paid to the setting, I would say that one ought to have at least a passing interest in Civil War history. A basic familiarity with names, dates, battles or organizations of the era wouldn't hurt, either.  If one doesn't have either, however, I'd imagine they would by book's end. ^_^

As for the specific plot threads, I was less taken. The book centers on two characters, the stoic human sheriff Cole Granger (whom one will recognize if they've read Graham's Night of the Wolves, which is based in the same "world"), and the intense half-vamp Megan Fox (no relation to the actress ^_^). Theirs is a slow burn romance--there are no sensual or even romantic implications until well into the story. And the connection is quite subtle as compared to the plot thread involving the vampire threat. For a book billed as having "eternal passion" and "potent attraction," I was surprised by the fact. But I must admit, it was rather sweet.

I also didn't find the action scenes to be extremely visual or thrilling, though a fair amount of intrigue was infused into the plot. Indeed, the pace of the plot is not frenetic (even when it intends to be), but more temperate with a slowly building threat. All told, I wasn't gripped throughout, only mildly curious as to how the various threads would tie together. There was a series of attacks every so often, interspersed with anticipation of said attacks. Wasn't terribly thrilling, to me (with a couple of exceptions).

I did enjoy being in Megan's head. She's a strong willed yet vulnerable character, and I wish more was revealed and discussed about her. There was a plot element that was hinted as important, but didn't come to much in my opinion. I can only assume it will be used as a piece for a future book. Or perhaps it might have been more understandable had I read Night of the Wolves? I don't know.

Overall, I found this book to be worth reading. I was quite taken by the broader elements, though left wanting with the more specific ones. And whatever this book is officially billed as, I'd call it an historical urban fantasy with some romantic elements.

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

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