The Good and Not-So-Good of Series Books...

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Since I'm on a massive vampire kick right now, it's only right for me to write about the latest in two series I've been following. First up, is the ever popular Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz which recently added the fourth book to its roster, The Van Alen Legacy. The book picks up right where its predecessor, Revelations, left off. Fallout continues from the unleashing of the demon Leviathan when the vampires were in Brazil, the same unleashing that killed Schuyler's grandfather. All readers develop a coping strategy to deal with Mimi, who, while hard-to-like, really is a fallen angel on the side of right and who is working as a venator (with the hot and arrogant Silver Blood turned good, Kingsley) tracking down demons and Bliss' missing sister Jordan, all the while wearing designer boots in South American jungles. Her bonding with Jack is still on, but Jack is desperately trying to help Schuyler who is in Europe on the run with her human familiar and best friend, Oliver. It seems the New York coven doesn't believe she was innocent in the death of her grandfather because they all have their heads in the sand. Bliss meanwhile has disappeared off the face of the earth as she has finally understood that the ultimate fallen angel, Lucifer himself, resides in her body and is attempting to reclaim his power by using her form to manifest himself. She slowly begins to fight back with varying degrees of success.

Whew! Doesn't it sound like I've just described a storyline of a soap opera season? Now, I love these books but this one really seemed much, much more complicated and hard to follow than the previous books which were already approaching the saturation point in terms of detail. I empathize that it's hard when each vampire (except Schuyler) has multiple previous incarnations and their original name that they had in heaven and they often call each other by these names or refer to past lives and the people in past lives by their names then, not now. Sheesh.

BUT. Now we have seven gates guarded by seven families and all the people who existed in Caligula's Rome (guess who was Caligula? Yep. Lucifer, big shocker.) There's a European coven (who knew?) who doesn't like the New York coven, except for Lawrence Van Alen, Schuyler's dead grandfather. Jack and Mimi are going to be bonded but they each really, really like other people and are tempted to chuck off responsibility after a few thousand years of being really, really obedient to the vampire rules. Schuyler's Mom Allegra suddenly decides to wake up and snack on an orderly because she's worried about the situation with Lawrence dying, but she only gives Schuyler a good 10 minutes of loving Mom action before she disappears to do her own work and she never gives Bliss the time of day despite the fact that we found out in the third book that Bliss is her daughter too. They aren't very maternal, are they?

I will admit to a low level irritation as the chapters jumped between Schuyler, Jack, Mimi, and Bliss and all this complicated Lucifer/Rome plot kept getting added. I don't like it when I think I need a flow chart of who was who whenever (there's a small chart in the back of the book, but hardly sufficient). I didn't feel that the characters were further developed, excepting Mimi who really is coming into her own, but Jack comes off as almost a cardboard cutout rather than a hero and lover to Schuyler. I'm really hoping the next book in the series, Misguided Angel, can pull some loose ends together (rather than add new loose ends) and develop the characters a little. I'm still pulling for you, Melissa!

Now for a better series. Richelle Mead doesn't shy away from detail in her carefully drawn vampire world as we follow Rose Hathaway, but that doesn't stop her from developing her characters further. After the epic battle against the Strigoi in Shadow Kissed, Rose is devastated. Dimitri is gone and she's decided to leave her best friend and bondmate, Lissa, behind at the Academy while she goes to hunt him down and fulfill her promise to him. Her journey is needless to say a complicated one, particularly when she takes breaks from her own situation by escaping into Lissa's mind to check on her and realizes something is very wrong back at Vampire Academy, with Lissa acting strange and surrounded by some very suspicious characters.

I don't want to give the plot away, but I was floored as usual by Richelle Mead's writing ability. Her character development is fantastic - Rose continues to grow and change and her time with Dimitri's family is so poignant that you feel your heart tearing a little along with hers. Add in some personal family developments, a great setting in Russia, and us finding out more about other people endowed, like Lissa, with the spirit element and it makes for super reading. That and the small, tiny kernel of hope given to us at the end of the book about a possible resolution to Rose's unhappiness and I'm dying for book #6. What would make my day is if I could get an ARC at ALA Midwinter in Boston this year. I plan on doing quite a bit of begging to see if I can get one.