Sunday, May 5, 2013

Last Breath by Rachel Caine

The events of Bite Club (the previous book in the series) wrapped up the long running Bishop arc in this series, so Last Breath would be the start of a new crisis in Morganville.

Initially that could be seen as the marriage of new vampire Michael Glass to his human girlfriend Eve. The engagement party pits the humans and the vampires against each other and when the head of Morganville's ruling vampire community hands down the edict that she will not permit the marriage to go ahead Eve slaps the French vampire's face. I actually thought Eve was rather lucky to get away with that. As Amelie herself said only two people had ever done that before, they were vampires and they were both dead.

Thoughts of impending nuptials were however driven away by the arrival of a messenger from Blacke. Blacke is a nearby town that appeared in Kiss of Death (the eighth book in the series). It is also ruled by vampires and the messenger carries a message from Amelie's Blacke based equivalent; Morley. It says one thing only: RUN.

Soon after vampires start going missing and Claire Danvers notices a mysterious newcomer. It transpires that the reason Amelie set up a vampire friendly town in Morganville wasn't just because it was out of the way, it had to do with it being in an arid environment. Apparently what vampires fear most are the draug. In this particular mythology the draug are water based vampires. Rachel Caine ties mermaids and sirens into this (she doesn't mention the nixies, the poor nixies are always forgotten about). A draug or draugr is from Norse mythology and they are a kind of vampire. The sea-draugr definitely do have an affinity with water, hence the name.

The land vampires have fought the draugr before and failed, so they decide to run. It is Claire and her friends who convince them that the humans and vampires of Morganville should stand and fight for their town.

One very interesting thing happens in this installment. Claire dies. One of the draugr, a leader called Magnus, snaps her neck. She spends time as a ghost (I have the distinct impression the Last Breath of the title is Claire's) and meets Hiram Glass, one of Michael's ancestors, largely the reason the house itself is alive and has power, but he was a very nasty old ghost. Myrnin does manage to restore Claire to her body again. It didn't really make a lot of sense, but I find with books like the Morganvilles it's probably best not to dwell too long on the logic behind some of the 'science'.

Because Claire is 'dead' for a good part of the narrative and also stuck in the house (she spends a lot of it hiding from Hiram in the attic), she can't always be where the action is. Rachel Caine used this technique in Bite Club to tell the story from Shane's point of view and she does it again in Last Breath. This time she actually included an explanatory note at the start of the book to let readers know that characters other than Claire would tell some of the story and this could be recognised by the characters name at the start of the chapter. I thought that was a bit of overkill, but maybe there were complaints that she kind of sprung the Shane thing on them. I also have to keep in mind that Morganville's target audience is between 13 and 20.

I do find it interesting that Claire's point of view is third person, but the other characters are all first person. Aside from Claire, the author seems to have the best handle on Shane. The other characters, especially Amelie, don't have very convincing voices.

Last Breath ends on a cliffhanger and is clearly the beginning of a new story arc. It's quite a fun entry. Kiss of Death remains my favourite, but this one sets up a very juicy continuation that promises plenty of action.

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