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Friday Night Bites: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel by Chloe Neill
Review by Drew Bittner
NAL Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451227935
Date: 06 October 2009 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

She survived her initiation into the world of Chicago's vampire families--but now Merit, former (reluctant) member of Chicago high society and former grad student, has to solve an awful lot of problems in a big hurry. If she doesn't find out why an ex-boyfriend is suddenly so hostile and how human-vampire relations may undergo a very big change... well, her new unlife may be short-lived!

In Friday Night Bites, Chloe Neill follows up Some Girls Bite with the further adventures of Merit, who became a vampire (unwillingly) just as vampires were outed to the general public. Since she was the daughter of a very high profile family, she attracts plenty of attention, even without being the Sentinel (chief enforcer) of her vampire family.

To make her life more complicated, her relationship with the head of a rival family is being exploited by her family's master, Ethan Sullivan, who'd also made Merit responsible for getting him into the society circles she spent her life avoiding. Needless to say, this is not improving Merit's mood.

Then there's the little matter of her ex-boyfriend Nicholas, a journalist who's turned a very hostile eye on the vampire world. Has he learned about the raves, where vampires drink freely from human party-goers? Or that a vampire criminal has used her influence to be released--and returned to Chicago? Either discovery would put a big dent in nascent human-vampire relations...and that appears to be exactly the goal of a shadowy enemy, one who's been nursing a grudge for a very long time.

Merit and Ethan navigate a party held by her ex-boyfriend's family, where she deals with issues left from her pre-vampire days (including a reunion with her family), then both delve into the looming problems they face. Merit finds out far more about the history of the supernatural in Chicago than she ever suspected--and realizes that history is the name of this game, once the true menace comes into focus.

Neill creates an engaging cast of characters in Bites, establishing Merit, her former roommate and best friend Mallory (who's also a sorceress-in-training), Mallory's boyfriend and Merit's martial arts coach Catcher, Ethan, Merit's almost-boyfriend Morgan, and more as vivid and entertaining folks. Their problems and conflicts are familiar to fans of the genre, but the way Neill writes them, breathes life into themes that have been well-served in the urban fantasy genre.

That isn't a knock on Neill's writing, by the way. Every writer whose characters are supernatural faces the same basic problems and many find the same solutions; the trick is making them seem new and unexpected, which is harder than it looks. On that score, Neill succeeds admirably.

The story itself balances between romantic triangle and supernatural mystery, with plenty to please readers of either (or both) persuasions. Merit works through the basics of investigation as she figures out what is happening, both the obvious and not-so-obvious, while the nature of her romantic problems comes to a head (with the promise of more to be revealed in future novels).

Fans of urban fantasy have a new writer to watch. Here's to another installment of Merit's adventures! The title character may bite but the novel surely does not.

Recommended.

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