Good Books: Vampires Galore!

Even if you’re not lucky enough to get time off during the holidays (*waves to my brothers and sisters working retail*), something about this time of year makes everything slow down a little. Maybe it’s the cold, maybe it’s lethargy from eating too many cookies and candy canes, but after the holiday rush is over, it’s a laid-back time of year. Which makes it the perfect time to catch up on your reading!

Running out of things to read? The solution might be right in front of you (or at least soon will be). In the pile of gifts you receive this year, you might find yourself with some Amazon gift cards or even cold hard cash. What to do with all that personal shopping fun money? Do what I’d do and buy some books!

Which books, you ask? I have a few suggestions for you, all of the vampire variety. Vampires really have nothing to do with the holiday season (except that blood is red) or with winter, either (except that vampires are cold), but they are intriguing and fun to read about. So without further ado, here are some great vampire novels worth spending your Christmas money on. (And hey, you last minute shoppers out there – these would make great gifts, too!)

For The Vampire Purist: The Noble Dead Saga (Dark High Fantasy)

A number of years ago, my husband picked up Barb and J.C. Hendee’s first Noble Dead book, Dhampir, on a whim. He read it, and promptly went back to the bookstore to find more in the series. Since then, we have both become raving Noble Dead fans, and it’s a fight to see who gets to read each new book first as it’s released.

The early books in the saga focus on Magiere, who has made a living (along with her half-elf partner, Leesil) of slaying vampires – or so she’s led superstitious commoners to believe. But after she and Leesil have retired from the game, they discover that the monsters they’ve pretended to kill for years actually do exist, and are even more awful than they could have imagined. Beyond vampires, they learn of more members of the Noble Dead (intelligent, very powerful undead), and find their quests to destroy these creatures tightly interwoven with their individual missions to learn about (and resolve) their pasts.

The Hendees’ world is highly detailed, their characters are deeply developed, and every book is a page turner. They’ve put a new spin on many classic fantasy elements – undead, elves, dwarves, fay, and even magic – that is fresh and exciting to read. Before you head to the bookstore, remember that it is VERY important to read the books in order of their release! So here’s the reading schedule: Dhampir, Thief of Lives, Sister of the Dead, Traitor to the Blood, Rebel Fay, Child of a Dead God, In Shade and Shadow, Through Stone and Sea, and Of Truth and Beasts (coming in January!).

For The Vampire Modernist: Vampire Memories Series (Urban Fantasy)

For those who prefer urban fantasy/modern vampire stories, I highly recommend Barb Hendee’s solo series. In the Vampire Memories series, vampires live very guarded lives, generally distant from one another in terms of both geography and emotion. Eleisha Clevon makes a visit to one of the few vampire friends she’s kept after receiving a strange phone call from him, and finds herself witness to his violent suicide-by-sunlight. Unfortunately, two police officers are also witness to the display, and when they find the remains of body after body in the old vampire’s house, Eleisha realizes she has to leave town in a hurry. She manages to get away with her friend’s address book – in which he broke the vampire rule of never putting another vampire’s location in writing. The policemen (who are more than what they seem) follow her, and she soon has other vampires on her trail as well as she tries to make sense of it all and set up a new life – one that she may end up inviting other vampires into, as she has learned something that will change their existence as they know it.

Barb’s modern vampires hold true to vampire cannon, with some very cool new twists. As with the Noble Dead novels, the characters are personable and intriguing, the plot is multi-faceted and thrilling, and the setting in the Pacific Northwest is vivid and alive. The series consists of three books so far: Blood Memories, Hunting Memories, and Memories of Envy.

For The True Blood Fan: Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse Series (Big Fun, Or Vampire Lite)

OK. Let’s just get one thing out of the way, right away. I know the Sookie Stackhouse novels are campy, and mess with some established vampire rules (which we geeks are experts on). Some people say they’re no better than the Twilight novels. I completely disagree there. The Stackhouse novels aren’t targeted to tweenage girls, they’re actually well-written, and it’s pretty clear in the first few pages of Dead After Dark that A) things are different with vampires in this world, and B) these books don’t take themselves seriously. And you know what? That’s OK!

(To be clear: I am not implying that Charlaine Harris is not a serious author, or doesn’t take her writing seriously. She is, and she does. But I don’t think she’s trying to establish new rules for How Vampires Should Be.)

When I read Dead After Dark, I found myself grinning through most of the book. It was just plain fun to read! I guess the series could be called beach reading (ski lodge reading, for the winter months?) – the books are light, quick reads that are highly entertaining, even if they do contain the occasional scene that seems ridiculous. (How do they compare to the HBO series? Couldn’t tell ya – I’ve never seen a single episode. Maybe that should be my New Year’s resolution…but that’s a whole ‘nother column. ) I’m still working my way through this series myself, so no spoilers, peeps! In order, the books are Dead After Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead, From Dead to Worse, Dead and Gone, and Dead in the Family.

Take a couple hours after the Christmas shopping crowds have cleared and treat yourself to one or more of these vampire series. Simply put, they’re good books!

Have you read any of these series? What do you think of them (careful for spoilage, please!)? Do you have another favorite vampire series you’d like others to know about?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

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