Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Review - "Night World: Daughters of Darkness" by LJane Smith

Night World: Daughters of Darkness

These girls are to die for...

"Daughters of Darkness" is part 2 in the 10-part "Night World" book series by LJane Smith. The Night World is the society of vampires, werewolves, witches, shapeshifters, and other creatures of the night all around the world. They only have two rules: never tell a human about the Night World, and never fall in love with them. These books are tales of instances when these rules are broken, culminating into an apocalyptic war that will change the fate of the world.

In the first Night World book "Secret Vampire" we are introduced to a rather villainous man by the name of Ash Redfern. He's a descendant of the most powerful vampire family in existence, and he plays with "Secret Vampire"'s main character, Poppy, as if she were a toy. At the end of the book, his cousin James warns:

"You know, you never really cared about anyone. But someday you will, and it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt--a lot."

"Daughters of Darkness" is, in part, an exploration of this statement and the foreshadowing it holds for our dear Ash.

The story stars a normal small-town girl by the name of Mary-Lynette Carter, who spends her free time gazing at the stars and planets in the sky. The other big part of her live is her little brother Mark. She desperately wishes on the stars above for two things; for Mark to find a girlfriend to help pull him out of his shell and give him happiness, and for herself to become 'one with the night', since she feels as if the night sky is one of the few things in the world that understand her.

The place she lives in, a small Oregon town called Briar Creek, is a boring and rather lonely place. That all changes, however, when her neighbor, a kind elderly woman named Opal, informs Mary-Lynette that her three nieces, Rowan, Kestral, and Jade Redfern are coming to visit. These girls happen to be Ash's sisters, and they have run away from home. When Ash discovers them and decides to scope out Mary-Lynette's family for some information, their cataclysmic meeting will change both of their lives, and the course of Night World history, forever.

This is one of my favorite books in the whole Night World series. The in-depth review below will show you why.


  • The characters in this book are beautifully crafted. Rowan, Kestral, and Jade are very different, yet work wonderfully together as sisters, and we really get a taste for their individual personalities. Mary-Lynette is an extremely relatable character as well, personifying the feeling of being ever-so-slightly out of place and yearning for a sign as to where she belongs, which is something that everyone goes through at some point in their lives. It is also very refreshing to see the return of Ash and to learn more about him. Rather than see his tough outside, we get to see him exposed to his sisters and learn a lot more about who he really is on the inside.
  • The town of Briar Creek is almost a character in and of itself. Minor characters such as the troublemakers Vic and Todd, the mysterious store clerk Bunny, and the handsome and friendly gas station worker Jeremy all add to the charm of the town and really make you feel as if you can envision walking around the town with the characters.
  • The relationship between Ash and Mary-Lynette is not the typical romance. Honestly, it isn't. I of course will not spoil the end, but not everything in the world can turn out perfectly.
  • The book itself is fashion very much like "Secret Vampire". I own two versions of this book. The first one is the original 1996 228 page soft cover print of the book. The cover shows off a beautiful piece of artwork featuring Ash looming over his three sisters and their pet cat, Tiggy. The other version I own, which you will be most likely to find in store nowadays, is the first Night World omnibus, which features the first three Night World books. This book is larger than the original version (as you may imagine), but with the two other stories inside of it and its easier availability, its a much better value than trying to hunt down the original version, as it is out of print.

Not only is this a must-read because it is such a fantastic book, but like "Secret Vampire", it introduces a few key concepts to the rest of the series.

The first concept is the different facets of vampiric society. Rowan, Kestral, Jade, and Ash hail from an actual island that is inhabited by nothing but vampires, and they describe the island as a place that is such very much in medieval times, with servants and castles and forced marriages. We learn that this is only one type of place that vampires can live, and we get to see how a hunting creature like a vampire can be effected by the pressures of such a society.

The second thing that is introduced in this story is the concept of werewolves. We get to see one in action for the first time and learn about the rules and rituals they must obey in the Night World.

The last (but not least) important thing that is introduced in the story is another fairly important character in this series, known only in this book as the mysterious and deadly vampire Quinn. I won't spoil what we learn about him, but I will say that his exit from the story at the end of the book will leave you wanting to know more about the poor boy (and trust me, you will, but that will come in another book).

So, "Secret Vampire" introduced us to vampires, and "Daughters of Darkness" had our first ever werewolf. What's next? Well, you'll have to pick up the next book in the series, "Spellbinder", to learn about another important group of people in the Night World.

Watch my video review and commentary on "Night World: Daughters of Darkness" below:

You can also visit my YouTube channel to view other LJane Smith book reviews and other videos.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Review - "Night World: Secret Vampire" by LJane Smith

Night World: Secret Vampire

He was her only hope...

This is my first ever book review, and I'm VERY excited to be writing it! The book in question is the first in the 10-part Night World series written by LJane Smith, called "Secret Vampire". This review contains VERY minimal spoilers, if any.

"Secret Vampire" is a wonderful introduction into the Night World series, not only because its a wonderful story, but because its a fabulous introductory story. Allow me to explain.

The main character is a normal, everyday girl named Poppy North. Her best friend, James Rasmussen, is a vampire, but Poppy has no knowledge of this. Why? Well, first, let me explain a bit about what the Night World is.

The Night World is comprised of all of the vampires, werewolves, and witches in the world. They generally are not fond of humans and prefer to live their lives in their own way, never letting society know what they really are. There are two rules to the Night World: Never tell a human about the Night World, and never fall in love with them. The Night World series includes several stories of these rules being broken, and this is one of them.

The trouble for James starts when Poppy is discovered to have a fatal illness, forcing him to make a choice: either he can save Poppy by admitting his feelings for her and turning her into a vampire, breaking both above laws, or he can stand there and watch her die. You can probably guess what he decides to do.

This story is such a brilliant introduction into the Night World series because we get to watch Poppy find out about the Night World and learn all about it, and we take the journey with her. The book leaves you with a sense that you have truly been introduced into the Night World, and is a great set-up for the rest of the series. It not only encompasses an enjoyable and exciting story, it also immerses you in information that you will carry with you throughout the rest of the series, yet it's gently given to you in each book as a reminder so that you can enjoy each book no matter what order you pick them up in.


  • The characters in this book are fairly well-developed. James is not developed as much as Poppy is, but that's okay, because Poppy is the main character and it is through her eyes that we are meant to see the Night World. Even the minor characters, from Poppy's over-protective brother Phillip to the deadly vampire Ash, have quite a bit of charm and presence in the story.
  • The atmosphere of the story is very unique. Although the vampires in this universe are painted as beautiful and powerful creatures, we are also exposed to the ugly, vicious side of being undead, proving that while vampires may look pretty, actually being one isn't as glamorous as it may seem.
  • The writing style of LJane Smith is something I have always enjoyed; no matter what book it is of hers that I'm reading, I can never seem to put it down. She is descriptive, but not overly so, and her vocabulary is approachable by readers young and old. Of course, preferences in writing style differ from person to person, but I happen to love hers.
  • The physical book itself is a its original form. I have it in two versions. The first one is the original 1996 228-page paperback, complete with art of Poppy and James on the cover. It even boasts a contest for a Night World flower pin which ended in 1997, and a sheet of glow-in-the-dark star stickers inside. It's small enough to fit into a pocket or a purse, so its easy to take around with you. The second version I have is the recently released omnibus of the first three Night World books. This book is, as you can imagine, much larger, yet still manages to fit into my purse. The cover is a black and white photo of a girl with curly hair and green eyes, whom I can only assume is supposed to be Poppy herself.

Although you can indeed pick these books up in any order you like, I do recommend reading "Secret Vampire" first, as it introduces two very important things into the story.

The first one is the Soulmate Principle, which simply states that every person in the world has a Soulmate, someone who they are meant to be with. Whether they find that person or even want to be with them once they do is a moot point this early in the series; however, we learned that something kind of funky has been going on with the Soulmate Principle that is putting the Night World on edge. What is it? Well, you'll have to read to find out.

The second is a character named Ash Redfern, who is integral to the rest of the series. He's a dangerous, devil-may-care ass with a serious superiority complex, and he's one of my favorite characters in the entire series. His introduction is something not to be missed.

Whenever I think of Ash, I think of a line that James says to Ash toward the very end of "Secret Vampire" that goes a little something like this:

"You know, you never really cared about anyone. But someday you will, and it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt--a lot."

Foreshadowing perhaps? Well, you'll just have to wait for the second book in the series, "Daughters of Darkness". That review will be coming soon.

Watch my video review and commentary on "Night World: Secret Vampire" Below:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Possible Cure for the 'T' Virus?

Yes, it just might be possible, and it comes in the form of one of my favorite authors.

Her name is LJane Smith, and her possible cure comes in the form of a TV pilot.

Back in the early 90's, Smith wrote a book series called The Vampire Diaries, about a popular high-school girl, two vampire brothers, and a little town called Fell's Church that all wind up colliding with each other. Now, this is considered Teen or Young Adult Fiction, but it actually wasn't by choice.

You see, Smith started writing in the 80's, and so she had been writing YA fiction for years before she created The Vampire Diaries. Those around her encouraged her to stay in the YA fiction genre where she was popular, even though she wanted to make The Vampire Diaries more adult. She's even talked about re-writing them the way she intended now that her original fan base is all grown up. I personally am hoping that this TV pilot will reflect that maturity, but we will see how it goes.

Anyway, the point of this is that I have already seen many articles comparing The Vampire Diaries to Twilight, and I really have to take a stand before it goes any further. Here are some key differences in the stories that will hopefully help you separate these two book series' in your mind:

  • The main characters are a little different. The main character in Twilight, Bella Swan, is a pretty, perfect, popular girl who becomes so powerful and so amazing that she breaks the laws of the universe set by the author herself, Stephanie Meyer (we call this a Mary Sue). Smith's main character, Elena, is also a very pretty, popular high school girl, but she is far from perfect. We get to see that she is much more fragile than she let's on, and we get to see her change and mature throughout the series, something that Meyer's flat and stagnant main character cannot possibly achieve, since Meyer purposely did not develop her at all so that the reader could pretend to be Bella in their own minds.
  • The vampires are handled differently in each book. Meyer paints her vampires as gorgeous, pale, perfect creatures who sparkle in the sunlight (I'm sorry, I just can't move past that). Smith's view of vampires however is much more traditional. They burn to death in sunlight and must feed, whether it be on humans or animals (although human blood gives them more strength and power than feeding on animals). Smith's vampires are admittedly not fully traditional however. They actually do not burn in the sun (but certainly do not sparkle), and they do not require any coffins or anything of that sort. They also have no aversion to holy items or places. The differences however are seamlessly woven into the story's universe, and make logical sense, unlike sparking in sunlight. I swear, that just drives me nuts. Also, while Meyers' vampires can reproduce, Smith's vampires can only reproduce and age if they were born vampires; if they were turned, they are stuck at their age and cannot reproduce. You can argue that vampires being able to breed at all is ridiculous, but this fact isn't even mentioned in The Vampire Diaries, it is only brought up in one of her other book series that also contains vampires.
  • The storylines are completely different. While Twilight centers around the relationship between Bella and Edward, The Vampire Diaries gives all of its characters big and small some good screen time (or page time, if you will), and the story is not so much about the relationship between Elena and the two vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon, as it is about the town she lives in, Fell's Church, and some of the darker powers and creatures that dwell there. The town itself becomes a character in a way, making the story's universe rich and enjoyable.

I think the above illustrates my point pretty well. If you're a fan of vampire fiction, or are looking to become one, or have just been turned-off of the genre by Twilight, or even if, and I can't believe I'm saying this, you're a Twilight fan who is looking for something new to read (anyone can reform, right?), The Vampire Diaries is more than worth a look.

I urge everyone to tune in to the pilot (I have yet to see any information on when it is going to air) and give it a look. Even if you just leave your TV on for a half hour while the pilot is on to give it ratings, I wouldn't care at this point. Smith's work is amazing and deserves this wonderful exposure, and the world can use a refreshing break from Twilight.

tl,dr; The Vampire Diaries is the chemo that is curing vampire fiction.

Check out my vlog below on Vampire Diaries vs. Twilight to hear me talk about it in person and to check out my LJane Smith book collection.