Since this book's third in a trilogy, whyncha read my reviews of the first two? Meet you below.
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A funny, sexy read for older Twilight fans, Tantalize is the story of high school senior Quincie Morris (named after Texan Quincey P. Morris, one of Lucy's suitors-turned-hunters in Dracula) and the two things she cares about: her hybrid-werewolf almost-boyfriend, Kieren, and her family's Italian restaurant, about to reopen as Austin's first vampire-themed eatery, Sanguini's. Both are suddenly threatened by the brutal murder of beloved chef Vaggio in what looks like an animal attack. Quincie's in charge of whipping their mysterious new chef into culinary and wardrobe shape before the grand opening. But he keeps pouring her wine and warning her away from Kieren, and the local body count keeps rising.
Smith creates a world at once familiar and bizarre - for instance, werewolves aren't the only "shifters" who can take human form: there are werebears, werecats, werevultures, even a werearmadillo. And vampires aren't just a gimmick, though Quincie tells us "the last reported sighting of one was around the time of the Kennedy assassination." Bloody awful puns, social injustice (werefolk don't have the same legal rights as humans, and they're commonly lynched), mouthwatering cuisine (mozzarella, Gorgonzola, and parmesan ravioli in wild mushroom sauce? yes, please) - and a startling twist - make Tantalize a treat.
Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize was my favorite young-adult vampire tale of last summer (yeah, I’m coming out: totally not Team Edward), so I was pretty Beatlemania’d to hear she’d written a sequel (and eventually, a trilogy! Squee!). While Eternal doesn’t share an overarching narrative with Tantalize (nor, sadly, the mouthwatering Italian menu—though we are treated to an unorthodox dip for fresh-baked pumpkin bread), it’s set in the same world, where both vampires and all manner of werefolk exist (though the former keep a low profile, while the latter struggle for civil rights).
Here, Smith also introduces a new supernatural angle, in the form of guardian angel Zachary, who’s watched his charge Miranda grow into a sweet but awkward teenager with dreams of dramatic greatness. She ends up on a larger stage than she’s meant for one night when Zachary’s unauthorized interference keeps her from her destined death: he’s stripped of his wings, while she awakens as not only a vampire, but the adopted daughter/bride of the latest Dracula himself, royal head of the entire undead—sorry, “eternal” is the preferred nomenclature—population. Suddenly, Miranda is clumsily navigating the political machinations of the bloodsucking elite, desperately trying to stay on the unstable monarch’s good side, and oh yeah, drinking human blood. The fallen-but-still-immortal Zachary, on the other hand, is recruited from a slough of despond to accomplish a divine mission that remains unclear: but soon he’s Miranda’s new personal assistant, trying to balance his disgust for her lifestyle—and that of the other human servants, who somehow reconcile their duty to their masters with the presence of cell-bound “bleeding stock” in the basement—with his love for the girl she used to be, and maybe still is.
Told in Zachary’s and Miranda’s alternating voices, Eternal is a great addition to the ever-expanding vamp canon, switching up the usual outside-looking-in viewpoint and creating realms of Whedonesque moral ambiguity within the paranormal framework. Apparently Smith’s forthcoming title Blessed will feature crossovers between the casts of both Tantalize and Eternal. Here’s hoping the mozzarella, parmesan, and gorgonzola ravioli makes an appearance.
AND WE'RE BACK!! Unavoidable spoilers featured below.
Blessed returns to Austin and brings back the food (yes, I'm obsessed with that ravioli. WHAT OF IT), as Quincie deals with her new forced-undead status and struggles to find a way to save others once she realizes her former chef, Brad, dosed dozens of Sanguini's patrons with his own blood in an attempt to raise a vampire army. And not just any vampire army--turns out Bram Stoker's Drac was not only real but a bit of a visionary, creating his own race of uber-powerful vamps, and his own formidable powers are stored between the knives used to kill him the end of the original (non-fiction) novel. She's aided by GA Zachary, who hopes he can do for her what he could not for Miranda--save her soul. It's a fun, fast-moving Macguffin race of a book, returning to much of the humor of the first installment, and there ain't nothin' more than kissing, so you can give it to a 10-year-old when she asks for Twilight. Just pretend you heard her wrong.