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At first glance, Val Shapiro is a sweet, young Texas teenager living in a not so large town, and leading a sheltered life. Home educated and kept away from parties and such, she is the epitome of a conservative family's pride and joy. Only her family run an occult book store and Val spends her evenings vampire slaying, stuffing the staked bodies into the trunk of her step-dad's beat up old car so she can move them somewhere safe to wait out the sun to make 101% sure they don't come back. Not to mention the whole home school thing is to protect the public as much as it is to for her own personal benefit. You see, Val's part succubus, and now that she has come of age, having a little crush just may mean getting the life sucked out of you (albeit in ecstasy). Life might not be easy, but the family (and Val) seem to be coping. That is, until her younger, fully human half sister sneaks out of the house and decides to join a hunt. From here, Val's life takes an unexpected turn; while dealing with her wayward younger sibling, a local policeman happens by and demands the car's trunk to be opened. The surprising thing? He was expecting to see a dead vampire in there to begin with and hands Val a card to a very special department. Val's life will never be the same as the fallout from that night sends her life spiralling into unexpected directions.
With so many vampire related young adult novels, this one so easily could get lost in the shuffle, but I'm really glad that it didn't. Val is typical teen in an atypical situation. She's vulnerable, but prickly, and her smart mouth and cocky attitude are tempered by the even cockier and mouthier sidekick she acquires, a small terrier who is ¼ Hellhound with the ferocity (though not the size) to back it up. Riding on her motorbike with dog wearing googles sitting in a carrier behind , she sets out to not just randomly kill vamps, but to actually investigate the cause of the recently large influx of vamps in her town as well as her own demon heritage. With a generous helping of family angst regarding her birth father, Val has more than the usual helping of teen identity crisis going on. Fuelled by hormones, she needs answers fast, especially when a love interest appears on her horizon. Thankfully she makes new friends who know just what she's going through. Just one thing, to stay on her good side, DON'T call her Buffy!
It's well plotted, with enough twists and turns to keep even this adult reader interested, and filled with enough original material that it doesn't just tread old ground. There are plenty of knowing (and open) nods to famous TV and novel series in the genre to provide a degree of levity that keeps this from taking itself too seriously, managing to do so without falling into the absurd. I found this to be a breath of fresh air, compelling me to "turn" the pages on my Kindle one after the other, and to begin the next book in the series without delay. Part of a trilogy, you can get this in a Kindle edition or as a paperback. There is also an audio edition available via audible.co.uk or Amazon for those who prefer this format. I found the Kindle edition well formatted, without any strange spaces or random characters appearing, and the selected typeface was easy to read even without zoom, so with the accompanying savings over the paperback edition, can recommend it.
I'd like to thank Bell Bridge Books for providing me with my e-edition for review.