on 18 November 2011
I'm at a loss how this book currently has a four star rating.
Let me say I am a huge fan of Chloe Neil and books one to four of the Chicagoland series are amazing, each and every one worth a five star rating on their own. Merit is a fabulous character and the universe Chloe has created is one I couldn't wait to return to. I didn't even mind the end of 'Hard Bitten' which a lot of fans didn't like for obvious reasons.
What I cannot understand is why this book falls so far short of the previous ones. Gone are the wonderful sarcastic one liners, the laugh out loud moments, the great interplay between the other memorable characters that populate Merit's world. Instead we have a book where the first 90% is effectively Merit investigating several mysterious supernatural events with the plot unravelling at such a slow and pedestrian pace that, for the first time ever, I was tempted to start skipping pages. Nothing much happens, characters are seemingly introduced at random and yet with no bearing on the outcome. Merit does little more than go from place to place and talk to different people. However that is still not the greatest crime of this book. Momentous events finally happen in the last part of the book but scenes that deserve entire chapters to themselves are skipped over in a single sentence. Emotional events are either treated in the same slapdash way or glossed over entirely and a previously good character effectively turns bad overnight. Suddenly it feels like I am reading a young adult novel. This alone has almost ruined my appreciation of the entire series. The ending also sets up the next book but I cannot say I am looking forward to a road trip and time spent away from most of the supporting cast that are such an important part of this series.
I know that this is the second Chicagoland book that Chloe has released this year and I can only assume that she was under pressure from the publisher. Unfortunately it has been at the cost of the high quality writing we have come to expect from her. I only hope she takes the time before book six is released to return to the levels she is so obviously capable of. To be honest I wish there was some way she could delete this book from the series and write it again in the manner it deserves. I still love Merit but another book of this quality and I will be lost as a reader.
** The order for the series is Some Girls Bite, Friday Nights Bites, Twice Bitten, Hard Bitten and Drink Deep **
I have to be honest and admit that I was a bit disappointed by DRINK DEEP. The series up until this point has been pretty solid, the previous book in particular was extremely enjoyable and had a surprising ending. So I was consequently expecting this Chicagoland Vampires entry to hit the ground running and keep on throwing twists at me.
Once again Merit partners up with Jonah [the Guard Captain of Gray House] as she goes undercover for the main plotline. In the last book I thought that this partnering up and cross House cooperation was a exciting glimpse of the future directions in the series, but in all honesty I find Jonah's character dull now we've got to 'meet' him and know him a bit more fully. And the fact that the author has pushed the other secondary characters to the sidelines in order to feature him more prominently, has lead to me coming to suspect that he's going to serve the author in another round of 'all these hot men want me, but I just can't make up my mind' fun and games. In short; I began to dread seeing his name pop up in the book, as he could derail the way all of the plotlines so far are running and building, which could make me lose interest in the series.
For the first third of DRINK DEEP the plot doesn't really seem to be going anywhere as the vampires have nothing to do with the problem of the blackened lake and, since they aren't magical, they don't know the answers to the who, how and/or why; Oh look, the lake is black. Oh, yeah, did group A do it? No, how about group B? No? Shrug, what should we do? There has to be a group C somewhere to pin the blame on. Sure, I suppose that it shows a realistic investigation, but it just brings to mind a group of kids trying to assign blame for a broken vase on each other.
Another problem I had is that I don't think that the receivership on Cadogan House is such a big shock. In fact, in some places, I can see things from the Greenwich Presidium's view, so I don't actually disagree with them on all of their grievances; as well as the issue of the new mayor [and her proposed supernatural register] there are other consequences to Merit's and Ethan's actions - which I won't go into here - that have spectacularly backfired and made life for all vampires harder. I don't think that the GP can honestly be made out to be the Big Bads - they're cleaning up and protecting ALL of the vampires, rather then just looking out for Cadogan House. So I do think Merit comes off as a bit whiny and self-absorbed in places. Sure, the person left in the house to check everything out doesn't like Merit and is trying to find a way to get rid of her, but she has shown no regard for the Greenwich Presidium's rules and is once again actively breaking them by disobeying a direct order.
But the biggest letdown, for me, in DRINK DEEP is that almost immediately I could tell who the culprit was and once I realised err, who the who is, the question of why they did it was easy to guess at. So I was impatient [and a bit bored] whilst I waited for the characters to catch up to what was pretty obvious to me.
Once I finally fully got into the story, I realized that there are still good bits to be found in DRINK DEEP, I just had to look a bit harder to see them...
We meet other supernatural races. Up until now we have only really seen the vampires interacting with shape-shifters and met a few sorcerers, so it is refreshing to get to see more interaction with some of the other supernaturals that share this series' version of Chicago. The humans only know about the existence of the vampires and shapeshifters, so we haven't really had the opportunity to explore the other species of supernatural beings before and I hope that the author finds a way to do it again. To be honest the whole vampires and werewolf mix is old and tired - every other fantasy book seems to d the same old thing.
Speaking of other species; the questions surrounding mayor Tate are very intriguing to me. I had thought his character was just a secondary one, who just served to stir up trouble, but now we see that he is the Big Bad. I can't wait to learn what exactly he is - I'll have to go back and read the earlier books, to try to spot any clues.
There are fur full-time guards working in Cadogan House alongside Merit, but up until now we have only gotten to know Luc and Lindsay. But now that Guard Captain Luc has now moved up in position and isn't involved in this book as much, we have more space and time to get to know Juliet and Lindsay as characters, not just as names tossed into the occasional conversation. Both characters have several scenes, when before they'd have one scene per book at most, which would add up to little more then "hi".
This is still an important entry into the series, but it is also the only book in the series where I found the pacing to be uneven, it's only after the first third of the book that I felt drawn into the story and from there everything speeds up madly - it reads as though the author realised she had almost reached her word-count limit, so threw everything together in a mad rush. Unfortunately the final few scenes are the most emotional and are meant to be shocking, but due to the sped-up pace and the fact that I already figured out the reveal, means that I failed to be saddened, overjoyed and/or shocked by the events.
For now I'm going to class DRINK DEEP as a one-off bump in the road and I still plan on getting the next book in the Chicagoland Vampires series, but I won't expect the same highs the earlier books delivered.
** Book six in the Chicagoland Vampires is titled Biting Cold [released in August 2012] **
Book 5 in Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series picks up a couple of months after the shock happenings at the end of Hard Bitten: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel (Chicagoland Vampires Series).
Merit is back, and Cadogan House is still under investigation for its rule-breaking by Greenwich Presidium receiver, Frank Cabot. Frank has has instituted several rules of his own, including banning drinking directly from a living source, a moratorium on junk food, an a severe cut-back on the amount of bottled blood the vampires of Cadogan are permitted to drink. His motives are, at best, questionable - but with Chicago's new mayor showing herself to be distinctly hostile to the vampires and weres, her best friend going into an exam-induced emotional meltdown, the sinister influence of the former mayor still making itself felt, and some significant elemental disasters than seem to be magically-induced affecting the city, relative newbie vampire Merit has an awful lot of problems to attend to.
Even without thinking about Ethan.
Merit's some-time investigative partner, the Grey House chief of security Jonah, is still keen to get Merit involved as part of the secretive Red Guard organisation - but he's also making his personal interest in her known, adding to Merit's confusion.
For me, although still a passable read and decently put together, it's not one of my favourites. The plot for this book feels at times quite derived ('Willow Rosenberg', anyone?!). Indeed, there are several aspects where the influence of the Buffyverse is apparent - evil mayors, the role of magic, even the Cadogan librarian has a distinct Mr Giles vibe! It's also worth noting that because 'Drink Deep' is so closely connected with the plot from the previous book, it's somewhat less comfortable as a stand-alone book than other entries in the series. The ending is interesting, as it sets things up for a rather different plot line to the next book - can't wait to see where things are going and hope they pick up a bit!
on 1 November 2011
I thought this would be a difficult review to write but in fact it is one of the easiest I have ever written because I am so passionate about this series. So where shall I start. First I suppose I should say a little bit about the Chicagoland Vampire series. It is as you can probably guess set in Chicago and is primarily about the vampires that live there. The stories are written in the first person from Merit's point of view. Merit was an English student who was turned vampire against her will by the Master vampire Ethan in order to save her life. Now if you haven't read the previous 4 Chicagoland books then why not they are awesome in my opinion and if you want to read them you may want to turn away now because there will be spoilers on those books.
I was so excited when I received my copy of Drink Deep that I started reading straightaway. I had waited 6 tortuous months for this moment and nothing was going to stop me from reading it, in fact I didn't stop until I finished it late last night. I was apprehensive when I started with how Ms Neill was going to deal with Ethan's death in the previous book Hard Bitten. I had read that some people were giving up on the series because of how the last book ended. But I applauded Ms Neill for the brave decision she made with killing Ethan. No I didn't want Ethan dead but like in real life bad unpleasant things happen and we just have to accept it and move on. Plus it got everyone talking about Hard Bitten and craving Drink Deep, well played Ms Neill. So before I turned the first page I thought to myself. Did I want Ethan to be brought back to life? Yes of course I did I absolutely love and adore Ethan and I was heart broken when he died. Did I want Ethan to stay dead? Yes I also wanted this too. I didn't want a cheesy way in which he could be resurrected like the whole waking up from a dream thing with Bobby Ewing in Dallas. I also wanted to see how the series would be taken forward without Ethan.
Right so lets get down to the nitty gritty of Drink Deep. You probably have read the blurb but basically strange things are happening in Chicago. Lake Michigan has turned black and is sucking all the magic from the city. The GP has put Franklin Cabot a GP representative into Cadogan House to try and get it in order and Merit is trying to get her life as Sentinel back on track without Ethan. Merit is ordered to get to the bottom of Lake Michigan turning black and to assist her she enlists the help of Grey House guard Jonah.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It is quite a slow story with all the action taking place in the last quarter of the book. In fact I got a little bored at times with the first three quarters of the book. I don't know if this is because I just wanted to get the Ethan issue resolved or not. There are the usual characters in this installment but they tend to take a back seat and Jonah is very much a main character. I really liked Jonah I haven't been too keen on him in the previous books but he really started to shine for me in this. He isn't an Ethan replacement, no one ever could be, but I did like him. There is a main theme running through the book in that Merit and her vampires are getting unfairly treated. The humans are blaming them for everything and Franklin is giving them orders and setting tests that they will inevitably fail. This really got to me in the end I was fed up with everyone picking on the vampires and nobody doing anything about it. I wanted Merit to stand up and do something instead of just taking it on the chin every time. I also felt that the last quarter of the book was rushed. I did like the pace of it because it fitted with the events that happen but some of the scenes could have been longer for me. We are left with an exciting ending that once again has me begging for more but thankfully it is not on the scale of Hard Bitten. I really don't know what rating to give this book, I want to give the first bit 3 stars and the last bit 5 stars. Well that's all isn't it? Oh right you want to know if Ethan comes back, well let me tell you......you will just have to read and find out for yourself.
on 12 December 2012
A storm is brewing over Chicago and with the city in turmoil and threatening to pass a paranormal registration act, Cadogan House is in a precarious position. All Merit wants to do is lay low for a while and lick her wounds but it seems fate has other plans for her when the waters of Lake Michigan suddenly turn pitch black. It's clear the darkest magic is at work and Merit must act as Sentinel and turn to friends, and enemies, new and old to find out who is behind this and stop them before it is too late...
This is the fifth book in the Chicagoland Vampires series (after Some Girls Bite,Friday Night Bites,Twice Bitten and Hard Bitten) and I jumped straight into this after the OMG ending to Hard Bitten. I am so glad I had this on hand and I'd recommend anyone new to the series start at the beginning, but make sure you have this on hand when you start Hard Bitten because the ending is a killer.
There is a ton of world building in this installment as the weird events in Chicago force Merit to contact all sorts of supernatural races, both those we've met before and those we haven't. Every race gets more development from the nymphs to the fey and river trolls to sirens. It all works well and develops naturally within the storyline without any info dumping.
The book also features a heavy political aspect as the Greenwich Presidium have sent a representative to Cadogan House and he quickly pulls a Dolores Umbridge and starts taking over and insisting on bizarre unnecessary rules. The Cadogan vampires are somewhat struggling under the new management and this leads to a fair amount of friction. The Red Guard are also still courting Merit in hopes that she will join their numbers against the GP.
The book did feature a huge dent to my enjoyment in that I figured out what the cause of the bizarre events was within the first few chapters. This meant I spent most of the book knowing Merit was looking in all the wrong places and by the time she figured it out I was becoming frustrated with how she could keep missing all the clues. Other than that the storyline is well written on the whole and I enjoyed exploring more of Merit's world with her.
Merit is dealing with a lot in this installment after her loss at the end of the previous book. Mallory has tried to help her through but she is caught up with her magic training. Merit's way of dealing is to throw herself into her role as Sentinel and to support her friends Lindsey and Luc who have finally gotten together. Given Merit's state of mind a lot of the humour and snark of the earlier books is missing and I'm really hoping they return in the next installment.
All in all this was a fun read and I'm looking forward to Biting Cold.
on 31 July 2012
**WARNING: CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS**
I'm almost at a loss for words. Which is most unusual.
Okay, let me try again.
The entire first 3/4 of this novel just felt ... wrong. It had nothing to do with the plot. Nothing to do with the writing. It did, however, have absolutely everything to do with the fact that Ethan was not present.
Every dream she had? I wondered where they were leading. In my head, I thought: she's never going to bring him back? How the hell can she do that? The dude was nothing but a pile of ashes, for goodness sake. How can she plausibly bring back something like that? And whilst I spent the entire novel wishing he was still around, I also spent the entire novel arguing the point that it would never work if the author did something that bizarre and extreme. And then she did exactly that-which left me in a WTHeck! moment. I still don't `get' how I'm supposed to accept this as plausible. How I'm expected to grasp the physics of this. I'm almost at a loss. I can only say that Ethan Sullivan had so better rock my world with his presence in the next book-and there had so better be some glitches to his new existence because for it to be otherwise would just be ridiculous-because if he doesn't, then this move will turn into an epic fail as opposed to total appeasement for the reader.
Oh ... and I 100% figured out that Mallory had something to do with all the magical happenings way early on in the book. The only thing I got wrong on that account was who was controlling her. I hadn't expected it to be herself. Perhaps I wanted it to be Simon. Because I was once again struggling with believability on her sudden power hungriness. Something else that will need a little more depth adding in the next book, I think.
So I'll finish by saying: Do I jump for joy that he's back and just be ecstatic compared to the sadness I felt at the end of book 4? Or do I reserve judgement until I'm assured the author can truly pull this turn of events off? I'm currently undecided. What's your thoughts?
on 5 March 2012
*Tried to make this as spoiler-free as possible*
Wow! What an emotional rollercoaster - which is what I've come to expect from Chloe Neill. I'm not going to lie and say that I'm not still feeling bitter about Hard Bitten's ending, because I am. What annoyed me even more was the fact that she tortured us by killing him off, and then we got the ending that we did in this book! Argh! I also had a few other issues with this book -
1. We all knew that ending was going to happen after Chloe Neill repeatedly told us to trust her.
2. I had figured out who was behind the bad stuff half-way through when Merit goes to visit this person in the basement. It was very predictable. (Trying (but failing) to make this review spoiler-free!)
3. The UK cover for this book is U-G-L-Y.
This series is the best adult UF series I've ever read, but this book just didn't do it for me like the others. Don't get me wrong Drink Deep is still a good book, therefore the rating of 3 stars, but the whole time I was reading it, it was just like there was something missing. It just wasn't the same without Ethan. I actually really liked Jonah, but lets be honest, who really cares about him when Ethan's in the picture?!
Did anyone else think 'is that it?' after reading 'the reunion' scene? I expected hawt reunion sex scenes, even just professing their love for each other would have been great, but no! What did we get instead? ..
"I don't know what to say," I told him.
"Then don't," he said, embracing me again. "Be still."
Really? You don't know what to say? You've been weighed down with guilt for the last two months, torturing yourself because you felt he was killed because of you, and then you don't know what to say to him?! I wanted to scream at her!
It just feels to me like this series is going in the wrong direction, most UF series get better as more books come out in that series, but with this series it seems to be going the other way. I'm definitely going to be getting the next book in the series, but there had better be LOTS more romance than there was in this book!
Please note that although this review won't contain spoilers for Drink Deep it is impossible not to mention a major spoiler for the previous book so if you haven't read Hard Bitten yet then you may not want to read beyond this first paragraph. I will say that the Chicagoland Vampires series is one of my favourites though so if you haven't started reading it yet you need to get hold of a copy of Some Girls Bite asap.
Cadogan House has been in turmoil since the death of their Master Ethan at the end of the previous book, Malik has taken control but everyone is struggling to accept Ethan's loss. Things are only made worse by the fact that the GP have sent receiver Frank to investigate the house and he is turning things upside down for it's residents. Merit is devastated by the loss of Ethan and blames herself for the way he died. When Lake Michigan mysteriously turns black and other strange things start happening it becomes clear that someone is playing with dark and dangerous magic. The humans are in uproar blaming vampires (and Cadogan House in particular) for what they see as signs of the end of the world so it is up to Merit to try and find out what is really going on. But can she get to the bottom of the mystery in time to stop it before permanent damage is done?
I have to admit after the emotional roller coaster of Hard Bitten I was scared to pick up Drink Deep. I had pre-ordered my copy and was over the moon when it arrived but then it took me days before I plucked up the courage to start reading. I was so shocked and horrified at the ending of Hard Bitten that I didn't know if I could bring myself to continue reading the series. I'm glad I decided to trust that Chloe Neill knew what she was doing though because although Drink Deep wasn't my favourite installment in the series I did still really enjoy it and am looking forward to getting hold of Biting Cold next year.
I have to admit I did really miss Ethan though, one of my favourite things about the series has always been the chemistry between him and Merit and I did feel like there was something missing without it. It was good to see more of Jonah though, I liked him in the last book but we get to know him a lot better here which was good. The first half of the book felt a little slow in places and it felt like I had guessed who was behind the magic problems very early on, I was hoping to be proved wrong but unfortunately that wasn't the case. Things really pick up towards the end but I felt some things were rushed over and I would have liked more of a showdown when Merit finally figured out what was really going on. The ending may not have come as a massive surprise but it did put a huge smile on my face and for that reason alone I can't wait for the next installment.
on 18 November 2011
This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year, and also the one I was least looking forward to reviewing. Because how can I review it without giving away that thing you're not supposed to know? Because you can be sure there's one BIG THING people are dying to know. It's all to do with what happened in the last one. You know, the last one? With the thingy and the whatsit and the doo dah?
Hmm, hmm. You know it.
What I can tell you is that I enjoyed this book. I loved getting back to these characters, especially Merit. She's one of my favourite Urban Fantasy females. And even though she's having a tough time of it, she still maintains that strength of spirit and determination we grew to love in previous books.
The mystery element was particularly strong and was very well-executed. As you can see from the blurb, weird things are a-happening in Chicago, starting with Lake Michigan turning black. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Merit and her team work tirelessly to try and help the situation, even in the face of accusation from the humans that they're the ones responsible. They can't seem to do right for doing wrong where humans are concerned at the moment. This is further fuelled by the new Mayor. If you thought the last one was bad (which he kinda was) at least he was pro-supernaturals. This new one? She's got a face you'd never get tired of slapping.
Some of the secondary characters had time to shine this time as well. I feel like I got to know Jonah a lot more, and remembered just how much I love Lindsey's character. She has some great one-liners.
The reason this one isn't getting the full 5 star treatment is the ending. While I was happy with the events that took place, they felt very rushed. My emotions just didn't have time to catch up with how quickly everything got wrapped up, so this was a little disappointing.
I am really looking forward to the next one, however. Hopefully by then it will be slightly easier to talk about this series without everything you say being a potential spoiler. I'm pretty sure just acknowledging this book exists is some kind of spoiler. It's that much of a minefield.
Can't wait for the next one.
4 stars! ★★★★
on 10 November 2011
Life in Cadogan House has not been easy since Ethan's untimely death. Merit is having a hard time getting over her feelings for the Master Vampire and isn't even sure she wants to. Dreams have begun to plague her where Ethan plays an important part in them. She knows she needs to let him go so they will end. This seems particularly important because many other problems are cropping up that she can't ignore. First is the receiver sent by the Greenwich Presidium (GP), Frank Cabot, has begun to institute unreasonable rules on the house and has done all he can to make the vampires in it feel miserable. Merit suspects his true motives and believes his intentions are not as honorable as he claims. Yet she has no idea how to stop him, and Malik (the new Master Vampire for Cadogan) is hesitant to upset the GP. This leaves everyone vulnerable to Frank's whims and tyranny.
To add to these difficulties, very strange occurrences begin to happen around Chicago. The first being the lake and rivers within the city limits have turned black and no longer move. It appears to be a bad omen which alarms the human population and brings greater pressure on the vampires, as they are given the blame. It is left up to Merit and her occasional partner, Jonah (from the Grey House), to work out what is happening and try to stop it. The problem being they must first figure out who is causing the trouble and then also deal with the other effects that follow. It appears to be magic of some sort, but it is unclear as to who's. Merit attempts to contact her sorceress in training friend, Mallory, but their relationship is becoming rather shaky. Mallory is caught up in her final testing, and due to extreme stress, takes it out on anyone who disrupts her studies. Merit's attempts to be there for her friend and get information from her fail from the beginning. This only makes all the other problems going on seem that much more difficult. Between Ethan's death, the GP receiver, the city being turned upside-down, and Mallory's unfriendly behavior, Merit has a full plate which is going to push her to the edge of her endurance.
*Some small spoilers follow*
I have some mixed feelings about this latest novel. The action was intense and the plot was complicated and mostly unpredictable (except maybe the end result). Everything tied in well, yet it felt a little too convenient to me. I was mourning Ethan's death just as much as anyone who loves this series and certainly felt his absence throughout this latest book. Yet I didn't really buy the ending, even if I was happy to have a certain character back in the game. It just felt forced to me, as if he should never have been gone to begin with. The entire rest of the plot could have still happened and some other scapegoat used for the magic's purpose. It seems to me that the ending of the last book was done just to jerk people's emotions and make them buy the next books to find out how it would be resolved.
Despite all this, I did enjoy this latest novel for its continued world building and for the stronger relationships that were built throughout it. The author has a talent for making you feel like you're right there with Merit as she goes through the city conducting her sentinel business (or eating). I can almost taste the food, smell the smells, and picture the sights. Yet it is all done without bogging the story down. For that alone, I enjoy the series. All the characters were well developed and had their place in the scheme of things. My only disclaimer to that being the reunion at the end was not quite what I expected, but still bittersweet and somewhat satisfying.
If you are like me and have been waiting for this novel to release with impatience, it is definitely worth reading (if for no other reason than getting closure). I only warn that the set-up for Ethan's death in the last novel didn't feel quite right in my mind as to how it got resolved in this one. Others, of course, may feel differently and that is okay. The ending is such that I am looking forward to the next book when it releases. I'm not about to let a few reservations stop me from continuing on with the series, as it is still one of my favorites!