Review: Try Me by Parker Blue

Friday, October 21, 2011

Title: Try Me
Author: Parker Blue
Genre: supernatural/paranormal fiction, young adult, mystery
Series: The Demon Underground #2
Pages: 225 (Nook edition NetGalley ARC)
Published: February 2010
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

This part-demon teen vampire fighter and her faithful terrier hellhound are once again patrolling the dark city streets of San Antonio, Texas. Val's hunky human partner, Detective Dan Sullivan, is giving her the cold shoulder since she beheaded his vampire ex-fiancée. Vamp leader Alejandro is struggling to keep the peace between vamps, demons and humans. The mucho powerful Encyclopedia Magicka has been stolen, someone in the Demon Underground is poisoning vamps, and Val's inner lust demon, Lola, is getting very restless since Val's now partnered with sexy Shade, the shadow demon with the blond good looks of an angel.The second book in Parker Blue's Demon Underground urban fantasy series plunges readers deeper into a heady world of passion, friendship, intrigue and mystery.

Back again with 1/8 succubus and badass vampire hunter Val Shapiro, Parker Blue's Try Me doesn't ignore the events of the just-ended Bite Me, but nor does it continue along on the same plotline. Instead of focusing on Val/Dan/Fang vampire hunting for the supernatural police force of the Supernatural Crimes Unit, Val is much more involved with the titular Demon Underground in the second outing of the series. I liked the shift of focus from the policelike SCU to the looser organization of the Demon Underground - after all the demon underground is what the series is about, supposedly, and hadn't really been a focus in the first novel. Set at a funeral just three days after the whirlwind ending events of Bite Me, the tone for Try Me is set in the first three pages: an action-packed, sarcastic vampire novel read just before the Halloween holiday.

In addition to the prominence of the underground, Parker Blue shakes up the formula - or rather doesn't establish one. Rather than focus on vampire hunting and supernatural crime-solving, Try Me adds a new plot/problem for Val's life in San Antonio: the vampires want to "come out" nationally, and the demons do not want either the vampires nor themselves to become public knowledge. As the only real intermediary between the two hostile camps, Val is thrust into a position of power, danger and a lot of stress. Not content with just that diversion of opinions on public relations, the vampires and demons also both blame each other for the loss of the super-important but dumbly-named Encyclopedia Magicka - which Val had for her life but lost upon returning to Micah, the leader of the Underground. Once again, I liked the changeup from the first novel: Parker Blue is a completely fun storyteller with an apparently diverse range of plotlines percolating in her brain. It never felt like a retread of the first, and the characters changed, grew, matured (or didn't).

Speaking of: the characters. Val remained her mostly amusing sarcastic self (When Micah tells her, "You should come [to the DU party]. Eat, drink, get to know other-part demons like yourself." Val snarks back at him: "Why don't you guys start a chat room of friend each other on Facebook?") Echoing the demon-focus of the main storyline, Val's relationship with Dan has ended, because of his stupid inability to deal with Lola. All this does is serve to reinforce Val's insecurities and self-hated; she continues her inner power struggle with Lola long after she realizes "Lola" is nothing but a label used to distance herself from her succubus heritage. She continues to fear the "love slaves" that Lola will create out of boyfriends she has, and her extreme desire is to be loved and valued for who she is, not what she can do or force another to do. She's a very compartmentalized girl, hurt girl.

  • The Slayer: the vengeful, strong and murderous side she uses to deal with life
  • "Lola"" the sensual, unpredictable, controlling and powerful side she doesn't know how to control
  • "Human-Val": the idealized dream of who she thinks she wants to be - common girl with mundane issues

Val does grow quite a bit in this novel, however, realizing that if a demon such as herself can choose to be good and not abuse her power, so might too the vampires. This is one of the things I like best about Val and this series: an actual teen YA protagonist that can be honest with herself and admit the obvious without actually liking the subject [the vampires in this case].

Dan, understandably, disappointed me. Any previous merits awarded this character and his he-man hero complex were lost: his extreme about face is kind of random and off-putting. A very background character from the first, a shadow-demon named Shade, quickly became a favorite of mine. Not only is the lore of his kind of demon particularly creative (he can heal, transfer energies, appears as an outline of whorls and whisps of smoke unless touched to "ground him in this reality") but he's the most well-rounded male character so far. He's strange, kind but most importantly: entirely accepting/understanding of Lola - which Dan never could - or wanted - to be. Fang continued his laugh-track antics and kept the inner amusement rolling, even when the fights were breaking out - and they were, often. This is certainly not a dry book with nothing happening for chapters: fights, fires, drama all flesh out the narrative often and well.

I found the mystery elements of the novel to be a bit flat compared to action, love, humor present in the rest of the book. Like the mystery of the mysterious traitor in Alejandro's New Blood Movement from the first Bite Me, I was never as curious to solve the question as I was to continue reading about Val's day-to-day life and interactions with people, vampires and part-demons. I just don't geet excited or feel anticipation really grow before it's the Big Reveal and the end. There's definitely less face-time/angst over Val's 100% human family and their rejection - see earlier: Val grows up a bit. These novels are at their snarky, violent best when it is Val and Fang dealing with demons and vampires. I finished this one with the familiar feeling of wanting another outing and some more time with Valentine Shapiro and Fang - next up is the third in the series Fang Me.

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