Review: Kiss of Death by Rachel Caine

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: young-adult, supernatural fiction
Series: Morganville Vampires #8
Pages: 348 (paperback edition)
Published: April 2010
Rating: 3/5

Claire Danvers has a few things on her mind. First of all there is the laundry, which is now an unfortunate shade of pink. Then there is her boyfriend, Shane, who is never too far from her thoughts. Finally there is her best friend Eve’s relationship problems. As if life as a student wasn’t complicated enough, Claire just happens to be studying in Morganville. A town run by vampires.

Trouble seems to follow Claire and her friends like a shadow and tonight is no exception to the rule. They must find the most difficult documents for a vampire to acquire; people passes that will allow ‘bad ass’ Morley and his friends to leave Morganville. But it’s proving incredibly difficult, and with the odds seemingly stacked against them, the biggest question of all is...

Will they survive?

Once again ensconced within the compact world of Caine's Morganville series, the eighth novel does something I have been desiring for many a novel: a change of scenery. Finally, and not without her usual ulterior motives, Amelie grants Claire and the Misfits leave to actually, you know, leave her controlled little vampire town in Texas.  Not only is the change of view different later in the game here, but the portals, a steadfast feature of the town/books for many of the volumes - and the jealous homicidal steampunk vampire computer that powered the shifting portals - are long gone. New tensions arise between previous harmonic couples and overall, Kiss of Death is a refreshing change in the midst of such a long - but always entertaining - series.

The book relocates to Dallas, with Claire, Shane, Eve, Michael and watchdog Oliver in tow. I liked both the mixup of locale, as I've said, and also the addition of Oliver to a more prominent role. Oliver is one of "sleeper" characters of this series: over the last few novels I've developed some kind of affection for the dangerous and wily Englishman. He certainly interests me more than the new chief antagonist of Amelie's, the vampire called Morley. The premier antagonist of both the last two novels, I find him bland and a not very interesting vampire character, especially contrasted to the more rounded characters of Amelie, Oliver, and Myrnin. Morley lacks Amelie's cold intelligence and small kindness; he's the lesser of Oliver's wit and knowledge; he has none of Myrnin's wild, dangerous charm. He's a shadow hidden amongst stronger personalities and a much weaker opponent.

Like I said, couples that have been rock solid are on shaky ground. I definitely had my issues with Caine's sophomoric treatment of Claire and Shane's romantic relationship in the previous book and this time around, it's Michael and Eve with turbulence in the flight path of their love. Ha, corny. Anyway: I'm sick to death of the endless drama. Michael has been a vampire for nigh on six books already; either Eve can handle that or she can't. The endless back and forth does little but detrimentally affect how I view Eve as a character. I like Eve, or maybe at this point I want to like Eve. After her silly and stupid actions during Fade Out with Kim/Claire, I had hoped for some maturity from the diminutive Goth in the direct successor. I'm getting less and less enthused with Eve, but will not cut her off completely. There's still what, eight more books left in this series? So happily, Eve's got plenty of time and page to redeem herself and become again the intelligent spitfire from before, just please quit with the overwrought relationship melodrama. 

Along with Eve's deevolution, Monica is another character that continues to change. She presented a somewhat more humane demeanor in Fade Out (I still wouldn't go so far as to call her kind or nice) and that is true for Kiss of Death as well. She is always slowly being downgraded in importance over the last few novels, with few appearances or actions that do much. She's either getting better and less important to the storyline as Claire becomes more firmly enmeshed with the vampires or I have Stockholm Syndrome from reading this series. Who knows? All I know is at least the characters from the Morganville Vampire series aren't stagnant. Even if I hate what they become, they're constantly evolving, forcing me to re-evaluate their place in the grand scheme of this soon to be sixteen-novels-long series. I have little to nothing to contribute about Claire from this novel: I didn't hate her, didn't love her more than I did before. I did appreciate that she was much more badass and violent this go round; her only contributions weren't just her brains and girlfriend got her hands dirty.

With a three-sided vampire war, zombie vampires, Claire and Shane's thankfully easy relationship, and a change of venue, Kiss of Death is one of the better recent Morganville novels. Almost on par with the first in the series, this last novel left me once again eager to see what plans Amelie has in store for her intrepid group of malcontents. If you've liked the first seven, you'll definitely be a fan of number eight.

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