Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: Vampire Mine, by Kerrelynn Sparks

This review is for two different reading challenges.

The first one is
'The Descent of the Angels Reading Challenge'
hosted by Momo at Books Over Boys.
It began in January of this year,
and will end in December.

The second one is the
'Speculative Fiction Challenge, 2011'
hosted by Magemanda at 
This one also runs
from January to December, 2011.
I found out about it way after
I had started the first one,
so it's great that I can use books for both!

Title: Vampire Mine
Author: Kerrelyn Sparks
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 369 pages
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: April 1, 2011
(first published March, 2011)
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Vampire Romance

This novel is the latest installment in Sparks's "Love at Stake" series, so it follows the further adventures and romantic mishaps of the Vamps (these are the good vampires in the books), whose leader is Roman Draganesti, formerly a medieval monk, and inventor of synthetic blood, which is what the Vamps drink, instead of human blood. 

Since this is only my second novel in the series, and I'm a Sparks fan, I really need to go back and catch up by reading the rest of them.  Besides, I don't have the background story for this group of zany vampires...

Like Lynsay Sands, Sparks specializes in funny vampire romances.  While it might be objected that there's nothing at all funny about vampires, you wouldn't know it from these novels!  When I read my first one in this series, All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire, I laughed practically all the way through.  This one follows the tradition set by the author.

Sparks introduces a new element in this particular book -- the Vamps encounter Marielle, an angel banished from heaven due to disobedience.  Even her wings have been taken from her, and she's been left alone, injured, near the top of Mount Rushmore.  She is found by Connor Buchanan, a Scottish Vamp who brings her back to Romatech, the Vamp headquarters as well as the home of Roman, his mortal wife, Shanna, and their two children.

It turns out that Marielle is an angel of Death -- in angelic parlance, a Deliverer.  She escorts souls to heaven.  

The Vamps are engaged in a never-ending fight against the Malcontents.  These are the evil vampires in the series, who scoff at drinking synthetic blood, and have absolutely no qualms about killing humans for the real thing.  Their leader, Casimir, is gathering an army with which to defeat and eliminate the Vamps, which would give the Malcontents total freedom to go on their killing sprees.

The angel and the Vamp feel an immediate attraction for each other, and this develops quickly into love over the course of a single week. Marielle's situation is at once comical and sad, because she has to learn so many new things about the human world, including 'the birds and the bees', for instance. As an angel, she had never experienced any feelings for a specific human being -- her love for humans was all-inclusive.  Nor had she ever experienced anything like sexual attraction. 

As for Connor, he has been harboring a dark secret for centuries (he's approaching his 500th birthday), and feels unworthy of Marielle's love.  He's also sure he's heading straight for hell.   

While my initial impressions of this novel were very favorable, there were some things that disappointed me.  Thus, I felt I couldn't give it the five stars I was sure it deserved, as I was starting the book.  

The first thing that bothered me was the callous way in which Marielle was banished and stripped of her wings.  Zackriel, her supervisor, whom she calls 'Zack', actually cut them off, leaving her bleeding and in great pain.  This doesn't sound like very angelic behavior. 

Furthermore, she is completely isolated on earth, no longer able to hear the singing and praises of the Heavenly Host.  Even her prayers are not heard or answered.  Of course, this is a work of fiction. Only mystics and visionaries can have any knowledge of how the angelic realm really operates, I would think.  However, I had to ask myself if a loving Creator would have allowed one of His angels to treat another angel this way.  I would have to go off on a theological tangent in order to deal with this issue, which, of course, I won't do, since it's beyond the scope of this review.  Suffice it to say that I felt pretty uncomfortable when I read this part of the book.

Another negative point was the way the plot developed.  More than half of the book is mostly taken up with the romance between Connor and Marielle, which I didn't mind at all, actually.  However, I felt it was too unrealistic for an angel to consent to have a sexual relationship within such a short period of time.  Although she became more and more human the longer she stayed on earth, this aspect of Connor and Marielle's relationship should have developed more gradually, so as to be more believable, more in keeping with her nature as an angel. 

The ending of the book is rather anti-climactic, too.  There should have been more difficulties for the good guys, more drama, in spite of the fact that there was so much humor in the book.  In short, the novel fell flat as it neared the end.  What started out as a highly enjoyable read, full of comical situations and jokes, ended up as a bit of a disappointment. 

The ending itself was not only not believable, but contrived, and very cheesy, even for a romance novel.  Besides, the whole banishment situation was given an entirely different spin that was totally at odds with its earlier presentation.

In spite of all the negative things I have mentioned, I will not stop reading this series.  As I stated above, I am a Kerrelyn Sparks fan.  Her take on the vampire world is original and comical, and she develops her characters very well.

In fact, I have mixed feelings about this novel.  I really liked Connor and Marielle, and did enjoy their love story.  I just didn't think that Sparks handled this unusual romance with the necessary restraint, especially given the very obvious religious elements in the story.

One thing I absolutely love about this book is the breathtakingly beautiful cover!  it's really too bad that the story that goes along with it doesn't quite do it justice.  (And, needless to say, there's an obvious contradiction here, too, since Marielle only had her wings before she met Connor.)


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