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Monday, December 21, 2009

MY LOVE LIES BLEEDING By Alyxandra Harvey. London: Bloomsbury, 2010

Lucy and Solange have been friends since childhood. Lucy’s parents are hippyish New Agers who make her eat tofu. Solange has a large number of gorgeous brothers, including the especially yummy Nicholas. Solange’s parents have always been good to Lucy. So far, so teen romance. Only one problem: Solange’s family are vampires.

Hey, it’s a medical thing. You’re born with it, though it doesn’t take effect till your sixteenth birthday, around when you hit puberty (perhaps immortal vampires hit puberty late). If you survive it, you become immortal and lose your ability to go out by day or eat anything but blood and maybe human flesh if you’re a nasty vampire. Otherwise, you just die. And Solange’s sixteenth birthday is fast approaching. As the only girl born in her family in 900 years, she’s the subject of a prophecy, which means any number of bounty hunters have been sent after her, as the vampire queen, Lady Natasha, doesn’t want any threat to her power.

And then there’s a secret society of vampire hunters called the Helios Ra, who might consider breaking their treaty with Solange’s family, who don’t kill humans (and why would they when their pheromones just allow them to seduce people and when there are blood banks for emergencies?)

While this is an entertaining teen romance with a variation, plenty of strong female characters and ass-kicking, I don’t think it’s any threat to Stephenie Meyer, if only because it’s so short. It may be a small snack for fans of the Twilight saga who have run out of reading material. Mind you, what with the number of teen vampire romances out now, they’re unlikely to run out any time soon.

As a grumpy old librarian who reads a lot of spec fic, though, I have to ask: what’s with the sixteenth birthday? In all fairness, this one merely has the bad luck to be the umpteenth novel I have read in which the heroine is in danger because of something that is going to happen on her sixrteenth birthday. A curse, such as the one in the novel Beautiful Creatures, is okay. And I suppose there needed to be a deadline, to move the action along.

However, I think this writer ought to have decided on fantasy or SF and stuck to her choice. Puberty doesn’t turn up on a specific birthday, it just turns up when it feels like it. Unless there’s magic, of course. And wouldn’t immortals be a lot less fertile, to avoid overpopulation? Yes, there are Tolkien’s Elves, such as the Sons of Feanor, but they tend to kill each other a lot, so that’s okay, and Tolkien never pretended it was anything but fantasy anyway. When one of Solange’s uncles, a scientist, explained that it wasn’t quite magic and it wasn’t quite science, I thought: ”Cop-out!” Just as well we never found out the formula for Hypnos, a very convenient spray drug that makes the victim do whatever the caster wants.

That said, I suspect young readers will mostly not notice or worry about it. But the only YA vampire novel I have ever read that has believable science elements was one by Scott Westerfeld in which vampirism is caused by parasites and can be spread by breath and touch. It’s a lot of work to research for science fiction and most people can’t manage it. Alyxandra Harvey, alas, is no exception, at least so far. With a deadline to meet for her next novel she may simply not have time.

I really think the next volume in this series should stick to the fantasy and play down the supposed scientific elements. I just don’t think they work.

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