Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Drake Chronicles

After seeing Eclipse, the third movie in the Twilight Saga, I have to agree with critics that it is the best one yet. The screenwriter has taken great liberties with the book in order to accomodate the Team Edward/Team Jacob hype, but it works fairly well. Having my appetite for vampire stories whetted, I picked up Hearts at Stake, the first book in the Drake Chronicles, and was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it is. I'm fascinated by authors taking the basic vampire idea and making it their own.

In Hearts at Stake the author, Alyxandra Harvey, has imagined a very complex vampire world complete with a variety of vampire clans whose lineage is explained in great detail on the Drake Chronicles website at www.thedrakechronicles.com. Hearts at Stake introduces two best friends: Solange, who is waiting for her sixteenth birthday when she will change into a vampire, and Lucy, the feisty human, who is in love with Nicholas, one of Solange’s seven vampire brothers. In the Drake clan the vampires are human until their sixteenth birthday when they undergo the dangerous "bloodchange." They are genetically predisposed to be vampires, and when they begin the change, they must drink blood to stay alive. Solange's brothers managed to survive the passage, but she is the first female-born vampire in 800 years and a prophecy foretells that she will become queen and unite all the vampire clans. Lady Natasha, who is currently the queen, is determined that Solange won’t live to celebrate her birthday.

Lucy, Solange’s snarky, weapon-obsessed best friend, is aware of the situation and is determined to help Solange's family protect her. Lucy and Nicholas have been feuding their whole lives, but lately they find their animosity evolving into attraction. When Solange is kidnapped by Lady Natasha's minions, Lucy and Nicholas, as well as the rest of the Drake family, are determined to rescue her. They are aided by Kieran, a Helios Ra vampire hunter who initially attacks the Drake clan, looking to avenge his father’s death. When he discovers that his hatred of vampires is based on lies, he gives in to his attraction to Solange to help save her so that she may fulfill her destiny.

In Blood Feud, the second in the series, the story focuses on Solange's brother Logan and his attraction to Isabeau St Croix, a vampire from the Hounds Clan, who arrived at the eleventh hour to help rescue Solange. Isabeau survived the French Revolution, only to be attacked by the vampire Greyhaven and then buried for two hundred years until the Hounds rescued her. Logan is immediately attracted to her, but although she reciprocates his feelings, she is focused on finding Greyhaven and getting revenge. As Logan follows Isabeau on her quest, the clans are coming together for the coronation of Logan's mother Helena, who will preceed Solange as queen. However, the tenuous peace between the clans is threatened by Leander Montmarte, the 400-year-old vampire, who is the maker of the Host clan. He wants to marry Solange and usurp the throne for himself. Although Solange, Kieran, Lucy and Nicholas make guest appearances in the second novel, it primarily focuses on Logan and Isabeau working together to find Greyhaven.

For readers looking for action packed escapism, these books are great fun and offer a unique twist to the usual vampire fare. The conflict between the clans makes for an ongoing saga with a wide variety of characters to highlight. So far the romances in the Drake Chronicles follow a Romeo and Juliet formula. I'm wondering if the next book in the series will focus on another brother and his unorthodox love interest in the midst of the feuding vampire clans.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere

It has been a music filled week! We saw Widespread Panic at Red Rocks, Jesse Cook at the Boulder Theater, and last night we watched The Planets shoot a music video for You Tube at Immersive Studios in Boulder. As we were watching the technicians work out the video logistics, I began to think about people expressing their emotions through music and in particular a book I just read. In the Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, the main character works through the grief she is feeling over her sister's death through music, poetry and her own sexual awakening.

Lennie, who has always been the "companion pony" to her sister Bailey’s racehorse, is devastated when Bailey suddenly drops dead from a heart arrhythmia. A normally reserved band geek, who has read Wuthering Heights twenty-three times, Lennie is overwhelmed by her grief, which permeates every waking hour. In bits of poetry which Lennie hides under rocks and throws into the wind, she says, "My sister dies over and over again, all day long." Her profound loss awakens unexpected emotions and sexual desire in Lennie. She is utterly confused by a fierce mutual attraction to Bailey's boyfriend, Toby. Their attempts find comfort in each other's arms leave Lennie feeling guilty and ashamed.

Then Joe Fontaine, a brilliant musician who has recently returned from living in France, arrives at school and joins the band. She is amazed at how easily she falls into a relaxed banter with him, but is afraid to feel any happiness. When summer vacation begins, Joe shows up at her house daily with his guitar and breakfast for Lennie and her grandmother and uncle. He helps Lennie regain her love for playing the clarinet, and gently coaxes her to leave her cocoon of grief. When she finally lets go and they fall deeply in love, she again feels guilty because it "doesn't seem right that anything good should come out of Bailey's death." Looming in the background is Toby, whose attentions threaten her relationship with Joe.

The element of this novel that separates it from the chick lit genre is Lennie's poetry. Her missives help the reader connect with the intense pain that Lennie is feeling. She has lived in her sister's shadow her whole life and can't navigate coming out into the sun. She says, "In photographs of us together, she is always looking at the camera and I am always looking at her." Bailey's death forces Lennie to think about her own life and give herself permission to pursue her dreams. Due to the brief scenes of underage drinking and sexual exploration, I would recommend it for the more mature reader.