Book 71: Night World: The Ultimate Fan Guide

Night World: Ultimate Fan GuideNight World: The Ultimate Fan Guide, by L. J. Smith

I would recommend you buy this book only if you are a die-hard, can’t live without it, Night World fan. It’s overpriced in my opinion, and doesn’t really contain anything that new. The best parts were L. J. Smith’s insights into her writing process, thoughts behind the Night World, and insights into some of the characters, but I would say you could easily read those flipping through it in a bookstore.

The quizzes and answers that take up some of the book are a bit silly in my opinion, but might be good for a girl in the 10 – 14 range. Some of the things, such as a gallery of book covers, seem to be included just to take up page space; I don’t think they add to the guide. There is some useful information if you’re new to Night World, but 95% of it you would get from reading the books.

2/5.

Book 36: Night World 2: Daughters of Darkness

Daughters of DarknessNight World #2: Daughters of Darkness, by L. J. Smith

For me, “Daughters of Darkness” is the one sour note in Smith’s Night World series. It was the one book in the nine book series that I had to force myself to finish (I am obsessive about finishing everything I read).

The concept is interesting, but I feel it could have used better execution. As with all Night World books, the protagonist is female. Mary-Lynette is a human and unaware of the secret world of vampires, werewolves, and other spooky things that exist around her. She thinks she lives in the quietest, most boring town in the world, but that’s all about to change when a series of startling events happens.

When the next door neighbor goes missing just as her three nieces arrive in town, and Mary-Lynette sees them burying something in the backyard, she’s immediately suspicious. Unable to leave the mystery alone, she heads next door and meets the new arrivals, who further her apprehension about the disappearance of her neighbor. The girls remind her of predators, which is unsurprising as the girls are lamia, or born vampires.

The mystery of who killed the neighbor takes up a good chunk of the book, and in my opinion, is very over used. It just drags on too long, and every time there was a new twist in the whodunit, I kept thinking, “Okay, that’s the end of it now…no, wait…there’s more. Sigh.”

Ash Redfern also makes an appearance in this book (some readers may remember him from “Night World #1: Secret Vampire,” where he waylaid Poppy), and is a starring character along with his sisters. Initially he’s on the hunt for the three sisters, who ran away from a vampire enclave. Ash is characterized as the ultimate vampire – humans are vermin and nothing more, to him. Mary-Lynette takes an immediate dislike to him when meeting him for the first time. And here’s where the potentially interesting concept comes in – Ash and Mary-Lynette are soulmates, but unlike Smith’s other couples, the two can’t stand each other.

But something about this book just didn’t do it for me. Maybe it was the overly drawn out murder mystery. Or maybe it was that the main character, Mary-Lynette, seemed dry. Or maybe even what seemed interesting – soulmates disliking each other – somehow doesn’t fit in a series that’s about finding your soulmate.

1/5.

Book 31: Night World 9: Witchlight

WitchlightNight World #9: Witchlight, by L. J. Smith

Wow. I couldn’t stop turning the pages of this book last night, and ended up staying up late to finish it because I just *had* to know how it was going to end!

Keller is a shapeshifter; “Witchlight” is the only book in the Night World series to be told from a ‘shifter’s perspective. I wish at least another of the protagonists in the previous books had been a shapeshifter, as I enjoyed Keller’s point of view so much.

Like all the girls before her, Keller is a kick ass, take no nonsense kind of main character. She’s the boss of a small security team made up of herself, a vampire, and a witch. They belong to Circle Daybreak and have been tasked to protect the most recently identified Wild Power.

Iliana Harman is Keller’s opposite in every way. She’s soft-hearted, ditzy, immersed in her family, friends, and school life. She’s never had to fight. But all that’s about to change when Iliana is thought to be the lost Witch Child as well as a Wild Power. And as the Witch Child, she’s been prophesied to marry the First Son of the House of Shapeshifters, to cement an alliance between the witches and ‘shifters.

There’s a lot going on in “Witchlight.” The action is jam-packed and pretty nonstop, as Keller and her team try to protect Iliana, figure out how to fight an awakened dragon, and convince Iliana to accept her destiny. There’s one big problem with the potential alliance though…Iliana’s future husband is actually Keller’s soulmate. It’s quite a tangle, but provides Smith with opportunities for character growth. I really didn’t care for Iliana at all when the novel started, but by the end I liked her.

I enjoyed “Witchlight” quite a bit, and I’m happy that I’m reading it now, when the sequel novel will finally be coming out. In 1998 Smith left her fans with quite a cliffhanger, and left them there for a decade. But “Strange Fate” is finally slated to be published in 2010 and I hope it is because now I’m rather anxious to find out how Smith will tie everything together that she’s created over the course of the first 9 books.

4/5.

Book 30: Night World 8: Black Dawn

Black DawnNight World #8: Black Dawn, by L. J. Smith

“Black Dawn” feels like the meatiest of the Night World books, with a lot going on in a very short period of time. Smith introduces us to a new Wild Power and a secret vampire kingdom all in one.

Maggie’s world changes overnight when she’s awakened by the sound of her mother crying. Her brother Miles is missing and presumed dead. Maggie listens as his girlfriend, Sylvia, tells the family what happened, but something is wrong with Sylvia’s story. Maggie’s pretty sure Sylvia is lying, so she follows her to her apartment. Sylvia lights some sort of incense…and the next thing Maggie knows, she’s waking up in a cart. A horse drawn cart. Three other girls are in the cart, and one tells Maggie that she’s now a slave.

That’s Maggie’s introduction to a secret world in the mountains, a secret Night World kingdom. A kingdom where humans are slaves to vampires, witches, and shapeshifters. A world where there is no color. A world that has Maggie’s soulmate…

Maggie isn’t part of the Night World, but she follows in the tradition of all other Night World protagonists by being a strong, spunky, honorable heroine. When thrown into a world full of injustice, she constantly tries to do the right thing, even when it could cost her life.

I really enjoyed this chapter of the Night World series. Smith creates an intriguing world within a world with the secret vampire kingdom, one I really wanted to know more about. There’s an interesting cast of characters, from a vampire prince to a blind witch to a defiant slave. The action is very fast – maybe a little too fast in some parts – as Maggie jumps from crisis to crisis to crisis. The ending also feels rushed; things happen too quickly. There are one or two more things that don’t make sense, such as a time traveling dream. But overall, “Black Dawn” is quite good and will keep you turning the pages.

3/5.

Book 29: Night World 7: Huntress

HuntressNight World #7: Huntress, by L. J. Smith

In “Huntress,” Smith develops a larger story line for her Night World series. The new concept deals with the coming millennium and a possible apocalypse that will wipe out humanity and return the world to an age where the Night World rules, rather than exists on the fringes. Humanity will only be saved if four legendary Wild Powers are found and kept safe by Circle Daybreak. But the Night World is searching for these powers as well…

Enter Jez Redfern. Once a kickass vampire chick who hunted people like they were animals, she’s now a vampire hunter and living as a human. Jez is unique – the only human-vampire halfbreed known to exist. She lived most of her life thinking she was a vampire, but the day she found out she was half-human she swore off her old life. Intent on making up for all the evil she’d done before, she now helps Circle Daybreak hunt the very denizens of the Night World who were once her people.

Circle Daybreak sends Jez into certain danger when they learn her old vampire gang has one of the Wild Powers. They need Jez to find and bring the person back to Circle Daybreak before the Night World council arrives and takes control. But Jez has a few problems…she has to rejoin her old gang, has to deal with Morgead…a vampire who swears he’s her soulmate…and she has her human cousin sniffing behind her. Not to mention she has to protect the potential Wild Power.

“Huntress” is one wild ride, full of action. Jez is undoubtedly one of my favorite Night World characters. She’s strong, honorable, determined, and half-vampire! Smith also draws a greater connection with the other Night World books, ramping the series up for an explosive finish. I for one can’t wait for the final book, which will finally be published in 2010.

4/5.

Book 28: Night World 6: Soulmate

SoulmateNight World 6: Soulmate, by L. J. Smith

Hannah Snow has the perfect life – she’s about to graduate from high school, she already has a college scholarship, and she even knows that she wants to be a paleontologist. But her perfect life starts to collapse when she finds notes that she doesn’t remember writing, warning her of a dire event – “Dead Before Seventeen.”

Increasingly disturbed by the notes and bad dreams, Hannah visits a psychiatrist. On her very first appointment, a werewolf crashes into the building and tries to attack her, but a mysterious voice in her head helps her dodge each claw swipe. She’s saved by the arrival of a second werewolf, who chases off the first.

Knowing that she has to get to the root of what’s going on, Hannah and the psychiatrist try hypnosis, and she’s plunged into a vision of a past life, where she was Hana, and a strange boy with blood around his mouth appears in her village…

Thierry is one of the oldest vampires in the world, created at the dawn of humanity. He’s spent his lifetime searching for his soulmate, trying to find her before her 17th birthday so he can break a cycle of death. But when he finds her this time, she doesn’t want his help…

“Soulmate” is my favorite Night World book. Coming 6th in the series, it exemplifies the soulmate principle Smith has used in each previous book, because Hannah and Thierry are the original soulmates. Hannah’s past lives are a great plot device, because it allows Smith to give her lots of growth and abilities; and I really enjoy the stories of her past lives. I wish Smith had done more with that, she alludes to some interesting incarnations of Hannah but only fills in a few. Like other Night World heroines, Hannah’s no wilting flower and she does take matters into her own hands when she needs to. Also in “Soulmate” Smith starts to introduce a bigger theme if classic theme, saving the world, and it’ll be interesting to see where she takes it.

If you read any of the other in the Night World series, this book will also give a good update on what your favorite couples are up to, and what they are trying to do.

4/5.

Book 27: Night World 5: The Chosen

The ChosenNight World #5: The Chosen, by L. J. Smith

When she’s 5 years old, Rashel sees her mother and her friend killed by a vampire. The vampire tries to get her as well, but even at 5 she’s strong enough to resist his mind control. Fast forward twelve years and Rashel is a vampire hunter, existing on the fringes of the Day and the Night worlds, keeping humans safe.

Rashel is a very strong character, comfortable in her body and determined because of her past. She’s a great fighter and has a sense of honor. When she and a group of vampire hunters capture a vampire, the others want to torture him, but Rashel can’t stomach torturing a defenseless being, even if he is a vampire. So she decides to let him go…and then discovers he’s her soulmate. To add to the mix, the vampire is Quinn, known throughout the Night World as one of the most soulless, human-hating vampires around.

While Rashel is one of my favorite Night World characters, I find the plot of this book a little weak. Rashel stumbles into a Night World slave trade of humans when she rescues a blonde bunny, but then Daphne, the girl she helps, is willing to risk her life to help Rashel take down the operation. The ending is very abrupt as well, without taking care of some loose ends that I would’ve liked to see resolved. But overall “The Chosen” fits very nicely into the Night World series, and uses the soulmate principle that ties all the books together very nicely. Rashel and Quinn are iconic of the opposites attract cliche, but it works for them and they grow over the short time period of the book. I really want to see more of them.

3/5.

Book 26: Night World 4: Dark Angel

Dark AngelNight World #4: Dark Angel, by L. J. Smith

At first “Dark Angel” doesn’t seem like a typical Night World book. Gillian Lennox is a normal teenager; someone that many teen girls could probably relate too. She’s not one of the popular crowd but instead is a shy outcast. Her two goals in life are somewhat superficial: she wants to be popular, and she wants David Blackburn to love her. But then who wasn’t superficial when they were a teen?

Gillian’s introduction to the Night World comes when she has a near death experience. On her way home from school, she goes into the snowy woods after she thinks she hears a child crying. Instead she falls into a creek and hypothermia sets in. But she’s rescued by Angel, a celestial being who guides Gillian back to the road. But Angel turns out to be more than just a lifesaver, as he starts to help Gillian fulfill her goals. He whispers the secrets of popularity in her ear, helping a shy girl transform into a vivacious butterfly. But as Gillian’s status increases at school, she starts to become suspicious of her guardian angel…who is he really? And what does he want with David?

The Night World connection in this book is tenuous, but it does make sense. After all, in a world populated with werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural creatures, it’s natural that spirits would exist as well. So far Gillian is probably the most identifiable of all the protagonists in the Night World books, as she’s your everyday teenage girl who finds out that there’s a secret world…and she’s part of it. How many of us have wished for that? I know I have.

For me, “Dark Angel” is a solid chapter in the Night World series, but it doesn’t really stand out, but then it isn’t bad either. It’s a good story of growth.

3/5.

Review: Night World 3: Spellbinder by L. J. Smith

Spellbinder Night World #3: Spellbinder, by L. J. Smith

“She knew the drill. Another year of living with them, of walking quietly through the halls knowing that she was different from everybody around her, even while she was carefully, expertly pretending to be the same (p. 4).”

Thea and Blaise are cousins, raised as closely as if they were sisters. They’re also both witches, members of the secret Night World. And they are high school students, starting at their fifth high school, having been expelled from four others – mostly because of Blaise. But this time, it’s Thea who will jeopardize their future when she breaks the cardinal rules of the Night World; which are 1) Never let humans know about the Night World, and 2) Never fall in love with a human.

On their first day of school, Thea meets Eric, and the two are like swans – they know they are destined for each other immediately. There’s only one little problem – Eric’s human. Thea tries to push Eric away for his safety, but the two are soulmates and nothing she tries will keep him from her. But will she give up everything for him?

I read “Spellbinder” pretty quickly, in about 90 minutes, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Normally I don’t care at all for romances, but mix in some supernatural elements, good writing, and interesting characters, and I’m hooked. I really liked Smith’s portrayal of Thea – you start out thinking she’s the quiet type, overshadowed by her vivacious cousin, but she develops believably into someone with backbone, someone caught between a rock and a hard place who doesn’t know what way to turn, but tries to do the right thing, but sometimes doing it the wrong way. I also rather relished Smith’s detail to the spells and especially the components. I had the feeling “Wow this is cool” when reading. The spells also allow for a nice twist at the end.

“Spellbinder” is a great installment in the Night World series, and gives an in-depth look at the witches and their origin in Smith’s created world. I for one definitely want to know more about the history of the Night World, and am looking forward to reading more.

4/5.

Review: Night World 1: Secret Vampire by L. J. Smith

Secret VampireNight World #1: Secret Vampire, by L. J. Smith

I first discovered the Night World series when I was about 10 or 11; I can’t remember which. I devoured them then; I’ve always been fascinated with the supernatural, vampires and werewolves and witches oh my. Now, rereading the series a decade later, I’m happy to find that my nostalgia for the books is valid, as I’m enjoying them this second go around as much as I did the first time.

“Secret Vampire” tells the tale of Poppy, a 16 year old who starts her summer vacation in a rather dismal way: with a diagnosis of incurable pancreatic cancer. A summer that promised to be full of music, hanging out with friends, and just generally having a good time will turn into 3 months or less of pain and agony…but luckily for Poppy, her best
friend James has a secret.

James is a vampire, part of the Night World. The Night World is a secret society of all sorts of supernatural creatures and they have two rules: 1) Never tell humans about the Night World, and 2) Never fall in love with a human. To break these rules is to risk death; but James is more than willing to risk his life, especially after he
discovers Poppy is his soulmate.

All Night World books carry a common theme: the protagonist is always a female teenager, always someone a bit different from all those around her. In each book the protagonist finds her soulmate.

I remember when I was much younger and reading these books. I wanted to *be* the protagonist. I wanted to be a part of the Night World – and who wouldn’t want to be? Smith has a gift for writing fiction that speaks to the reader, and makes the reader identify with the main characters. Poppy and James connect in a mental way when he is transforming her into a vampire, a way that makes words seem bulky and useless for real communication. Even though I know life isn’t like that, it’s still magical to see it done nicely in fiction. And still makes me wish it were possible.

The Night World series has recently been republished in a collection of omnibuses, which makes it a great pickup. The next installment in the series, which I have been waiting for for over a decade, will be published in 2010, which makes this the perfect time to leap into Smith’s secret society. “Secret Vampire” is an excellent kickoff to the series, and introduces readers to some of the particulars of the Night World, as well as to two great characters.

My only issues with this book are that it’s a little dated, due to being first published in 1996. You don’t dial in to the Internet anymore, etc.; but that’s just me nitpicking. Also it’s a somewhat quick read; I finished the entire book in about 90 minutes or less. But that also makes it a nice diversion that won’t take you a week to enjoy.

4/5.