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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Last Breath by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires, #11) - Book Review

5/5 Stars

Vampires aren't the top predator on earth.

There's something worse that preys on them...something much worse.

Which means if Claire, and Morganville, want to live, they will have to fight on to the last breath...

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Edition: Paperback
Pages: 479
Chapters: 19 (Plus an introduction. For UK readers there's a short story at the back.)
Publisher: Allison and Busby

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

Entry eleven in The Morganville Vampires series, Last Breath, is testament to the fact that, well, this collection of stories is definitely not on its last breath. 

Just when I thought the series couldn't get fresher, Caine pulls some nifty tricks from up her sleeves. The book's blurb is the first indication, with it alluding to a new big bad (thank God) and a procession of events bigger than anything our cast has faced. The author keeps everything that we love, while adding and expanding new aspects to cover our exhilarating race to the final instalment.

Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gents, it's time for a ride of supernaturally charged proportions...

SPOILER WARNING

Synopsis (This time round, I'll be using the blurb that comes with my edition of the book.)

Claire Danvers is concerned when three vampires vanish from Morganville without a trace. The last person seen with them is someone new to town -- a mysterious individual named Magnus. Claire is convinced creepy Magnus isn't human...but is he vampire, or something else entirely?

Claire's hunt for answers leads her to solving another mystery that's long been puzzling her: Why do vampires live so far out in a sunny desert when they're sensitive to sunlight? The answer has nothing to do with sunlight, but with water -- and an ancient enemy who has finally found a way to invade the vampires' landlocked community. Vampires aren't the top predator on earth. There's something worse that preys on them...something much worse. Which means if Claire, and Morganville, want to live, they will have to fight on to the last breath...

Plot - 5/5 Stars

I'm not long from saying that this entry's predecessor, Bite Club, gladly shakes up parts of the series. It has its downsides (Bishop) but overall it's a breath of fresh air. Last Breath? Well, it continues the trend in fantastic fashion. We start off normal (well, in a way, Morganville is run by the undead): There are ordinary worries, supernatural worries, but all seems to be balancing on that familiar knife's edge.

But a knife will eventually cut, and with this instalment, it cuts deep...

We're graced with a plethora of plot threads that are all engaging and carried by capable characters. There's Michael and Eve's impending wedding, with the town majorly split in their reactions to a vamp marrying a human; there are the usual folks (from both the undead community and the living) trying to start some sort of civil war for control of Morganville; Claire's trying to keep her grades up while also working with crazy-vamp Myrnin on magic/science projects... Essentially, another day in this series.

Only, a new threat has arisen (or old, considering the bad guys have been around for as long as the vampires), and they terrify the fanged community enough that head-honcho Amelie orders all vampires to evacuate, and all humans to be killed.

It is severe! There's an apocalypse brewing, and Caine transcribes that perfectly. Kick-ass action, magnificent mythology, and did I mention that the big bad is creepy as hell? They're called the draug, or, more simply, water vampires. I know, I know, it sounds silly, but it works. The fact that for eleven books now vamps have been the most powerful force, I love the spice of variety, especially considering the draug are a lot harder to kill and multiply faster. Not to mention they seem to be stronger with a more extensive skill set.

Oh, and Claire dies! Yep, I hope you've read the book, that's one big ol' spoiler there (but I warned you). She doesn't stay dead, but when Caine goes there the shock is like acid in your veins. I won't spoil every detail about it, but it's riveting and surprising.

We move from mystery, to horror, to shock, to glee, to dread. Top it off with a surprisingly punchy ending with a mouth-watering cliffhanger of hope and despair.

Pace - 5/5 Stars

Last Breath doesn't waste time getting itself on its path, and letting the reader know it. One of my cons for Bite Club is its indecision for a good chunk of the beginning, but we don't get that here. Caine strikes your curiosity like a match, and just before it's due to extinguish, throws it into a pool of gasoline. The variety of viewpoints (an expansion of last book's exploration, more on that below) creates a full-world view. 

And some of the twists... 

Stellar structure.

Characters - 5/5 Stars

Introduced in Bite Club, Last Breath sees the return and widening of multiple character viewpoints. We start with Claire and Shane narrating the former, but in the latter we now have in-depth looks at, not only those two, but also Michael, Eve and Amelie. I was most hesitant about Amelie, but Caine pulls it off with confidence.

My reasoning for why it works so well is this: From book one to book nine, Claire is our eyes, we journey through this spellbinding series getting to know the cast like family, and it's this family feel that helps the reader clearly imagine the characters' voices and personalities. It's also something that's reflected in the writing. It's not often multiple viewpoints work, but Caine achieves it.

One thing I'm surprised I haven't mentioned before is how the author keeps her cast on a very even keel with one another. Especially our main four - Claire, Shane, Michael and Eve - who compliment each other. Claire is smart, and that's her strongest asset, one that is instrumental for her continual survival of situations brute force just can't conquer. She can fight, but intelligence and heart are her weapons of choice. Shane, on the other hand, is very physical. He's street-smart, but is an accomplished fighter, even against some vampires. Caine portrays them in a way that's balanced. Sure, Shane wants to be all 'manly' and defend Claire, but the author makes it clear: It has nothing to do with Claire's capability, and everything to do with Shane's good nature and love. And Claire knows she can defend herself, but isn't stubborn when it comes to things out of her range of skills.

This is something injected to all cast members: Strengths, but also weaknesses.

Oh, and let's not forget Michael and Eve's upcoming nuptials. The residents of Morganville, despite the changes Claire and the group have ushered, still have a very us-vs-them mentality (humans vs vamps). To a lot of people, the undead and the living absolutely cannot tie the knot. It's 'not right'. Where have we heard that before? There are the obvious comparisons: Decades earlier (and sometimes, sadly, in the present) with black and white individuals; more recently with same-sex couples. It's sad, still, that people will find any way to make something that isn't any of their business about themselves.

Writing - 5/5 Stars

The quality of writing is solid, and the biggest thing I have in regard to it is the expanded viewpoints I mention above.

Overall - 5/5 Stars

The Morganville Vampires series is just one more collection I'm going to miss when I finish...


Previous Instalment: Bite Club
Next Instalment: Black Dawn


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