Alyxandra Harvey

Drake Chronicles, Book 2

Bloomsbury (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-4088-0705-7

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Blood Feud is the second volume of the Drake Chronicles. Since the Drakes are a large family – seven boys and one girl in the immediate family alone – and each of the two volumes so far have focused on a different Drake, it’s entirely possible that this could be an extended series. That’s not a bad thing; these are good novels likely to be enjoyed by their young adult target audience. This second novel, however, may be a little less attractive to an older audience than the first one, My Love Lies Bleeding, was.

As the novel opens, Logan Drake’s mother Helena has become a vampire Queen. She didn’t particularly want the job, but it sort of happened in the course of saving her daughter Solange (the full story is detailed in My Love Lies Bleeding). Not everyone wanted her to get the job either, and an assassination attempt occurs early in the preparations for her coronation. Many dignitaries are coming to the coronation. One is Isabeau St Croix, there to represent the Hounds, a reclusive vampire tribe. Isabeau survived the French revolution only to be turned into a vampire, and left in her grave for 200 years until rescued by the Hounds. Now she is one of their Princesses, and sent to Court to negotiate an alliance with the new Queen.

Within moments of arrival Isabeau finds herself negotiating a very informal alliance with Logan Drake. The two of them are instantly and strongly drawn to each other. And it seems that at least one of those with an eye to executing the new Queen is the vampire who turned Isabeau, someone she’d dearly like to meet in a dark alley. So Logan and Isabeau team up to gain revenge and protect their loved ones.

As with the first novel in the series, this is well written. Harvey has thought through the background to her vampires, and added an original twist (that some vampires can be born, due to specific genetic traits, but the children don’t become vampires proper until they reach puberty). Her prose is simple and enjoyable, and she has a good eye for writing action scenes. She also touches on events in the earlier novel without going over them in any detail; new readers won’t be confused and returning readers won’t be bored.

There are a couple of difficulties with this volume. One is that Isabeau St Croix isn’t a very convincing character. My problem with her was largely with her background – she is supposedly an aristocratic survivor of the French revolution. Harvey has wisely kept the flashbacks to the French revolution sketchy so far as the politics go. This is fine; if you were caught in the middle of it you probably wouldn’t have been able to see the big picture, and certainly it means you can’t fault the historical aspect of the novel – it’s too sketchy.

But it left me with a problem where Isabeau was concerned. On the one hand, she seemed to have made no effort when she rose 200 years later to find out about the revolution that took her parents from her. She doesn’t seem to have investigated any of the history, or formed an opinion about the long term impact of the Revolution. Surely you’d give it some thought? And Harvey seems unable to decide if Isabeau is still caught in her own time or not. For example, early in the novel Isabeau suggests she’s very uncomfortable with modern technology like mobile phones, but later she uses them with unblinking ease. Isabeau doesn’t seem to think or behave like a woman of her own time, but there’s not a lot of evidence that she’s acclimatised to modern times either. I found it very hard to believe in her; she didn’t seem to have a particularly strong characterisation.

Logan Drake, on the other hand, was a strong character, interesting, and largely convincing. He had one flaw; he didn’t seem to think much like a teenage boy. Okay, he’s also a vampire – but since he became one at puberty he is genuinely still a teenage boy. I’ve never been a teenage boy myself, so I don’t really know exactly what happens in their heads. But Logan seemed far too self-assured and controlled for a teenager in his situation. Even the language he used to talk to himself didn’t sound quite right.

There was one other minor flaw – the humor sometimes seemed a little strained. This may not be as much of a flaw for a young adult audience, as it’s very much pitched at the kind of casual, sarcastic humor that appeals to a younger audience. Harvey doesn’t generally make it too broad, but there were times when it seemed a little strained – particularly when she was trying to leaven romantic or sexual encounters with humor. It didn’t quite work for me but it may be more successful with an audience that may be uncomfortable with anything too intense in this area. It does mean this novel is fairly sedate and suitable for quite a wide audience.

On the whole, this is a good novel. It was enjoyable to read, and although some of the inconsistencies with Isabeau nagged at the back of my mind, it wasn’t an enormous obstacle to enjoying the story. The plot is well worked out and convincing (if you accept the initial premises about vampires), and the prose flows well. This is an excellent novel for a young adult audience. Older readers are also likely to enjoy it but may find it a falls a little short of engrossing.