Alyxandra Harvey

The Drake Chronicles (book 3)

Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1-4088-0706-4

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Out For Blood is the third in the Drake Chronicles. Volumes one (My Love Lies Bleeding) and two (Blood Feud) have both been reviewed here.  Although there is an overarching story to the series, each volume focuses on a different Drake sibling’s romance.

In this instance, the focus is Quinn Drake. He’s the fourth Drake son, twin to Connor. And like all six of his brothers, and his sister, he became a vampire when he turned 16. In the earlier novels, his mother Helena kind of accidentally became the vampire queen while protecting her only daughter, Solange, from assassins. At least some of the assassins promptly turned their attention to Helena, and one of the early events in Out for Blood is the resulting low key and semi-secret coronation ceremony. It’s at this ceremony that Quinn first lays eyes on Hunter Wild.

Hunter is the latest in a long line of vampire hunters and doing very well at the Helios-Ra Academy – essentially, a high school for vampire slayers. She’s open to the recent truces that have been developed between some vampires and the Helios-Ra, but the grandfather who raised her believes that the only good vampire is a staked vampire. Which is going to prove inconvenient when Quinn seems irresistible to Hunter.

Hunter tries to distract herself by focusing on the strange things happening at the school. Vampire attacks on the school and nearby region have increased, despite the truces. Students are falling ill and disappearing; some are even dying. And none of the adults seem to know what’s going on, so it’s up to Hunter and her friends to solve the mystery before anyone else dies, and hopefully before Hunter loses her head over Quinn completely.

The concept of the slayer academy was an interesting one, but it felt a bit undeveloped to me. That’s in part because although it may have been mentioned in passing in one of the earlier novels, it essentially appeared out of nowhere in this volume. Harvey showed a real talent early in this series for putting together a really fascinating back story, and I think she could have done more with the idea of the slayer academy. Also, I’m kind of starting to wonder how vampires are still a secret in this world. There appear to be hundreds of them roaming around the place killing people, and there’s an entire school of kids growing up learning how to destroy them, not to mention the students’ families and possibly friends. An awful lot of people seem to know about something that’s supposed to be secret and mysterious.

Another weakness of this particular volume is that it doesn’t advance the overarching story very much. Indeed, it hardly seems to touch on it. That’s a weakness in part because the background that Harvey sets up for this series of novels is interesting, original, and credible (assuming you’re reasonably open to a suspension of disbelief to start with). It’s well thought out and logical, and was a large part of what drew me into the first novel. Although it isn’t really needed for the story told in this novel, I think Out for Blood would have a little more power if it had explored that background a little more. Readers new to the series, in particular, may find the story lacks a little drive without that background.

And in fact, that was probably the biggest weakness of this novel for me. There wasn’t a great sense of urgency about the plot (although there was supposed to be) and at no point was I on the edge of my seat, or especially eager to turn the page. It was interesting, and kept me reading. It all made sense at the end and there were some twists along the way. But there wasn’t a lot of suspense and it was easy to put the novel down and pick it up again later.

Apart from those aspects, this is an enjoyable young adult novel that is likely to be well received by its intended audience, particularly young girls. Although the romance was as blindingly obvious as any formulaic Hollywood rom-com, it was enhanced by a spot-on understanding of how teenage girls think and react, and by strong characterisations.

Quinn and Hunter were the main focus, and as such the most strongly drawn characters. Both were realistic and it was easy to empathise with each; female readers will undoubtedly find something of themselves in Hunter. Unlike some authors, Harvey remembers that a world is not populated by two people and a bunch of silhouettes; other characters are equally strongly drawn and people like Chloe, Hunter’s best friend, will also resonate with many readers. Disappointingly for continuing readers, some of the most intriguing characters from earlier books get little time and less development; hopefully Harvey will return to some of them in later volumes. When Lucy appeared, for example, she brought a welcome shot of brio to sometimes vapid action, and I was sorry we saw so little of her.

The novel shows welcome flashes of humor; it’s a light touch, not overly sarcastic or particularly black, and probably well matched to many of the readers most likely to pick this novel up. It also lifted the novel a notch, making it more than an average plot and formulaic romance.

In short, although Out for Blood isn’t great literature, and probably isn’t the best this series will offer, it is nevertheless entertaining and interesting. It offers a pleasant romance and a reasonable action plot, but does little to advance the overall story apart from planting a few hints about possible future events. It will particularly appeal to younger female readers. Older readers who were engaged by the strong first novel in the series will tolerate this well enough while being unlikely to be particularly impressed.