Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
Twice Bitten is the third in the Chicagoland vampire series – the second, Friday Night Bites is reviewed here. Twice Bitten is in very much the same mould as its’ predecessor, sharing its characteristics, and particularly its weaknesses.
Shapeshifters from across America are convening in Chicago to decide whether or not to retreat to their Alaskan stronghold. Their decision is of critical interest to vampires; if they choose to retreat they are essentially abandoning vampires to whatever humans decide to do – and the signs are ominous; bad times may be coming for vampires. If the shifters decide to stay, they may provide some protection and support for their supernatural colleagues. Given the intense interest of vampires in the outcome of the Convocation, Master Vampire Ethan Sullivan has offered Merit, the Sentinel of his House, as bodyguard to Gabriel Keene, the Alpha shapeshifter.
And as Merit sadly supposed when unwillingly accepting the job, it isn’t an easy gig. Someone is gunning for Gabriel – literally – and she’s soon entangled in the investigation to find out who. Not that that’s her only worry; her increasing attraction for Ethan, the Vampire who made her and who is technically her boss, is also of some concern.
The plot of Twice Bitten isn’t going to make anyone’s brain cells work overtime. There are few surprises, and it’s a very straightforward series of events that play out in a pretty simple fashion. Even the romantic subplot doesn’t have a lot to offer that hasn’t been seen often before, and often in a more compelling fashion. It’s true that romantic novels tend to have an element of predictability about them, but it’s still possible to infuse them with verve and passion. Neill hasn’t done that.
Twice Bitten reinforces the impression its predecessor (Friday Night Bites) gave me – that Neill did not take a lot of care in writing this novel. It continues to offer the same problems as the first (including vampires who retain virtually all human bodily functions), while introducing new bloopers that suggest Neill has limited worldbuilding skills. For example, when describing the library in Cadogan House, Merit refers to three big windows that let in lots of light. That makes little sense. Vampires would be using the library at night, when the windows would offer little benefit. They wouldn’t want light pouring in if they happened to be there during the day. And if they were keeping rare books there – as was certainly implied – then you’d generally want to minimise the amount of sunlight too.
Another that stuck out was when Gabriel, the eldest Keene sibling, announced that his mother named her children alphabetically, with the youngest son being Adam. Weird. If you’re going to name your children alphabetically, you usually start at one end of the alphabet or the other. You don’t start at “G” and work backwards.
And Neill’s incorrect word use really bugged me. “Sight” was used for “site” not only here, but in the previous book. “Reigning” for “raining” was another. By themselves I would have glossed over these errors, but they simply heightened the impression of a book written carelessly, and then left unchecked.
Like Friday Night Bites, Twice Bitten isn’t a bad novel. It’s diverting enough, and the romance element is stronger in this novel, which will please a segment of the audience. But it continues to lack a truly credible environment, and the characters aren’t distinctive or original enough to strongly engage most readers. Essentially it’s a fairly blah book; you won’t hate it, it’ll be a pleasant enough way to spend some time, and the plot won’t strain you much, but you probably won’t remember it for long or be desperate for the next instalment.