Review: Chicagoland Vampires Series (1-4) by Chloe Neill

Some Girls Bite | Friday Night Bites | Twice Bitten | Hard Bitten

Published: 2009-2011 NAL Trade/Penguin

Source: local library (print + audiobooks)

My synopsis: Merit is a grad student studying medieval literature when she’s attacked by a vampire, then turned into one. Ass-kicking, supernatural mysteries, and sexual tension ensue.

My thoughts: I can dig into some deep, literary books, I kid you not. But sometimes, especially when I’m busy as hell and reading a lot of very boring textbooks, I can really go for some light and fun urban fantasy, especially if it involves vampires. I didn’t realize this until I first read Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris after being totally burnt out by my first round of grad school. Since then, I’ve been looking for an urban fantasy series that I find equally delightful, and while not quite displacing my love of Sookie, Merit was an entertaining diversion.

I’m am not going to lie; these are not very well-written from a technical standpoint. Neill’s writing is full of unnecessary and repetitive description that really slows down the story. While I liked the audiobook and the sexual tension between Merit and her sire, Ethan, perked up my mornings on my early morning drive, I switched to print midway through the first couple of books. While the narrator (who changes throughout the series, at least in the versions my library owns) was fine in each book, I realized that this is the type of book I prefer to read rather than listen to because I can get through it more quickly. Neill writes long sections of superfluous detail each time Merit enters a new room or meets a new character (or even an often described character), and this is the kind of writing I’d rather skim to get to the good parts. When this type of detail is woven into the action of the story or rendered in beautiful language, I don’t mind it, but Neill’s description is rather cliched, boring, and superfluous.

The mysteries, world-building, and subplots in this series are just average, but I enjoyed Merit’s characterization. She’s sassy but smart, which is what I like in my urban fantasy heroines. I also favor a slow-burning romance, and the sexual tension between Ethan and Merit and her reasoning for her hesitation to pursue a relationship despite their chemistry made for a compelling read. The twist thrown in at the end of the fourth book has me both anxious and hesitant to continue, but also makes me admire the Neill’s guts in throwing that wrench into Merit’s love life. While each installment has a satisfying resolution, the overarching plot is interesting enough to prompt me to seek out the rest of the series despite the surprise.

While the premise and specifics about vampire nature isn’t wholly original, I did enjoy the way Neill develops the political world of vampire society. The setting was specific to Chicago without getting bogged down in details, and the story is nicely balanced between the human world and the vampire world.

I binged on this series over a few days when I was really lamenting my lack of reading time and looking to relax and enjoy something fluffy and fun, and it was the perfect antidote to my  busy work and school schedule. I was in danger of getting behind on my reading goal for the year, and these first four books were an easy way to catch up. If you’re into vampires and looking for an escape, this series might be a fun diversion for you. As far as urban fantasy, I found it better than average. It even managed to surprise me. Merit is a fun if reluctant vampire, and I’m interesting in seeing how the series continues.

Second opinions:

Fiction Vixen: “Merit is a reluctant vampire, turned without her consent. The refreshing thing about her is she doesn’t spend the entire book brooding, pouting or acting like a baby. She’s not entirely thrilled with the recent turn of events in her life but she is a survivor. Not only that, she thrives by making the most of her situation. Merit’s quick wit, laced with a bit of snark and no-nonsense outlook make for a very likeable heroine.”

Book Passion for Life: “I felt everything was over told. There were huge paragraphs describing things and some repetitive thoughts that were not needed. I felt if they weren’t included in the story, it would have been chopped down a lot more and maybe at a faster pace.”

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