Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals–and they’re camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are… tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.
Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn’t help that she can’t tell who’s on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who’s tall, dark, and part of underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago’s supernatural society–a world full of vampires who seem too ready to fulfill the protesting human’s worst fears, and a place where she’ll learn that you can’t be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands…
This book left me shell shocked. There is a major twist ending, but I’ll get to that momentarily… (No spoilers, but I do talk about my reaction.)
The plot is on par with the previous four books in the series – decent, with more focus on political intrigue than action. Each member of the large supporting cast has his or her moment. Jonah, a relatively new character, plays a central role this time, which spices things up. (But seriously, do we really need another guy who has the hots for Merit?) Despite the side characters’ numerous little subplots, there is no doubt that the story belongs to Merit. She is one of my favorite urban fantasy heroines because she feels, thinks, and acts like a real person. She knows when she makes mistakes, yet she always tries to do what’s right and she never gives up. It becomes clear in Hard Bitten just how much Merit has grown over the course of this series, and I have a lot of respect and sympathy for her.
But I would argue that Ethan has grown and changed even more than Merit. In Hard Bitten, he’s definitely sweeter, more honest, and more emotional than he’s ever been before, which just makes me love him more. I have been on Team Ethan since the beginning, and I think I always will be unless something major happens. That said, the ending is extremely unexpected and left me feeling shell shocked. My strong emotional reaction illustrates just how attached I am to these characters and how badly I want things to work out for them. Author Chloe Neill has stated on her blog and in interviews that she knows the ending is hard, but that readers should “trust her.” Neill still intends to give Merit a happily ever after, so I’m going to hold out hope.
Besides the cute, romantic parts with Ethan, I also enjoyed discovering the truth about how Merit became a vampire, why she doesn’t use her first name, and why, specifically, she has never gotten along with her father. There are also major changes involving Mayor Tate, Celina, and the GP, and we finally get to meet Darius, the head of the vampire ruling body. (In Merit’s words, “he’s kind of an ass.”) The revelations in Hard Bitten hint at larger, underlying mysteries, and there seems to be multiple schemes at work that Merit has yet to figure out. I greatly enjoy that sense of ongoing mystery – the knowledge that we are still very much in the dark, even as we come to better understand the political landscape.
All things considered, Hard Bitten is a very entertaining book. It lived up to the standards set by the previous novels, and, of course, I always love a good twist ending, even if it’s gut wrenching. Hard Bitten does end on a hopeful note, making me eager for the next installment, Drink Deep, coming out November 1, 2011. Saying I can’t wait would be a major understatement. Although I would still characterize these books as guilty pleasure reads, the Chicagoland Vampires series has become one of my favorite urban fantasies and I highly recommend it to fans of romance, relationship drama, and political intrigue.
Some Girls Bite – read my review on Goodreads
Friday Night Bites – read my review on Goodreads
Twice Bitten – read my review on Goodreads
Drink Deep (coming November 1, 2011)
Also reviewed at:
Wicked Little Pixie – 4/5
All Things Urban Fantasy – 4/5
That’s What I’m Talking About… – 4.5/5
Fiction Vixen, Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 – 3/5
Fangtastic Books – 4.5/5
Rex Robot Reviews – 3.75/5
Mystifying Paranormal Reviews – 4/5