Even Vampires Get the Blues *insert squeaky harmonica note*

Content Warning: mild descriptions of consensual sex.

Katie MacAlister’s Dark Ones series was on a pretty blah path. I couldn’t handle the snookie wookums in Book #3, and I loathed the kittenish voice of the reader in Book #2‘s audio version. This whole thing started, though, because I was an English major who read and loved a vampire book — yes, a vampire book — and then felt ashamed of myself. I now realize that at the time, Book #1 was exactly at my speed. The sex scenes were mild, but showed just enough to allow imagination to fill in the blanks.

Even Vampires Get the Blues (Book #4) was a much better audio book than #1-#3. It’s read by Carrington MacDuffie, who convincingly pulls off Scottish, English, standard American, and Texan accents. However, there were four Scottish brothers, and I couldn’t tell them apart, meaning MacDuffie has ONE Scottish accent. There is also a villain who should sound Chinese but comes off more like Steve Martin’s Inspector Clouseau. Okay, so there were problems. Let me put it this way: the main vampire is Scottish and sounds like it, the narrator is Canadian and sounds North American, and the main secondary female character is British and sounds properly English. Someone could have edited MacDuffie’s work better, though. She says “royal” instead of “royale” and “fort” instead of “forte.”

If you’re wondering what to make of the 4th book in a series you haven’t read, let me reassure you that with a little bit of research, you could jump into Even Vampires Get the Blues and skip books #1-#3. Even faithful readers learn new information: Dark Ones are vampires who don’t have souls. Moravians are vampires that do. A Dark One can get his soul by finding his Beloved, the only woman meant for him. There are clues that a woman is a Beloved, and a there is a process of 7 steps to join together.

In previous books, the Dark One was always a human turned into a vampire who is looking for his Beloved because not having a soul is torture. This time around, our vampire, Paen Scott, was born a vampire and without a soul, so he’s used to it. He does not want a woman in his life, which would distract him from his computer games and Marco Polo research.

The narrator is Sam, a Canadian half-human/half-sun elf. She was independent, respectful, honest, and unique thanks to her sun elf side. Sam and her cousin Claire start a detective business in Scotland to find lost things, which is how that meet Paen. Paen needs to find a statue of a monkey god to pay back a debt to a demon. Claire is a lingerie model/fairy, though in complete denial about being a fairy. She’s is a bit flighty, but she’s dedicated to her passions, like protecting original designer clothing and eating flowers. Personally, I don’t care if a person’s passions seem silly to me, so long as the person takes themselves seriously. Claire cares deeply about Sam and is a nice foil to the more down-to-earth narrator. I enjoyed them both.

A typical Katie MacAlister vampire story has a Beloved and Dark One meet, squabble a bit, fall in love, and then face danger. In Even Vampires Get the Blues, MacAlister turns it all around and upside down, with a Dark One who wants to be left alone, without a soul or companion. When things seem inevitably heading into the tried and true pattern, Paen would reiterate that he’s only into physical relationships and doesn’t believe he has a Beloved. When he gets a Beloved, he rejects her. These sudden turns made Book #4 an engaging read that left me wondering what would happen next. There are some aspects of the plot that didn’t add up, but the flow of the story wasn’t interrupted as a result.

Best of all, MacAlister left behind all her lambikins, snuggle-sugar bottom garbage for a more adult tone. I was mortified that in books #2 and #3 grown women used baby talk, but Sam, Paen, Claire, and other characters were all realistic adults, occasionally using more adult language, but never so often that it was off-putting. Overall, I was happy with the direction of Even Vampires Get the Blues and felt a renewed excitement about the series.

Would you consider starting with the 4th book in a series? Or do you have to read books in order?

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27 comments

  1. I would read the books out of order if the plots are sufficiently distinct, like in Sue Grafton’s mystery novels that all have the same heroine but different murders to solve.

    I don’t know if you ever watched “Frasier,” but one of the main characters was an English woman with three or four brothers. All the brothers showed up for her wedding and every member of her family spoke English with a different accent: Manchester, Scottish, London, etc. And it was great to see what the gentle giant on Harry Potter looks like without a beard, as he played the biggest brother.

    • Oh, wow! People without their famous beards are always surprising. You could definitely start with this book if you know the basic premise of Dark One and Beloved, which I talk about here.

  2. I have to admit, I’m a little fussy about starting a series at the beginning. I don’t always manage it, but I don’t like to start a series anywhere else if it’s possible. I feel I get to know the characters better, and follow the author’s style better, if I start with the first book.

    • In this series, the characters start to switch up, but there’s always the premise of Dark One and Beloved. With this book, I feel like MacAlister finally got the tone right, so I would argue she’s developing as a writer. It can be fun to read and grow with a series, but the 2nd and 3rd books had some growing pains.

  3. I would consider starting a series at number 4 or later, IF I had the recommendation of a bookish friend/blogger that I trust. For instance, Fiction Fan has recommended that when I start reaing Jeeves by Wodehouse I can easily start with number 6 or 7. So I’m going with that – whenever I get around to it! 🙂
    I’m so glad this one was an improvement and baby talk was left behind. That would annoy me too.

  4. A few years ago I read the Sookie Stackhouse series without even thinking about there being an order. They’re all fun and it turned out ok but I think I’m done now when it comes to vampires.

  5. I think reading a fourth book in a series is actually a good idea, because by then, the author should have sorted out the crap from the good stuff and be able to write a halfway decent book, which it sounds like this author has done? Side note: I enjoy the fact that the Canadian character is polite 🙂

  6. I’m with Anne. I often think the first book is the weakest so I’m quite happy to jump in in the middle where the best books often are. If I like them, then I’m willing to go back and see how it began. However, I’m not sure I’ll read this series! I am reading a vampire book at the moment but it’s much, much darker. Not sure how I feel about it yet…

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one reading about blood sucking fiends from beyond the grave! I often think about the film Interview with the Vampire and how it shapes a whole portion of my youth.

      You’re comment about reading from the middle of a series has emboldened me to try it with other series. I was even nervous about reading Murder on the Orient Express because it’s 10 in the series.

  7. I don’t like reading series at all. I always feel the pressure to keep going, or to read them all at once. So, mostly, I avoid them. But there are exceptions… like Anne and Emily, of course. 🙂
    For example, I was going to read The Hunger Games with my daughter. I managed to read #1 and #2, but then I got tired of it and didn’t read the last one. I still feel bad about it, like I missed something.

  8. Yes! I’m so glad this series picked back up for you! Perhaps you can find again what you loved in the first book? I will admit, based on this review, it sounds like there was less implied sexy-time in this novel, but that might just be an assumption due to Paen’s character description?

    I don’t feel like I have to read all books in order when I pick up series books– but, it’s rare I am willing to gain the inertia to do such a thing. I most often do this with mystery series, like Detective Poirot, because they don’t have a sense of order to them. Does that make sense? I would totally be willing to pick up a book mid-series based on your recommendation, however. 😉 That said, I want to see how these books continue to roll out. MacAlister has not proven to be particularly consistent thus far.

    • You’re such an astute blog friend! MacAlister has NOT be consistent, so it’s worth it to wait to see if you should jump in. There was sex in this novel, but there were more conversations around having sex vs. making love. Is there an emotional component or not? The characters has a lot of the same arguments that we hear people make; however, since Paen is a vampire who has lived centuries, I can see how his perspective would be different. Women come and go (because they get old and die), so why attach himself to one woman? The interesting thing is I read the Book #1 about 14 years ago, meaning I’m a totally different person. What was appropriate for me then is different from now. I was a single college student then, looking for a saucy vampire novel; I’m a woman who has been married for 9 years at this point. It’s funny how I pay more attention to the mechanics of the relationship rather than the sex scenes.

      • D’aw thank you! I will certainly be following your future reviews (will you review all of them? You are on quite a run with them, it seems a shame to stop any time soon).

        That’s actually quite brilliant– well done on both MacAlister’s part and yours. I like that MacAlister is exploring the emotional side of sex, even if it is in a detached way. Or, PARTCIULARLY because it’s detatched due to the characters in her novel and thier backgrounds.

        I find that I’m in a simlar boat to you. Thought I’m not married (yet!), I am interested in the emotional side of relationships far more than the physical ones. I don’t seek out saucy novels for myself any longer. That said, I do enjoy well-written ones when they cross my path. 😉

  9. For series reading, it depends on the genre. For something like epic fantasy, where there is a quest that follows chronologically through the books, I am incredibly picky about reading in order. For books which have distinct arcs in each book, though, I am much less fussed. I’m currently working my way through the Agatha Raisin books, which have some character arcs that develop book-to-book, but all of them also have a self-contained mystery. My library has a handful of the audiobooks but not all of them, and though I started with book 1, I am now jumping around from book to book as they become available.

    Glad this series is getting better!

    • Oh, my gosh! I Googled Agatha Raisin and couldn’t help but smile! Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death! Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet! I can’t wait for you to review some of these, Lou.

  10. I have to read series books in order! Every so often I think I’d like to try reading a later series entry just to see if starting the series is worth it, but I just feel that I miss too much characterization. With fantasy books it’s almost impossible to catch up with what’s going on with the world and the characters. It’s a bit easier for me with mysteries, especially those mysteries that don’t carry over from book to book. This series does sound like one that you can pick right up and not be too concerned about missing a lot, or learning too many spoilers for previous books.
    Did you disable your “like” button?

    • Lol, yes, I disabled my like button and error a post about why 😄

      I think with this series, the author changes or develops what we know about this particular vampire, so it is important to read in order. She’s also adding more non-human creatures, so it’s important to learn about them, too.

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