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Staked by J. F. Lewis Cover Picture

Staked

J. F. Lewis

Published 2008          370 pages

Summary (from the book jacket)

Eric's got issues. He has short-term and long-term memory problems; he can't remember who he ate for dinner yesterday, much less how he became a vampire in the first place. His best friend, Roger, is souring on the strip club he and Eric own together.  And his girlfriend, Tabitha, keeps pressuring him to turn her so she can join him in undeath. It's almost enough to put a Vlad off his appetite. Almost.

Eric tries to solve one problem, only to create another: he turns Tabitha into a vampire, but finds that once he does, his desire for her fades -- and her younger sister, Rachel, sure is cute. And when he kills a werewolf in self-defence, things really get out of hand. Now a pack of born-again lycanthropes is out for holy retribution, while Tabitha and Rachel have their own agendas -- which may or may not include helping Eric stay in one piece.

All Eric wants to do is run his strip club, drink a little blood, and be left alone. Instead, he must survive car crashes, enchanted bullets, sunlight, sex magic, and werewolves on ice - not to mention his own nasty temper and forgetfulness.

Because being undead isn't easy, but it sure beats the alternative.

The Review

Staked is the debut novel for new author J. F. Lewis.  Pitched at the urban fantasy genre, Staked is jam packed full of vampires, werewolves, demons and witches.  The storyline follows the events in the lives of two vampires, Eric and Tabitha, over a short timeframe - just of a couple of days before Eric’s birthday.

Events in the story are narrated in first person by both Eric and Tabitha and this enables the author to cover the same events from two (very) different points of view.  The story drops readers straight into virtually non-stop action at the start, with Eric killing a vampire and a werewolf in an alley close to his strip club.  He has no idea why he has killed them and readers have no idea either.  This reflects Eric’s general confusion through out the novel as his short-term and long-term memory proves to be both unreliable and elusive. 

Unlike most urban fantasy novels Staked isn’t written by a female author which is probably what gives Eric his more realistic male attitude towards life, love and death.  As soon as he has turned Tabitha, his human girlfriend, into a vampire he can’t wait to be rid of her.  Its not that he doesn’t love her (he is just typically male enough not to have given much thought to his feelings) he might love her, but he doesn’t know it.  The same events from Tabitha’s perspective are read as a sign of Eric’s love – showing that while Tabitha may be in touch with her own feelings she really doesn’t understand Eric’s.

Another sign that Staked was written by male author is that, along with having a well-written male protagonist, the violence in the novel is both plentiful and much more gory than in most urban fantasy novels.  Blood flows, brain matter get splattered and the body count rises as the novel races towards its deadly conclusion.  This is perhaps more in line with contemporary horror than urban fantasy but either way its hugely good fun.

And there we have it. Hugely good fun.  This novel is entertaining with engaging characters that you can’t help but like.  It is hard to say why this novel works. The vampires are all casual killers, murderers who kill with little regard to the consequences, and by rights we shouldn’t like them.  Let alone be able to empathise with them - but somehow their larger-than-life characters really work.  While the novel isn’t laugh out loud funny it is humorous, so maybe the humour works to make the characters and their actions seem more like an amusing fantasy than anything remotely real.

Staked has its own unique take on the modern day vampire myth and is populated by four different types of vampires.  There are Drones, not very intelligent or talented they reside at the bottom of the vampire pecking order.  Soldiers, who have limited shape changing abilities and can fight but are relatively easy to kill.  Next in strength are the Master vampires who have most of the traditional vampire powers, and then there are Vlads. 

A Vlad is vampire akin to Dracula from the Hammer House horror movies of the 60’s.  However you try to kill a Vlad they can always manage to regenerate.  Dissolve them in holy water?  A drop of blood can revive them.  Stake them through the heart?  Remove the stake and voilà instant angry reanimated vampire.  I think you get the general idea - and Eric is a Vlad, making the opportunities for entertainment almost endless…

Staked falls somewhere between Jim Butcher and Charlie Huston on the fantasy/horror scale.  It has the violence and gore of Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt novels but lacks their visceral horror – Joe Pitt is more viscous than Eric any day of the week.  Staked will probably appeal most to readers who like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden but just wish that Harry would stop being so damn nice all the time.

Hugely entertaining – Staked is recommended reading.

LoveVampires Review Rating:

Review Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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