Review of RED-HEADED STEPCHILD by Jaye Wells (see her MySpace page)
Orbit, April 2009
Vampires and mages don't get along. So, with her mixed blood, vampire Sabina is denied a shot at ruling the vampires. Instead, she's been trained as an assassin. Being assigned to murder one of her few friends makes that job even less appealing than usual. Her grandmother, leader of the vampires, decides to use Sabina's pique for the vampires' advantage. She'll pretend to be frustrated, disenchanted, and infiltrate the outlaw vampire gang that threatens her grandmother's legitimate rule--and that just might launch the next war between vampires and mages.
The outlaw vampire leader is half-demon, which means he isn't offended by Sabina's mixed blood. Still, there's something about the being that gives Sabina the creeps--at the same time as she's incredibly turned on. Then there's the myserious mage who says he's trying to track her down with word from the mage side of her family (as if they haven't ignored her since her birth), a new 'friend,' and a mysterious demon who somehow gets transformed into a hairless cat.
Author Jaye Wells creates a world where fae creatures trace their descent from Cain and Lilith, where blood magic remains a vital force, and where nothing is quite as it seems. Sabina, who is, after all, a hard-drinking assassin, is not your standard heroine. Still, Wells makes her interesting and sympathetic. I would have liked to see a bit more of her growth--as she realizes she's been lied to--which seemed to me to happen a bit abruptly. RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is not a romance, but it does have a bit of a romance feel with the growing relationship between Sabina and Adam.
RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is a welcome addition to the vampire literature. Although STEPCHILD is sometimes sexy, Wells gives us a story rather than a string of sexual escapades, and characters who have fears, interests and growth. This is Wells's first novel and a very promising launch to her career as a fantasy writer.
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