Nightworld Vol. 1 – L.J. Smith

From July 31, 2010

I hear this is going to change, but the Night World series currently comprises a series of three books, each with three novellas.  I have just finished reading the first of these three and had much the same reaction as I did to Smith’s first set of stories in the Vampire Diaries series: that it has great potential but some of that is ruined by the fact that she decides to focus on romance.


I suppose I could quit my griping by understanding that I am reading a book written in a particular genre, but I can’t because I was ruined by Harry Potter.  There was romance in the Potter books (my beloved Harry and Ginny) but it wasn’t the main focus of the story and it was all the better for it.  These stories by Smith are all around the finding of a ‘soul mate’ and the inherent conflict that arises because one or the other of them are not part of the Night World.


That peevish fact aside, I didn’t feel like strangling any of the characters in these stories like I did Bella in the Twilight series so the stories were at least well written enough to prevent that, though I will say that they seem just a bit simplistic even taking into account that they are just teenage romance stories with a bit of supernatural thrown in.  Case in point is Ash, one of my favorite characters (he’s the Damon of this series it seems).  He’s a bad-ass character until he meets Mary-Lynette (a name I hate by the way) and then all of a sudden he wants to be a good guy.  A change is not that easy, I’m sorry.


The first of the three stories in this volume introduce us to Poppy and James.  They have known each other since they were young children and each harbor an attraction to the other but Poppy at least doesn’t realize it.  When she learns that she has cancer and her death is inevitable James introduces her to the Night World and turns her into a vampire.  She is disbelieving at first because vampires aren’t supposed to age, but we are then introduced to the idea of the lamia – vampires that are born, not made.  They can age like normal humans but have the special powers of the vampire, and bloodlust.  They can also decide to stop aging at any time.  They can also reproduce which is different from made vampires, of which Poppy is one, and she is made illegally creating problems when James’s cousin Ash shows up.  We are led to believe that in accordance with Night World law, Poppy and James will both be killed, but they aren’t because Ash doesn’t turn them in.  Poppy’s family turns out to have Night World connections.


I worried after reading this story that we were going to be in for pages of ‘how is this person connected to the Night World?’ But it doesn’t seem that that’s the case.  The second story deals with Ash and Mary Lynnette and their soulmate connection.  We do get to meet Ash’s sisters who have run away and are the main reason that he has come to Briar Creek, a small town in Oregon in the first place.  Though we have two humans in the mix, Mary Lynnette and her brother Mark, we learn more of the Night World here.  We learn what the first contact is like for two soul mates, we see that the vampire society at least is very old fashioned and extremely patriarchal.  We also get to see a werewolf in action, and most specifically an out of control werewolf at that.  Unlike the first story, though, Ash and Mary-Lynette don’t run off into the sunset together.  That was interesting.


The third story, and possibly my favorite, deals with two characters we learn of in the first story with James and Poppy, two witches called Thea and Blaise.  Their story centers around a human, Eric Ross who turns out to be Thea’s soulmate.  This story is of course a departure from the other two in that it does not deal with vampires at all, and for that I think I like it more.  This one also seems to be a bit darker because of Blaise’s behaviour.  We see in her an embodiment of things we have thus far just heard of: in the Night World normal humans are considered to be little more than vermin.  Blaise uses her powers as a witch to lure boys in.  She doesn’t have any particular desire for them, she sees it as a game.  In the beginning of the story we see that she has caused one boy to lose his mind and he becomes violent because of it.  We think it might have been he who kills of of the other boys who was fauning over her, but learn that this death is the result of something that Thea has done.  In her attempt to protect Eric from Blaise she has released a violent spirit.  She is brought up on charges from the Inner Circle of witches, but in the end they find a loophole that allows both Thea and Eric to live and go off into that proverbial sunset together.


In this last story I like the characterization of Eric.  Unlike the rest of the boys, he is immune Blaise’s charms, and to her spells.  We learn the reason for this has to do with the connection that he and Thea share as soulmates.  I also like though, the connection to nature.  The vampires are fearful and reverent of wood because it is one of the things that can kill her, but the witches are very much in tune with their surroundings.  They use many herbs in their spells.  I suppose the interesting thing about this is the obvious ties to Druidism which I find fascinating.  I hope that we get to read more about the witches.


This last story made mention of the Night Wars, when the various sects of the Night World were fighting amongst each other.  I don’t usually condone war, but it would be nice to read about something like this in these stories.  It would certainly enhance the reading experience, though given what I’ve read of Smith’s writing, I don’t have high hopes that we would see a way between the Night World peoples.  Hmmm . . . maybe a fan fiction idea?


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