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REVIEW: Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

cover image for Heart's at Stake by Alyxandra HarveyDear Ms. Harvey,

I know I’ve said in the past that I’m tired of vampires, and it would appear many other people would agree. In the YA genre, we’ve seen many a trend come and go over the past couple of years: faeries, werewolves, zombies, and angels. That said, I’ve yet to see one of those supernatural creatures really stick the way vampires have because for all that I (and other readers) complain about overexposure, vampires truly are a perennial hit. To acknowledge that fact, I think it’s fair to say that the general weariness with vampires has less to do with the topic and more to do with the execution. A person can only read so many Twilight clones before wanting something new. So after hearing some good things about your debut that piqued my interest, I decided to get over my vampire-aversion and give it a try.

Solange Drake comes from a long line of natural-born vampires. In her world, there are two kinds: vampires who are born and vampires who are made. The natural-born vampires are rarer. Even rarer are natural-born female vampires. In fact, Solange is the first, and only, female vampire ever born in history. That’s bad enough all on its own. With Solange’s transition fast approaching, she’s become the recipient of many proposals, courtship offerings, and just plain all-around stalking behavior that warrants restraining orders if such things were observed by vampire kind. However, it also appears that a long time ago, someone prophesized the coming of a vampire queen from the Drake bloodline who’d unite the fractured vampire races. Solange, being the novelty that she is, is widely assumed to be said vampire.

But Solange wants nothing to do with that. She’d much rather throw pots and anyway, she’s squeamish around blood, which is an unfortunate trait for a vampire to have. She already has to cope with seven overprotective older brothers. Does she have to deal with vampires who want to kill her because people think she wants to overthrow the current vampire queen too?

What sets this novel apart from other vampire YA of its ilk are the awesome female characters and the great depictions of relationships. I adored the friendship between Solange and her human best friend, Lucy. Because their mothers were best friends since before Solange’s mother became a vampire, the girls grew up together and Lucy has no fear of vampires whatsoever. The contrast between them was great: Solange, daughter of an ancient vampire bloodline and whose mother is a fearsome martial artist that puts those skills to work regularly, who hates blood and Lucy, daughter of peace-loving vegan hippies, who has a violent streak.

I also loved how Solange’s family was portrayed. Solange is very much suffocated by her overprotective family — something that Lucy strives to mitigate as much as possible. Their concern is not without reason, of course, since I imagine most families would be paranoid if people kept trying to kidnap their only daughter so she could bear a score of vampire babies. But despite their paranoia and coddling, it’s obvious those actions arise out of nothing but love and affection. I can’t really emphasize enough how much I loved the Drake family. Coming from a large extended family myself, I certainly know what it’s like to have eccentric relatives with varying degrees of reputation and influence. The only difference here is that many of Solange’s relatives are several centuries old.

The burgeoning attraction between Lucy and Solange’s older brother, Nicholas, was great too. I loved how Nicholas was very much aware of the fact that he’s been in love with Lucy since forever but Lucy was slower to accept the truth. They’re a great example of how stories about schoolyard romance (boy pulls girl’s pigtails) carrying on into adolescence and beyond can have their charm when done well. Solange also has a love interest in a young vampire hunter named Kieran, but I admit I wasn’t very interested in that couple because it’s a dynamic I see more often in these kinds of books. I admit I was more entertained by Lucy’s steadfast refusal to be impressed by Kieran’s mysterious, stealthy vampire hunter background. (I will never stop laughing about how she simply looked him up in the phonebook, called him up, and then proceeded to blackmail him. And then later used the idea of crank calling Kieran to cheer up Nicholas.)

If I have one criticism about the book, it’s that a lot of the background on the vampire races is cursory and not explained very clearly. I know part of that can be chalked up to space but there are two other major types of vampires in addition to the natural-born and standard made ones. If I understood it correctly, they’re variations on the standard made ones but the details can be confusing. I hope these differences get clarified in the next book in the series (of course it’s a series) because judging by the ending, they will play larger roles.

All in all, however, that’s not a major flaw in a book that’s otherwise a quick, funny read. I especially think readers who like snappy dialogue and solid depictions of female friendship and family relationships will like this one a lot. B

My regards,
Jia

| Book link |   Amazon |   BN | Borders |

There is currently no digital format for this book but I’ll update the links if the digital version becomes available.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

12 Comments

  1. Amy @ My Friend Amy
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 17:52:10

    I really enjoyed this one as well and thought it was a lot of fun! ;)

    ReplyReply

  2. Edie
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 21:28:59

    mmm.. this sounds tempting. Thanks!

    ReplyReply

  3. Tae
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 08:28:33

    I have a weakness for books where the main characters have my family name, in this case “Drake”
    I must get this book

    ReplyReply

  4. Darlynne
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 09:56:52

    I admit to the same ennui with vampires and even YA books. And yet, here I am, seduced entranced by another thoughtful and detailed DA review. Thank you, Jia, I’m hooked and my TBR pile hates you.

    ReplyReply

  5. Jia
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 14:35:45

    @Darlynne: That’s what we’re here for. ;)

    ReplyReply

  6. Has
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 16:22:13

    I think the ebook is out in the UK not sure if its available in the US. But its under a different title here- My Love Lies Bleeding.

    http://www.booksonboard.com/index.php?BODY=viewbook&BOOK=631304

    I’ve got this on my wishlist – I am also tired of vamps but your review has piqued my interest and I like the sound of big families and great dialogue!

    ReplyReply

  7. Jia
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 17:43:49

    @Has: Thanks for mentioning the UK title. It’s always tricky when books are released under different titles in different countries, especially when DA’s readership is international. I’d hate for people not to be able to find a book, just because they were looking under the wrong title!

    ReplyReply

  8. Silvia
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 19:58:21

    I love the friends-turn-to-romance trope when it’s done well, and then I’ve adored vampire stories since childhood, so I really do think this book MUST BE MINE.

    (someday I’ll find the ellusive friends-to-lovers, vampire, f/f well written romance novel and my life will be complete)

    ReplyReply

  9. Jia
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 20:14:45

    @Silvia: When you find that book, let me know. I’d want to read it too, vampires aside!

    ReplyReply

  10. Silvia
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 20:42:52

    @Jia:

    Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series is the closest I’ve ever come to this, and Rachel/Ivy is a ‘will they or won’t they?’ that’s still up in the air after 8 books. *sigh*

    ReplyReply

  11. J.
    Mar 20, 2010 @ 16:17:33

    I’m glad I saw this review and took a chance on the book. After reading it, I really liked the relationship with Lucy/Nicholas compared to the Solange/Kieran too. Even with all the vampire books out there this one has a quality that keeps you into it; I still liked it. The characters are all adorable and so funny. I see that the next book is going have Logan in it and I can’t wait to read it! Thanks :)

    ReplyReply

  12. Jia
    Mar 20, 2010 @ 17:47:55

    @J.: Glad you gave the book a try! I think it’s often overshadowed and passed by because it’s 1) yet another vampire book, and 2) the cover isn’t as striking as it could be.

    ReplyReply

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