REVIEW: Mark of the Vampire Queen by Joey Hill
Dear Ms. Hill:
I am primarily a comfort reader meaning that I ordinarily like to read the same sorts of books but occasionally a very good writer can move me outside of my box and enjoy a story that does not fit into any neat categories. You are one of those writers. You take me places I ordinarily would not go.
Lady Lyssa is in the end stages of a vampire disease called Delilah virus. It is a virus that will eventually turn her mad and kill her. A Vampire Council meeting is upon her and she, through the force of her own will, is holding back the disease so that she can get an agreement from the other vampire rulers that would provide asylum to vampires fleeing from one territory to another. It is to protect her own people; her last act before she becomes dust. Jacob, her servant has taken the third mark and his life is now tied to Lady Lyssa’s, in all ways.
There are alot of threads running through this story, almost too many. There is Jacob’s relationship with his brother Gideon, a vampire hunter and hater. There is the struggle for dominance between Lyssa and Jacob for while Jacob professes to serve Lyssa in all things, his view of servitude is much different than hers. There is the struggle for dominance between Lyssa’s faction, the old vampires who see limitations on feeding and turning, as a way of protection versus the new faction which is desirous of more power. There is Lyssa’s own waning interest in anything but Jacob which puts her position with the Council at risk.
To some extent, I think if the power play themes mirrored each other, there would have been a more cohesive feel to the story. Instead, some of the passages read like set scenes that didn’t necessarily intertwine with one another or the overall movement of the book. For example, early on it is introduced that Jacob might have lived several lives and had intersected Lyssa’s life at various points. While this was an appealing theme, it had little to do with the power play between the two making me question the purpose and use.
Having said that, this is still a powerfully moving story that deftly weaves sex and blood, desire and need throughout the characters, the world building, and the narrative. Lyssa’s fellow vampires are a nasty bunch: power hungry, disdainful of humans; distrustful of each other. Because humans are no more than vessels of food and sex, many of the vampires treat humans poorly. This can be off putting for some readers, but for me, I appreciated the inhumanity of the vampires. The monster-ish quality to some of the vampires throws the relationship of Lyssa and Jacob in sharp relief. Adding in the seemingly inevitability of the death of Lyssa, the story builds to a crescendo.
One of the aspects that I found different in this book was the focus on the emotional and mental aspects of the bond between Lyssa and Jacob. Much of the first book, I felt was more physical. This one was more introspective, particularly during parts in which Lyssa would contemplate her own mortality and the passage of her days. She turned curiously vulnerable at times which lent itself to the power struggle.
The vampires in Mark of the Vampire Queen have lost that plasticity that so many books of the vampire oevre now show. It harkens back to the old days of Anne Rice rather than many modern emasculated versions, the men with fangs versions. MofVQ explores more than the sexual nature of dominance and submission and rather explores the mental one; it asks the question of where servitude starts and dominance begins; who is the master and who is the slave; particularly when the slave is willing. I always felt that the story, when focused on Jacob and Lyssa and their personal struggle, the book was at its strongest. There was a hiccup at the ending. I felt, despite the rather unconventional nature of the HEA, it was almost a bit too pat. B
This book can be purchased in trade paperback or ebook format.
What I liked most about The Vampire Queen’s Servant was how alien and monstrous the vampires were. They weren’t just bloodsucking humans with fangs. They read, and felt, dangerous, and in the paranormal genre, that’s rarer than it seems like it should be.
Jia – that is exactly what I like too. It’s uncomfortable reading but it rings more authentic. I like that they are feral, amoral and sometimes horrible creatures. Isn’t that why they aren’t human?
I just received my copy of Mark of the Vampire Queen today so I haven’t started it yet. I’m glad to here this one explores the emotional/mental relationship more the The Vampire Queen's Servant. I loved the world building in that book but I missed some of the emotional level that Joey Hill usually brings to her stories. She is one of my favorite authors because of the intimate connection and understanding of her characters she gives readers – even when you are reading about situations you might never have believed you’d be comfortable with.
Can I just say…that cover is gorgeous.
That it is Julie with the cover. Makes it an overall great package. I need to get this one soon. Very unique.
I am drooling in anticipation of this one. I came thisclose to dragging all three of my kids out on a school night to pick up this one and Meljean Brook’s newest.
I thought Lyssa did an awful lot of brooding and worrying about her own mortality and power in the first book. If she does even more in this one… I know I am supposed to love this series, since all of my favorite reviewers do, but I don’t think I can get over a hero who plans dinner parties, gives a first rate manicure, and wears really tight jeans. All I could think about while reading the first one was Hank Azaria’s character Agador in the film Birdcage.
But, as usual, your positive review will likely have me buying it as soon as I finish Demon Night. Thanks for the great review!
I hear ya. You might want to look at this in the bookstore then. Jacob gets a little more RAWR at the end (there’s actually one really powerful scene in which Jacob does something almost unthinkable), but there is still the planning of things, buying of things, Hank Azaria birdcage like things.
Please forgive my ignorance – what does RAWR stand for?
That’s my infantile way of saying he gets more alpha at some points in the book.
First, thank you for the review of this book – I read both in this series and really enjoyed them. I have to admit that they really pushed me out of my comfort zone – but WOW. A little discomfort is OK. I really loved the treatment of the vampires – it was an enjoyable departure from the more romantised version that we see so often now. I found the character of Jocob facinating on several levels. Why did he want to be a Human Servant? I had to keep asking that question while he continued on his quest. I loved the idea of him realizing his destiny. And it’s been awhile since i actually cried reading a book – I even enjoyed that!
I am looking forward to the planned books to expand the series.