Series: Haven, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Twice Dead...And Twice as Good!
Honestly, if I didn't know better, I would question whether or not Once Bitten and Twice Dead were penned by the same author! I was one of the (apparently) few who read Once Bitten and thought that while it was a promising concept, there were far too many issues - with the plot, characters, and technical writing aspects - for me to like. I almost didn't bother with Twice Dead because of it. I would've missed out on a fantastic, gritty, dark AU fantasy if I hadn't. I can't remember ever reading such a huge improvement between a first and second book in a series, but I'm thrilled that I have now.
Twice Dead continues the story of the natural shifter-turned-vampire Kita and her vampire sire Nathanial, and where Once Bitten was a boggy, confusing mess, Twice Dead was a taut, lean, bloody and dangerous lesson in vampire politics and etiquette...or lack thereof in Kita's case. Out with Nathanial at a party held by Tatius, Master of the city of Haven, to welcome the vampire known as the Collector to his city, the struggling (and starving) Kita - just over two weeks undead and still none too fond of being a vampire - is nearly overwhelmed with hunger and almost eats a member of the Collector's retinue. The only thing that stops her is the unfortunate fact that the albino triplet is not only already dead, but also gruesomely headless. In a room full of vampires who didn't notice. Talk about a PR nightmare. Soon more bodies without heads...and heads without bodies are turning up, ruffling the feathers of creatures that can eviscerate you for being ruffled. Kita's stuck in the middle of it all through no fault of her own - she found the first body, she didn't make the first body - but with vampires it doesn't seem to matter. There are intense vampire power plays, and Tatius is his arrogant, ancient, over-entitled self as he maneuvers Kita into a companionship she doesn't want. But the Collector, one ancient and scary PT Barnum-esque vamp, finds Kita to be unique, and that's the definition of a bad thing. She's called the Collector for a reason, after all. Suddenly neck deep in a bloody mess of murder and politics and danger, Kita's still got to find out if she tagged any other rogues beyond the murderous bastard that was on a killing spree just weeks ago (in Once Bitten), and then there's that pesky and confusing attraction to Nathanial that she's trying not to think of, not to mention the continuing lack of ability to shift since being turned. Just how much can a calico kitty swallow with without hacking up a hair ball?
I thought the plot of Twice Dead was exceptionally well done in relation to pacing and progression, and where I was riddled with unanswered questions in Once Bitten, most of those were answered in Twice Dead in very subtle, satisfying ways. Kalayna Price has created a very dark alternate universe world and she's starting to define it and flesh it out quite a bit more here. It's definitely not a place I'd like to visit, but I sure enjoy reading about it. While there were a couple of minor plot holes in Twice Dead, I didn't think they were so significant to the flow of the story that they were overly distracting. My biggest issue with Twice Dead, and the only thing that truly kept it from being a five star read for me, actually, is the same major issue I had with the first book; I'm just not sure I'm all that fond of Kita.
She's definitely progressed as a character, even though the events of Twice Dead take place only two weeks after the conclusion of the events of Once Bitten, so I'm holding out hope that I'll like her eventually. She wasn't nearly as contrary and immature as she was in the first book. Yes, she's contrary by nature, but she partnered that with a lot more common sense and fortitude in Twice Dead and it made her character far more palatable. I still think there are some odd contradictions in how her character is being written, though, and I'm not sure if it's an oversight by the author or her intent for the character. Kita hates vampires, resents being one, refuses to feed on humans (part of that makes sense, she doesn't want to risk tagging them, but there are ways around that which she doesn't take), and willfully pushes away any trace of anything concerning that mezmer ability she's got going on (the development of which I apparently missed in the first book, so I was confused when that popped up), or any other vampire skill - but she bemoans being a broken vamp when the aspects of the vampire nature she does want don't work. That hypocrisy grated on me a bit, even though it's unfortunately familiar to me from other urban fantasy heroines. In fact, when that character trait was combined with the delicacy and intricacy of the vampire politics, the two aspects together reminded me vaguely of LKH's Anita Blake character and series back when it was good (years ago) - before that series decomposed into a rancid quagmire of inexplicable and plotless emotional vomit and debauchery spewing over pages and pages between pathetic glimmers of the ignorant butchery of a Mary Sue character posing as character development (not that I feel strongly on the subject).
So all in all, Twice Dead was far better than Once Bitten and is a very good addition to the dark AU fantasy genre. I love vampire politics done well. I like what I saw of Kita's character development here. I can handle her being frustrating if she's going to keep developing, and I saw good signs of that in Twice Dead. I love Nathanial (always have) and like Gil, Bobby, and even Tatius. Everyone's feeling far more three dimensional and the plot was totally kick ass. A visit to the author's website confirmed a planned six-book series, with the next in the Kita chronicles, Third Blood, coming out sometime in 2011. That's a long wait, but on the bright side, Kalayna Price is releasing the debut of her second dark urban fantasy series, Grave Witch: An Alex Craft Novel, on 10/05/2010. I wouldn't have believed it possible based on Once Bitten, but after Twice Dead, I'll definitely be reading it.