Cox blends a youthful viewpoint with a complex universe, creating another modern vampire tale that is fast-paced and deep.
This novel is the sixteenth volume of Cox’s Vampire Innocent series. Spoilers for previous volumes might cross your path ahead.
After two years as a vampire, Sarah Wright’s plan to remain with her family continues to work well; which means last year’s last family road trip ever turned out not to be. While this time the family (and the inhabitants of the light-proof box in the camper) includes Chloe and Ashley, one thing hasn’t changed: as soon as Sarah relaxes, the universe throws a problem at her.
Cox interweaves Sarah’s efforts to look after a permanently pre-teen Chloe (and to an extent Ashley) with a number of supernatural and political threats of various scales. While some of these issues are new, some are things that had been mentioned in passing in one of the prior volumes that now come to the foreground; this blend of fresh and old creates a strong sense that this novel is part of an ongoing narrative in a world that exists beyond Sarah’s immediate vicinity.
This use of multiple threads that divide efforts and amplify risks rather than a single massive threat also provides a greater danger to balance Sarah’s growing competence without becoming an arms race of ever more fancy supernatural powers.
The multiple threading also continues the trend of later volumes of making the Littles more protagonists than supporting cast. Cox carefully balances this, adding both tension and potential solutions without taking focus from Sarah.
As one would expect with background mentions taking a leading role, Cox fleshes out his universe still further but through discovery and discussion rather than exposition; thus, the novel is likely to delight those readers who love the world-building in the series while equally catering to those who are here for the characters.
Although very much vampire-centred urban fantasy, this book continues the humour of previous volumes. At the centre of this is, most appositely, Sarah’s ironic comparison with the events of The Last Family Road Trip.
Resting on the events of fifteen previous volumes, none of which it disregards or ret-cons, this novel is unlikely to be the ideal entry point for readers new to the series. However, for those who are not, it exquisitely steers the middle course between becoming something different from those books and becoming merely a reprise of the same story with a veneer of different names and places.
Sarah remains a sympathetic protagonist, perspective caught between the statis imposed by vampirism and the benefits of experience. Unlike her first days as a vampire, her fixation on following the rules no longer interferes with the breaking of the occasional human law; however, the underlying compulsion has not gone but merely transferred to vampiric authority, drawing her into trouble not because she does what the law expects but because she feels obliged to do what she thinks the vampiric authorities of Seattle would want.
The characters of Ashley and Chloe continue their expansion from previous books, both providing contrasting examples of what Innocent vampires can be like and being nuanced characters in their own right.
The supporting cast are finely crafted with even those who appear but briefly displaying subtle variations that imply a complexity beneath the surface and entire lives outside this story.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking character-driven vampire fantasy that neither wallows in angst or becomes a superhero-with-fangs tale.
I received a free copy from the author with a request for a fair review.