weapons, wit, and wackiness–jennifer rardin’s another one bites the dust

bites I first came across these books in a post on Orbit publishing’s blog.  It was a cool two-part piece on the covers of her books (the first part can be found here)–and I immediately filed Jennifer Rardin’s name away for future reference. Normally, when I start a series, I am very particular about starting with the first book and moving on, but the only copy of the first book, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, seemed to be lost in permanently checked out limbo at my local library, so I began with the second, Another One Bites the Dust.

This one begins with Jaz, very reluctantly, astride a moped.  Separated from the powerful (and not-lame) car she clearly prefers, Jaz is heading for a county fair in Corpus Christi, Texas–where she and her team have been sent to stop an ancient Chinese vampire from joining forces with their old enemy, Edward Samos. Chien-Lung has already managed to steal a suit of armour so high-tech that it bonds to the skin and serves as a nearly impenetrable defense–and that’s if you are not already a half-crazed vampire without a conscience.

So yes, the book begins with the odds stacked against Jaz and her team.  Add to it Jaz’s continuing difficulty in coping with the grief of the loss of her fiancee and some uncomfortable feelings for her boss, an unstable alliance between the tech guy and the seer girl, and the, you know, evil-doers wandering around, and the entire team is under an amazing amount of strain.  Rardin does an excellent job making each member of the team seem essential and logical–there is a real feeling that they work in concert and that they need each other to succeed.  I found this a nice change from the lone-wolf type of fighter that seems so popular in urban fantasy.  It allows Jaz a nice vulnerability without making me feel as if any vulnerability would make her instantly…dead.

The assignment quickly grows in complication when the team encounters a new sort of monster–a reaver–that harvests the souls of its victims.  Jaz seems to be the only person who can see the vulnerabilities in the reavers’ natural shielding, and these hard-core villains raise the level of difficulty considerably. Soon, the team’s hunt for Chien-Lung reveals that the reavers, the vampires, and Edward Samos are all working together on something that endangers everyone at the Winter Festival and beyond.

Rardin does an excellent job keeping the suspence of the novel going, and it is clear that she has put a lot of thought into her characters and their personalities.  This book is not a heavy read, but the character growth is clear and logical and the humour and coping mechanisms that each member of the team displays seem both in character and necessary to their jobs (and continued existence).  I will definitely be going back to read the first in the series and pick up the rest as I come across them.