The Nightshades Series by Melissa F. Olson

[For an audio version of this article, please listen to Episode 62 of Recently Read on The Incomparable podcast network.]

Heavenly, Illinois, 30 miles outside Chicago
Wednesday night

Out of the corner of his eye, Special Agent Gabriel Ruiz watched his new partner with serious trepidation.

That’s the beginning of Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson. I’m Erika Ensign, and this is Recently Read.

This episode of Recently Read is a little different because I’m covering all three books in this slick, quick series of paranormal thrillers.

The first book in the series is Nightshades — a delightful and delicious snack of a book that was exactly what I needed. I really love a good take on what would happen if vampires were suddenly confirmed to be real, and this is that. It’s a minor splash followed by a return to typical ennui in the general population. As we now know, millions of people can basically ignore a deadly pandemic, so I think Melissa is vindicated in her prediction that folks can ignore vampires in our midst until they affect one’s community directly.

So yes, the FBI does institute a new unit specifically for tracking “shades”, as vampires are called, but it’s not a terribly well-funded unit. Which makes it a bit odd that one of the “golden boys” of the bureau volunteers to lead the Chicago division. What’s even odder is the consultant he convinces to work with him.

Oh yes, this series is an excellent example of the cop/not-a-cop genre. In this case, the not-a-cop just happens to be a vampire. And she’s only helping grudgingly for mysterious reasons of her own.

I bought the sequel mere moments after finishing this book!

That sequel is called Switchback. I gulped that book down in a single day, and I have zero regrets. I liked it even better than the first volume in the series. As a good second book does, Switchback builds out the characters and relationships, taking them to places that naturally follow from the first book. I liked all the characters when I met them in Nightshades, but after Switchback, I was INVESTED.

The final book in the trilogy is Outbreak. After inhaling the first two books in the series, I was happy-sad to see it come to a conclusion. Without spoiling specifics, I’ll say it’s a satisfying conclusion, but I’d still love more from these characters. It definitely rounds out the series and continues and/or completes the arcs of many of the characters, and that’s exactly what I look for in the final book of a series.

If you’re in the market for some quick, fun, occasionally mildly gory mystery-thrillers about a world with vampires — both as baddies and super-cool kickass ancient ladies who are very very much too old for this shit and would rather just work a desk job than try to ferret out the secrets of an international vampire cabal that’s up to no good, I encourage you to check out Nightshades. If you’re like me, you’ll hop right to the next two almost as quickly as a shade can zip across a room to rip someone’s throat out.

I’m Erika Ensign, and this has been Recently Read.

 

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

[For an audio version of this article, please listen to Episode 61 of Recently Read on The Incomparable podcast network.]

They’re coming.

It’s early morning, the end of the Bi-Hour of the Cat–and Thanh has been awake for most of it, staring at the wall and trying to cobble together thoughts in the emptiness of her mind.

If she closes her eyes, she’ll see Yosolis again, smell the snow and ashes on the night the palace burned–when everyone was too busy evacuating the real princesses to give much thought to the dark-skinned one in the attic room, the “guest” from the South who had been little more than a glorified hostage.

That’s the beginning of Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard. I’m Erika Ensign, and this is Recently Read.

Everything Aliette writes is beautiful, and this novella is no exception. Princess Thanh has been back at home in her home country of Bìhn Hi for two years after 10 as a political hostage in the court of the distant, more powerful nation of Ephteria. Her strict, harsh mother, the Empress, has agreed to allow Than to take point on negotiations with the nation where she spent so many years — and almost died in a huge fire that destroyed the Ephterian castle.

The last thing Than expected was for her erstwhile lover, Princess Eldris, to be part of the Ephterian delegation. And Eldris makes no bones about being there for her. If her complicated romantic feelings aren’t complicated enough, then why not throw in a fire elemental that’s been occasionally burning small items around the palace. Oh, and mix in some light blackmail for extra seasoning.

If any of those elements sounds like your thing, I definitely recommend checking out Fireheart Tiger. It was a very quick read, and honestly, if I have one complaint about it, it’s that it’s too short. I wanted more interactions between these characters. Especially between Than and Giang. If they have more adventures together, I’ll be hitting that pre-order button with alacrity!

I’m Erika Ensign, and this has been Recently Read.