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Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, Book 4) by Chloe Neill
Review by Drew Bittner
NAL Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451233325
Date: 03 May 2011 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Merit, a once-reluctant vampire, is Sentinel of Cadogan House and a link between the vampires of Chicago and its government. When a batch of vampire-related murders start happening, however, Merit is going to have to choose sides... and some dire secrets might make her question that choice for the rest of her unlife.

In Hard Bitten, the newest installment in the Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill, Cadogan House is under siege by citizens who want the vampires gone. It seems they are wearing out their welcome, and the glamor of their debut is losing its luster. Every night, a pack of protesters insist that the Cadogan vampires "go home"-- not realizing that many, like Merit, are natives of the Windy City.

More by Chloe Neill: Chicagoland Vampires:
* Friday Night Bites
* Twice Bitten
* Hard Bitten

Push comes to shove, however, when a well-equipped provocateur attacks Merit and Ethan directly, on their way to an important meeting. This new player represents a dangerous wild card in Chicago's turbulent supernatural scene, coming along at exactly the wrong time.

Chicago's mayor has gotten word of vampire raves that ended in deaths--something that is absolutely intolerable. He orders Ethan to investigate and clean up the mess, or else he'll be arrested and thrown in prison.

Merit begins to work the angles of this situation, getting help from her grandfather (who happens to be the supernatural community's point of contact to the administration) and her many friends (including her ex-roommate and budding sorceress Mallory and Mallory's boyfriend/wizard Catcher). But even with all their help, it's a knotty problem.

Then she catches a break when Cadogan's own bar erupts in spontaneous (and very dangerous) mayhem. A post-fight evaluation leads Merit to realize that the flash of uncontrollable rage all the vampires felt was the likely culprit--so how to figure out the cause?

It all comes down to a slippery go-between with connections to Merit's arch-enemy Celina. By itself, that might not be a problem...but Ethan's own superior, Darius West of the Greenwich Presidium (the vampires' ruling council) has come to town and threatened them with shutting down Cadogan House permanently.

It's a tangled problem, with political issues aplenty, but Merit and Ethan have to navigate it successfully and as a team. Which is when Merit gets some troubling hints about how she became a vampire in the first place, calling everything she knew into question.

Needless to say, Merit's got her hands full this time around.

Neill has delivered another spectacular piece of the Chicagoland story, with interpersonal intrigue, romantic complications, political problems and social disruption all competing to be the biggest problem the characters face. With so many things going wrong at once, you might think the book is gloomy, but far from it; Merit and her friends face their many adversities (and adversaries) with wit and good humor.

Merit has come a long way from her early days as a newbie vampire. She's evolved into a compelling heroine whose competence is formidable. She has become a true partner to Ethan instead of a protegee and the nature of that relationship--and its transformation--forms much of the book's emotional spine.

Ethan has evolved as well, away from being the cool and aloof master of Cadogan and into...well, into a guy who can go out and enjoy deep-dish pizza. He's able to let his guard down around Merit, even when that might not be a good idea.

Fans of action-packed, rollercoaster-thrilling urban fantasy will enjoy this book, especially the gut-punch of a climax (which casts the entire series' future into disarray). An outstanding new release from the talented Ms. Neill.

Recommended.

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