Book Review: Staked


Staked by J. F. Lewis is the first book in his Void City series. Eric is a vampire with short term memory issues and comes to himself after brutally ripping apart someone whose face looks familiar, but he can’t remember who they are or why he was fighting them. Plus, the sun is out and the only way he can get back to the strip club that he owns and runs is by turning a dumpster over his head and punching his way down the street. Which he does after getting into a fight with the bum sitting next to the dumpster who turns out to be a werewolf. It is one bloody fight to the next as Eric bumbles through his undead life, with special powers and a blood thirst. Even for a vampire Eric is special and this means everyone is out to get him, which  Eric promptly forgets.

Eric also has avoidance issues. He would rather bury his head in the sand then deal with the crises in his life. Whenever he can sorta tells someone is about to screw him over, he hopes they do it well enough that he can never pin point who the culprit is. His girlfriend, Tabitha, is constantly pressuring him to turn her, then he meets her sister Rachel and falls for her charms (literally, she employs sex magic on him), and has to watch out for magic bullets from a  magic gun. But the ostrich in the sand technique wont work for long and using what little memory is left, his street smarts, and his Vlad abilities, Eric must figure out who set him up to kill the next in line to lead the werewolves.

Vampires in this series have different levels of abilities and powers based on where they fall in the line up once turned. Eric is one of the strongest vampires with a lot of strange abilities no one has ever heard of (or rarely) and so he is a Vlad. What other people would call zombies, this series calls vampires without abilities. There are also witches, ghosts, werewolves, and demons. It’s an all around Urban Fantasy world with a consistent internal logic and universe. I quite enjoyed the wide range of characters and personalities. Everyone has an agenda except for Eric who just wants to sit at his strip club (where he pays for the girls to go to college and has an excellent benefits package) and sip blood. In the end, Eric’s lack of agenda may be what saves him or screws him over royally. (I thought about going with a staked pun, but thought it might be a little too obvious.)

Surprisingly, my favorite character was not handsome badass Eric, but Tabitha, the girlfriend. The story unfolds from both points of view (not something I generally like), and I enjoyed her point of view which while a little vain at times was also smart. She seems like a dumb blond character from Eric’s point of view, but in reality she has a deeper understanding of the world around her than head-in-the-sand Eric. I also liked the unfolding of Eric’s abilities and what they meant for the overall story plot. It was interesting that what made Eric a badass also made him a target, and I felt it was his comeuppance for treating Tabitha badly. But like I said, I liked her character better, so I wasn’t unhappy when Eric was unhappy. My second favorite character is Talbot, some sort of cat/human thing that helps Eric because he finds Eric intriguing (which is very cat like if you ask me). Part of his helping Eric is to also look after Tabitha, which turns out to be one of the most intriguing interplays of the book.

You may wonder how Eric can be a badass if he’s always looking the other way. Well, that’s easy, he’s like an animal who gets trapped in a corner. They growl to get the person to go away, but when bothered long enough fight tooth and nail to make their point. So does Eric. He hopes that he wont have to confront anyone, but if he is forced to take matters into his own hands, those hands rip people and things apart, literally.

More horror flick than campy, this book was a lot of fun and I even read the second book. I had a hard time getting through the third, but I think I just burnt myself out on the series reading them too close together and am going to give it a try again after a bit of a breather. I was happy that I happened to stumble across this in the library while searching for something to read. Urban Fantasy is my favorite genre and I really enjoy when an author manages to build a world that is different enough from other ones to make it distinct. I thought the world building and character development were excellent, especially for a first novel in a series.

Read another review here (I agree that Lewis has an excellent sense of dialogue and all of his characters had distinct voices), here (I agree with her assessment of Tabitha’s character for the most part, but I saw a glimmer of what Tabitha was going to be, and I’m less in love with Eric so I had no need for her to “stand up” for him), and here (I agree with their assessment that “Staked will probably appeal most to readers who like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden but just wish that Harry would stop being so damn nice all the time”).

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