Elise is the first vampire born, the first vampire who has never been a human - and the first vampire with a dark secret presence in her mind
She has left home to live in Paris for several years to try and get some space to find herself. But with the talks to try and establish a lasting peace in Europe, she finds herself back in Chicago
And facing the beast inside her - and a plot to end the peace talks and put the whole city at risk
I… can’t say I’m a huge fan of Elisa? I mean I don’t feel any especially personality with her. And I’m trying hard not to compare her to Merit - but it’s inevitable that since this series is literally the heir to the previous Chicagoland series; the protagonists are going to be compared. And Merit with her love of books and junk food and baseball, her snark and close relationships, her determination to face down Ethan and her father - Merit had personality, Merit was a character and she was surrounded by other characters.
Elise… isn’t? I mean she likes coffee… that’s kind of like the only thing I know about her. Her personality,wishes, desires, hopes, everything is subsumed into both her struggle with the Beast and her I-hate-him-but-we’re-definite-love-interests-Connor.
What’s most frustrating is how much meat there’s there! She’s the first born vampire. She grew up never seeing the sun and literally not knowing what she was and surrounded by supernaturals. She moved away to France and spent years there trying to find herself. How can this not inform her character? How can someone so unique with such different life experiences BE SO BLAND?! Why doesn’t her years in France inform any of her character except her hanging around with French vampires who are shuffled out of the way before we have to focus on them too much. Why isn’t her being the
And there’s the “beast” which is again, blandified. If your character is literally hosting a powerful magical entity that feasts on rage and turns her eyes red I expect it to be… more? I mean now and then she struggles to control it - as in we have a paragraph of her saying no to the Beast, and we move on. And when she loses control? She beats up someone who kind of deserves it? She fights hard in a situation where she’s already fighting? The unwillingness to make Elise do anything truly bad or awful with the Beast (she beat up a man who stole from and was going to sexually assault her best friend? Merit would do that twice, no need for the Beast) makes it all feel limp and, yes, bland
To add to the blandness we have the characters around her. Merit worked because she was surrounded by fun an awesome characters as well -he conflicts and romance with Ethan was interesting. She had Mallory her best friend which waxed and waned, there was Catcher and Jeff and her grandfather and the fraught relationship with her parents and even her frustrating relationship with Morgan. There were PEOPLE in her life and they were all informed enough and interesting enough to add to the story, to her story.
But Elise? The French vampires she’s lived with seem to be just there. Her friend Lulu is aiming to be a character but instead just hits a collection of arty quirks more than a personality (I mean, she has potential for a storyline being a potential witch who eschews magic but there’s not a lot of conflict or development there. She just is). Connor is the designated sexy love interest. That’s pretty much it - I mean he’s vying to control the Pack some day which means he would be interesting if we followed that plot line beyond “he is leaving and I am sad” from Elise. And then there’s a bunch of names. There’s this guy who is locked up and this is really upsetting to everyone. Apparently. There’s various ombudsmen people following Elise around - I don’t know any of these people, I don’t know why I should care. There’s no attempt to make me invested or even remember their names. They’re just bland. Bland bland bland bland.
It doesn’t help that the plot doesn’t step outside that blandness, following some very cliched paths. She decides to get involved in the investigation because for convoluted reasons she’s the only one who can and for equally convoluted reasons the person who should be doing it is conveniently inept. But her investigation relies on the dubiously convenient (finding a piece of jewellery everyone else missed and everyone deciding it was damning… when it wasn’t) to making bad and extremely risky decisions with no apparent foundation (let’s go visit the fairies and accuse them without evidence! Or Reason!) which Somehow Work Out AND don’t get them killed (isn’t it lucky the fairies are fool enough to violently attack and validate the outrageous intrusion while not being SO dangerous as to actually kill the protagonist making these ridiculous choices). Plot convenience is the only thing that keeps this moving. And even that’s somewhat shaky… because the big bad decides to become really public and obvious with their plotting. I’m actually not sure if Elise does anything to save the day, discover the big bad or… anything? I mean she gets kidnapped one time but even then the plan is thwarted due to rescue and circumstances outside her control.
And diversitywise we have… we have…. Hmmm… now in the past I highlighted every instance in a book that referenced a minority so I could say “extra #5477 was Black”. I’m not doing it any more - because if your “inclusion” is such that i can’t remember it after I finish the book then that speaks volumes. So I’m going to say there were no stand out minority characters in this book at all except a reference to one of the vampire houses which, to be honest, I know to be south Asian because of the original series.
In all I feel that this was not the best reboot of the series. We needed more time to explore these characters for these characters to establish themselves and be real rather than throwing in epic faerie drama and lots of characters we know nothing about. Start out with some personal drama and personal stories, something that lets us get close to Elise and her friends rather than focusing more on the city and wider context which just makes me feel sad that Merit isn’t taking over