Earlier this month I was invited to participate in the promotional blog tour for the post apocalyptic vampire YA novel The Lair by Emily McKay. First off a thanks to Rmily and Jessica at Penguin books for the opportunity to share my thoughts about the book and the things I personally liked about it.
The Lair is a sequel to the novel The Farm which introduced this survival horror tale set in a world where vampires live hidden among humans and someone created a virus derived from the one which caused vampirism. The virus thankfully was fatal to most victims because the ones that survive it become mutated more monsterous vampire nicknamed Ticks. The nature of the hungers of this ticks lead to teenagers being corralled in places called farms where they are used as blood doners to keep the horrible things at bay. Emily McKay returns vampires to the things of horror and nightmare and to me this is a good thing. The atmosphere of this novel appealed to me, its claustrophobic, information is sparse and unreliable, the heroes are never sure whom they can really trust. People who like movies like 28 days later, suspense games like Resident Evil and comics like The Walking Dead will probably enjoy this setting... this is not a world where vampires sparkle.
Before I dive into the what kept me hooked to the book I will say I did not read The Farm and don't know how much of the worldbuilding I missed out on and I have some issues with it but the strength of the characterization made The Lair worth reading.
Emily tells this tale through the viewpoints of a pair of twins who escaped the Farm system in the first novel, Lily and her autistic identical twin Mel, and the paramilitary trained "Elite" Carter . As with other multiple viewpoint stories some of the stories are more appealing and some less and for me it was the chapters that follow Mel and Lily that I looked forward to. Melanie, Mel, came out of the previous novel changed, since its on the summary on the back cover I give nothing away by saying she's become a vampire. Her story was e one that I looked forward to the most, her coming to terms with sudden change and struggling with missing her old self and fighting her new one. Her chapters remind me of Hong Kong martial arts training sequences mixed with deep intersection. I really connected with her and her fight with herself. I even liked her vampire sire/master Sebastian who is half Yoda like mentor half creepy maybe boyfriend. Theirs is a complicated compex relationship.
I liked Lily's chapters for her need to be a force for good in the world and her need to protect those around her. Along with her sister she escaped the Farm in book one along with her best friend McKenna who is pregnant and is kind of a promise for a future. The best parts of her story is the way she does her best to take care of her friend and the people around her. Sure there is the romantic drama and tension in the story between her and Carter the other viewpoint character but it never becomes the center of the story. Everyone is doing their best to made due in this tale.
As for Carter though his tale is one that focuses mostly on the action in the tale I connected with him the least. I felt more for the characters he brought into the story... his memories of being trained by Sebastian, his interactions with his old elite pal Ely who has a Hero's tale all to himself and Zeke who I hope to see in the next volume. Carter's chapters did a lot to explain the setting and showed how the world worked. They also had one of the quotes I'll pull out to show the overall tone of the story.
"After the apocalypse, after you've lost your home and your family, after you've buried friends, you might think it'd be hard to know where rock bottom is. You might think it's hard to know when exactly when you're beaten.
Emily McKay has written a story that is centered around the personal conflicts and struggles of the main characters and the people around them. In all honesty I will say I have issues with some aspects of the setting but the connection I had to Mel and Lily as characters overcame any reservations I had. Fans of dystopic fiction should definitely give this book a look wether you've read The Farm or not. The story has plenty of action pathos and romantic drama and surprises to enjoy and looking back a lot of the surprises were pretty well set up. Emily hits some great media touchstones along the way. I do give it a reserved recommendation.... I will be checking out the next volume since it looks like there will be a lot more of Mel to look forward to and I want so much to see what happened to her background characters....