I hate to say a book is “in the tradition” of anything, because saying this can give a false impression of the writing style. So, while Once Bitten, Twice Shy is in a similar vein (heh) to the Anita Blake series, this should not unduly influence your decision to read it. The similarities between Hamilton’s world of vampires and Rardin’s work in this novel are there, but at a superficial level. In both worlds, vampires are a known race and co-exist, to some extent, with humans in a world that is very much like ours.
And that’s about where the similarities end. Rardin takes this trope and successfully builds a complete world of intrigue and back story that draws in the reader and leaves you begging for more.
In Once Bitten, Twice Shy we meet Jasmine Parks, a CIA operative who works with a 290 year old vampire assassin. Not all vampires work on the side of good, which keeps Jasmine and Vayl in constant employment. This book sees them working to expose a false charity and they soon find ties to a major Big Bad, which throws them neck deep into danger and intrigue. Jasmine is a highly trained CIA operative, and as the story unfolds we learn more about her past and the strange talents that she has gained in the preceding year.
This book reads somewhat like the third or fourth book in a series as the amount of backstory that unfurls is broad and deep, but this is the first book of what will hopefully be many (book five is already on the publication schedule). This is an interesting technique which is a little disconcerting because initially I felt I had missed a great deal of action from the past. However, as I continued through the novel the past began to fill in and I enjoyed the slow uncovering of the history of the characters.
During the course of the book we get to know other characters who become important to the story (and who look like being part of the “team” in future books) in addition to Jasmine and Vayl, whose relationship also develops as the story progresses. It is NOT the sex-fest that many of the supernatural books seem to rely on (*cough* Anita Blake *cough*). Rather, Rardin focuses on character and the seeds of an intricate plot that promises to blossom as the series expands. There is also a sly humour to the writing, and Jasmine’s self-deprecating and at times almost schizophrenic internal dialogue is laugh-out-loud amusing while at the same time assists in building both character and plot.
Of the “baddies”, it seems that the Raptor will be the arch nemesis to Jaz and Vayl, and who has a host of henchmen and accomplices doing his dirty work. In this book, the nasty on the ground is Assan, who is human but consorts with vampires and demons in a quest to bring the Tor-al-Degan, a nasty beast that will basically destroy the earth, to the corporeal plane. I look forward to uncovering more about the mysterious Raptor, and seeing what curves he throws at Jaz and her team. I recommend this book as a standout in the field – stay tuned for a review of book two!