I feel awful for having sat on this review for as long as I have (sorry, Tim!), but I knew that if I were going to save one review to feature on Halloween, then Vampalicious would be it. Like its predecessor, this is extraordinary blend of horror and romance, but with the characters already established and the preliminaries out of the way, Timothy McGivney gives himself free reign to explore the darkest edges of his tale.
It works beautifully.
Once again, this is a blood-and-guts horror story that refuses to shy away from the gore. Adding vampires was a risk, one that could have gone horribly wrong, but McGivney not only establishes his vampires as central characters to the tale, he also allows for a little zombie cross-infection that brings a whole new element of horror to the tale. Adrian is a wonderful character, the epitome of the seductive vampire, and one who is as adept at penetrating the boys with his fangs as he is with his manhood! As for Jeanette, she is dangerously fascinating, a mentally unbalanced vampire bride with a cruel fetish for S&M. Sex with this unholy couple certainly pushes beyond the limits of erotica established in Zombielicious, but the scenes are handled extremely well, and are necessary to the plot.
Romantically, this is an even stronger book than the first, thanks primarily to the relationship between Walt and Joey. Having moved from infatuation to passionate love, they are one of the cutest couples I have ever come across in a horror novel. They really do seem to exist beyond the page, and they endear themselves so well to the reader, you can't help but be drawn into their struggle. This time around they both get to play the hero, taking turns in coming to one another's rescue. There's a second relationship here, though, one that haunts the story, reminding you the world has become a dangerous place. We really only get to know Taco's romantic side through flashbacks and memories, but it drives her to avenge her lover's death . . . while making amends for her own romantic inhibitions.
The story moves along at a breakneck pace, never allowing the characters (or the reader) to rest for long. While McGivney smartly uses the tender, romantic moments to alleviate some of the tension, he never allows the horror to completely recede. This is a book where lives are at stake, and where survival is measured more in terms of days, or even hours, than years. It's hard to talk highlights without getting into spoiler territory, but I will say Walt's sexual submission to power of Adrian left me breathless; the deadly ménage à trois between Adrian, Jeanette, and Christoph (their vampire Master) absolutely blew me away; and the final, desperate dash to Ruby Island nearly broke my heart. There's not quite as much humour this time around, but there were a few running gags - such as poor Walt running around and kicking Zombie ass in nothing but a jockstrap - that left me with a smile.
If you have yet to enjoy Zombielicious, then treat yourself to a Halloween double-feature and pick it up alongside Vampalicious - because, once you take these boys in hand, you won't want to let go.
[Reviewed by Sally]