Staked (Void City #1) by J.F. Lewis

Staked - J.F. Lewis

Eric isn’t the most competent vampire around. Because he was embalmed, he has issues with his memory and forgets little things – like when the sun is coming up. He also has his temper black-outs which has led to the odd unfortunate massacre that’s always awkward. He also has pretty bad impulse control issues

Hence him turning new girlfriend Tabitha into a vampire. Something he’s done before and it never ever ever works out.


And he’s annoyed the werewolves. He’s not even entirely sure why, but his constant attempts to mollify them keep going rather awry and escalating the problem and he can’t even be sure if someone is acting against him or if he’s just completing his streak of colossal screw ups




I really like the world setting here – it’s one of the best depictions of grittiness I’ve seen, because it doesn’t come with the over-the-top grimdark that is usually so common. It’s gritty, yet light hearted, there’s a strong sense of darkness but characters who are still just a bit silly.

I like the world building, l we’re taking some of the very common elements of Urban fantasy – werewolves and vampires but there’s such an original twist on these so very well established themes. The degrees of the vampire power, they way they run the city, the different routes to becoming a vampire and also the very biology of vampires. A lot of books talk about vampires being dead and even bloody tears, but this takes it to the obvious conclusion – and it’s really not all that sexy (unless you have a thing for cold bodies with blood for every bodily fluid). I have to say I love this true analysis. Even more we have some actual attention paid to age gaps, I loved Marilyn outright telling someone that they’re treating Eric like a lovesick teenager when he’s an 80-odd year old man.


But it’s not just the vampires – the whole holy werewolves is definitely an original twist which I didn’t expect. I’ve read a lot of this genre and seeing these old staples spun in entirely new ways is excellent to see.


Then plot was also nicely twisty – Eric finds himself in a war with the werewolves and we’re not entirely sure why. I mean, there’s a very good chance it could be from his own incompetence (Eric being Eric) but we find more and more levels beyond that, and lots of little hints that turn into more as the story develops. It had a few tangents, but in general the book kept me hooked throughout


In terms of plot and world building, this book is a winner. Almost. I still think the main antagonist hasn’t quite thought out his plot or how he’s going to get away with all this without consequences, but compared to everyone else in this book he’s a positive mastermind


I’m not as much of a fan of Eric, the main character, especially early in the book despite generally liking his tone (as a Vlad, an upper-echelon vampire, he’s pretty unkillable and can be pretty blasé as a result). In fact, I dislike him sufficiently to derail a lot of my enjoyment. Eric is a screw up, he knows this, he almost openly embraces it and he frequently castigates himself for screwing things up. And some of the screw ups I wouldn’t mind because they’re natural parts of his odd vampiric biology – he has constant memory lapses and rage-based black outs (which are very very bad because Eric is a very very powerful vampire indeed. It’s quite hard to be as mellow and generally inoffensive as Eric when you keep waking from black outs surrounded by torn up corpses). I could get by with a character with these traits as his frustration with them and attempts to work around them can be endearing elements. But that is compounded by some truly appalling decision making. He turns Tabitha into a vampire for the utterly worst of reasons and then makes no real effort to help her transition. She has sex with another character and it’s such an utterly bad idea that I was literally fighting not to yell at the book. He ignores his problems, he very much has to be forced to act and there are far too many times when he just seems to ignored the various things boiling around him.



I’m also not quite sure of the character. I would say he’s a special male kind of Gary Stu – he not only has the classic super-special-powers-of-specialness that any Mary Sue has, but he also has that classic bro-incompetence shit going on you see in a lot of buddy movies; yet despite his epic incompetence, he’s just has so much awesome woo-woo that he gets out of it. It's kind of like the inept stoner dude from every buddy-movie became superman.


What I will say is to hang in there because the book does manage to scrape up something. In the beginning of this book the flaws with Eric annoyed me a lot and were a real barrier to me actually enjoying this book. But as the book develops we see more of the meat and motivation behind his random and ill-advised acts and we get some justification to some of his more unpleasant, ridiculous and generally frustrating behaviour. It doesn't make it more readable but an attempt to explain the awful was made/ It also helps that Tabitha becomes a much more realised character with her own agency and power. Tabitha’s experiences and viewpoint also reveals some of the pressures a vampire has from their own instincts. Of course, it doesn't help that Tabitha is a pretty terrible character who is eclipsed only by Eric in his awfulness (really, Eric helps all of the characters in this book by being so objectionable that they see decent in comparison).



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