Seth's Reviews > Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin
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Feb 26, 11

bookshelves: modernfantasy, sf-f-h
Read in December, 2007

I read a lot of this subgenre (light, modern fantasy with a horror twist and usually a female protag). This book and series is getting a lot of press and a heavy and fast push to get more out, putting it in the more-mainstream and lighter-weight end of the spectrum. Combined with the garish cover, the horrible "Meet Jaz Parks in..." cover copy and the cover quotes clearly intended for non-genre readers, I expected a guilty pleasure at best.

It's better than that, fortunately, but not as much better as it could be. I'm going to give a moderate spoiler to the book (and a non-spoiler to the series) to explain.

The setup is a common one for the subgenre, simplified for the Grisham/Clancy crowd who isn't prepared for the supernatural element. Our protag--Jasmine "Jaz" Parks--works for the CIA as an assassin (working in the US against US law and apparently having enough assassination work to keep her super busy, all of which requires disbelief be not only suspended but hanged until dead). Vampires/werewolves/magicians/etc. are out in the public in a way never explained, and vampire abilities are conveniently idiosyncratic, removing the need for consistency or explanation.

In the forward, Jaz is taken off individual missions and re-assigned as the assistant to the CIA's vampire uber-assassin, Vayle (first sign of an author who doesn't respect the genre reader: stupid names for the vampires but not for the humans). She doesn't know why she is re-assigned.

So she and Vayle go to Miami, hotbed of international terrorism, for some mild racism (the brown-skinned taxi driver is referred to as fresh off "el rafto Cubano," the non-Muslim religious-fanatic terrorists are led by people with stereotypical Muslim names, etc.)

Once there, they discover the expected:
1) The cult is going to release a virus that kills 90% of humans and vampires (not terrorists at all, technically)
2) Someone from Vayle's or Jaz' past is involved in the cult
3) Their CIA handlers include a mole working for the cult
4) There is a hunky P.I. investigating the same people and willing to give up his investigation, his job, and ultimately his home because Jaz is such a great kisser
5) Jaz kissing P.I. Hunk makes Vayle insanely jealous

So they call in their non-CIA Q for some new über-gadgets and proceed to introduce the term "collateral damage" to the book. Oh, and they meet a convenient 1,000-year old psychic with a magic stack of marbles that contains all the mystic knowledge they might ever need.

A passable, super-light plot that might pull in the airport reading crowd.

The major problems:
1) The Vayle/Jaz relationship is horribly drawn-out, 100% predictable, and boring

2) Jaz' reaction to the Something Horrible In Her Past(TM) is so-so and the mystery around it is complicated by unnecessary obfuscation.

3) The villainous evil cult is not only overdone, it's boring. Only the mole in their organization has any personality and he's straight out of X-Men 3.

4) The action scenes are so-so. Not horrible, but not amazing.

The good:
1) They get new gear from their Q that they don't wind up needing.
The experimental gear doesn't always work, but the failures aren't plot devices.
The Q character (her paranoid friend Bergman, who seems to have some time now that he's not an extra on the X-Files) is a fun character who isn't just "the guy in the lab."
They also get new gadgets from the agency, not just Bergman.

2-the biggee) The Horrible Thing In Her Past turns out a really, really nice and unexpected element: Jaz is a revenant. In the event that killed her whole team, she didn't actually survive, but she was sent back with some souped-up powers to fight and kill... something. The rules are unclear to her.

So I enjoyed it enough to make it to the big surprise. The big surprise made some of the goofy stuff before reasonable and interesting. And I'll give the next a try.
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