Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
January 10, 2012; Harcourt Children's Books
It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?(courtesy of Goodreads)
I picked up Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side several years ago in my phase in which I read anything and everything to do with vampires (I guess I'm still in that phase). Given the stupid title, I wasn't expecting much. Boy, was I surprised. It was a great book with a lot of humor, fabulous characters, and a strong, unique plot. I was thrilled but a little wary of reading the long-awaited sequel. What if it disappointed, as so many second books do? Not to worry. Jessica Rules the Dark Side is fantastic.
The story is different from many YA novels in that Jessica has graduated high school, is now married, and living in Romania with Lucius. Like many "second books," there is a plot twist that takes Lucius away from Jessica. In this case, he is accused of committing murder and is thrown into the dungeon to await trial. It's up to Jessica to uncover the real murderer. Luckily, she's not alone. Her plucky friend Mindy arrives from Pennsylvania to help, as does Lucius's close friend Raniero. Thankfully, this book avoids the ubiquitous "second book" love triangle plot angle.
I wasn't thrilled with Jessica at first. She's not the strong, stubborn girl I remembered. Instead, she is timid and shy, looking to Lucius for everything. This is frustrating to read, but in context it makes sense. She just moved to Romania, doesn't speak the language, didn't grow up training to be a queen, and is living with people who have hated her ancestors for thousands of years. I would be a little hesitant too. Thankfully, she grows throughout the novel, becoming not necessarily the Jessica we remember, but a mature, logical, competent woman. A true queen.
The book alternates between points of view of Jessica, Lucius, Raniero, and Mindy. Their voices are so different that this never becomes confusing. Similar to the first book, we get the male point of view through letters and e-mail. Lucius's letters were my favorite part of the first book, and they are one of my favorite parts about this book. Lucius's dry humor always makes me smile. His good nature, love for Jessica, and even his arrogance (or self-assurance) shows through his writing. Mindy is also a breath of fresh air. Even when she's complaining or sulking, I feel happier when I read her point of view. She's such a funny, ditzy type of girl who also manages to be strong, capable, and calculating. She's a crucial character.
Then we have Raniero, the mystery man. I love how Beth used Raniero. He is sexy and dangerous. But we aren't sure whether he's dangerous in a good way or in a bad way. Just when we think that we've figured it out, Beth throws a twist into the plot that has us distrusting our assumptions. Whether he's good or bad, Raniero is a great character. A goofy, thoughtless, zen-like surfer dude...at least on the surface.
Jessica Rules the Dark Side is a fabulous follow up to Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. The murder mystery keeps you on your toes as you wonder "whodunnit" and whether Jessica will be able to figure out the mystery in time to save Lucius. Plus, it features four distinct characters. Best of all, there's plenty of Lucius's dry wit - my favorite part of both books. I highly recommend this novel.