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Wild Hunger
Heirs of Chicagoland #1
by Chloe Neill
Berrkley, $16.00, 352pp
Published: August 2018

I honestly think, looking back, that I was looking forward to 'Wild Hunger' a lot more than I was 'Blade Bound'. And that shouldn't be, as the latter was the long-awaited wrap-up to a thirteen-book series jam-packed full of crazy urban fantasy action and romance and a whole lot more. The former is the beginning of a new series set twenty-plus years on with new leads, though with a substantial crossover of characters.

But, initially I wasn't impressed. This did more of some of the worst points of the 'Chicagoland Vampires' series but not much more of the best points. Fortunately it got better and I'm now looking forward to book two, 'Wicked Hour', which I'll follow up with next month, and book three, which is due in May 2021 and may or may not be the end of a trilogy or just a third book in an ongoing series.

I always felt that the 'Chicagoland Vampires' books were contemporary, so now-ish, even if they were published between 2009 and 2017 but the events within them only lasted just over a year. The 'Heirs of Chicagoland' follows twenty years later, so is near future. Mostly, the real-world stuff is highly similar to our present, with no commentary on real world events at all. The most overt sign that this is set in the future is the fact that parking isn't an issue in Chicago anymore, because most people just take an Auto.

Obviously, a lot has happened since 'Blade Bound', so I'll try to cover that pretty quickly. Chicago is peaceful now, because the new approach set up late in that series took and everyone's getting along great. Sort of. I'll get to that soon enough. However, Europe isn't. The break-up of the Greenwich Presidium has left individual countries squabbling among themselves and that's has become deadly. So the Europeans are coming to Chicago for the talks that might solve everything. Learn from the Americans. Ha.

In Chicago, the events of 'Blade Bound' made it abundantly clear to all and sundry, including the mayor, that the vampires weren't the enemy afterall and everyone should work happily together. So the Ombudsman's Office is now much bigger, better staffed and financed, and ready to deal with what might come up, even though nothing has. Merit and Ethan and everyone at Cadogan House don't need to go out to save everyone anymore. Chuck has retired and the new guy's an ass, so it isn't all good.

Most of that's fine. It seems a little like American propaganda to have the Europeans utterly broken and floundering around but Chicago a beacon of hope to the world, but I can buy into that for the sake of these books. What I had real trouble with was the twenty years of peace.

In the original Merit series, pretty much everything we saw was conflict, a great way to build drama into a set of books. Every supernatural species is at loggerheads with at least some other supernatural species and a bunch of hidden nemeses and skeletons in the closet popped out of the blue on a reliably regular basis. Human vampire relations were utterly broken and a set of outrageous occurrences, at least some of them sparked by primary characters, didn't remotely help with that.

But now, we're expected to believe a few things in conjunction. Firstly, this is all over. Everything's peaceful now. There hasn't been one incident over those two decades that would have been worthy of a new Merit novel. But, secondly, those old grudges are still in play. Ethan at Cadogan House might get along with Gabe over the North American pack, but the werewolves do not follow suit. "Vampires don't own Chicago" they say and the Big Red bar is not a safe place for vamps. The fairies crash the talks on day one and stir things up. Then a shifter seems to murder a vampire at a Cadogan party. In other words, nothing happened for twenty years but, now we have a series again, it's all going to go cray cray once more. Nah, I don't buy that.

What I did buy into was Elisa Sullivan. She's Ethan and Merit's daughter, a vampire born instead of made for perhaps the very first time ever. She's a worthy heroine, one who doesn't buy into all the American propaganda, as she thinks of herself as being part of Maison Dumas, a French house where she's been working for a while, giving back for a year after they helped her during three years of study. In fact, she's only in Chicago as a part of their delegation to the talks, though she happily reconnects with many friends and family while she's at it.

And, of course, because that's how these books go, she finds herself doing a lot more than that, teaming up with key friends to solve the mystery. Lis, as she's often known, is best friends with Lulu Bell, the daughter of Mallory and Catcher, and she either has no magic or simply refuses to use it. Lulu is also conveniently the ex of Riley, the shifter on the hook for the murder of Tomas, arrogant Catalonian vampire. He didn't do it, of course, but neatly he's caught red-handed. That makes for a cool mystery.

Then there's Connor Keene, clearly the love interest, as well as the son of Gabriel Keene, alpha of the shifter pack in town. Connor is supposed to be taking a large proportion of that pack on a road trip back to Alaska so they can recharge their magic from the earth in the wilderness, but, you know, things happen.

And, yeah, those two paragraphs make this sound overly convenient and it kind of is, but I really liked how these three are building together. I enjoyed all three of them as people and especially how they're reconnecting after a long time apart. That progression worked a lot better for me than the sort of Olympic ceremony that kicks off the grand vampire talks, which is wildly overdone throughout.

The lead trio gives me plenty of hope for the second book, now we've done all the catch-up we need to establish the series. There simply isn't room to do that right and tell a story, so it's kind of in the way here but won't be in the next book or the one after that. Hey, Malik has his own house now. I'm unable to tell you what it's called and it has no bearing here, but it's likely to in the future, I'm sure. Lots more to come. ~~ Hal C F Astell

For more titles in this series click here
For more titles by Chloe Neill click here

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