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Published: Sunday, 3/4/2012

Vampire tale leaves a mark

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Although I consider myself an avid reader of pretty much any type of book, I have been successful in avoiding the overcrowded and popular genre of vampire fiction.

Until now.

Not exactly sure what I was getting into, I delved into Overbite, a book by Meg Cabot that recently had been released in paperback. And after only a few pages, I found myself engulfed in a world of vampires, lots of them.

If only Bram Stoker could see what he started.

Overbite is the sequel to Cabot's best-selling Insatiable, in which we were introduced to Meena Harper, a young soap opera screenwriter who had the gift -- however unfortunate -- of knowing how people will die. After falling in love with Lucien Antonescu, who regrettably for her turned out to be the son of Count Dracula, Meena found herself thrown into a world she never thought existed -- where vampires feast on human blood and her perfect date was, in fact, the Prince of Darkness.

Meena now works for the Palatine, a powerful and secret enforcement unit of the Vatican, whose job it is to obliterate demon life forms. It seems her "gift" is found to be useful by those risking their lives taking on the earth's evils.

Although Meena is welcomed by the Palatine, her new colleagues find it hard to accept her belief that her now ex-boyfriend is inherently good.

But she intends to prove it. If only she can convince both Lucien, and those who have pledged to eradicate him, of this.

I know what you're thinking: Vampires? Prince of Darkness? Secret Vatican military unit? Seriously?

To really appreciate Cabot's gift for entertaining story-telling, the reader should start at the beginning. In Insatiable, which I read after the sequel, the reader is introduced to the supernatural world of vampires through Meena's eyes. She initially doesn't believe in fanged beings with cool skin and a thirst for blood but learns the hard way -- including through a few bites and some heartbreak -- that her socialite neighbors and their handsome cousin could in fact be members of the undead.

In Overbite, Meena has accepted this world and even became a key player in it. She knows that she has already been bitten twice by Lucien and that it only takes one more bite and a taste of his blood to turn her into a vampire. Although she still loves him and will fight to prove he is not behind the disappearance of dozens of tourists, she is not willing to take the bite.

But will she have a choice?

Known for her memorable characters in series such as Queen of Babble and The Princess Diaries, Cabot once again brings to life a heroine who is instantly likeable. Meena is strong-willed but unsure of herself and she sees the good in everyone, even when there appears not much good to see.

As with other characters in the novel -- including Meena's brother Jon and the heartthrob Palatine guard Alaric Wulf -- Cabot creates Meena with humor and wit.

Think Bridget Jones turned Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Cabot's research into vampire history is evident by the details throughout the book. An author's note at the end explains that everything from the Palatine Guard to Vlad Tepes, known as Vlad the Impaler, are taken right from history books. So while the work is fiction, Cabot offers a vampire world that differs from early 18th-century folklore only in that slayers now wear designer clothes and the Prince of Darkness buys a Marc Jacobs bag -- excuse me, tote -- for his girlfriend.

I was thoroughly entertained throughout the fast-paced Overbite. And once bitten, one can only hope that Cabot hasn't put a final stake in her vampire novels.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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