Rachel Caine,
The Morganville Vampires #3: Midnight Alley
(NAL, 2007)

Midnight Alley is the third novel in the Morganville Vampires series. While the series is written for young adults, it's a great read for older fantasy fans, too. While you can read Midnight Alley without reading the two prior novels, it's fascinating to see how each novel builds on each other developing complex characters and storylines.

If you've not read a Morganville Vampires novel yet, I'll bring you up to speed. Claire Danvers is a brilliant young woman who graduated from high school early. Instead of sending her away to faraway MIT as Claire had wanted, her parents sent her to Morganville, Texas, to attend TPU -- Texas Plains University.

Claire quickly learned that only the strong survive in the womens' dorm. While she's brilliant, she's not so smart in learning who not to mess with and she manages to anger Monica Morrell, who pushes her down the stairs. Realizing she's not going to live if she stays on campus, she seeks a place to hide and finds it in the Glass House (also the title of the first book in the series). Three other people live there: Michael Glass, a mysterious young man; Shane Collins, a rebel; and Eve, a goth girl. They initially do not want to take Claire in since she's underage, but do so to keep her safe -- and she stays.

Claire learns from them that Morganville is run by vampires. TPU is essentially a blood bank for their use and a certain number of students are "disposable." Claire has to walk a very thin line not to become part of that group -- particularly since Monica Morrell's father is the mayor and they're one of the most influential non-vamp families in town.

In order to stay safe, humans in the know sign contracts with powerful vampires who act as their protectors in exchange for monthly donations to the town's blood bank and the vamp's control of what the person does.

So -- why doesn't the town get busted? That's the question Claire asked and probably what you are wondering as well. Very few of the kids on campus actually know about the vampires. Only residents do and they generally do not leave Morganville. There's a spell on the town where people who leave forget about the vampires. If they happen to remember, the vamps send an assassination squad and eliminate the problem.

In the second book of the series, Dead Girls Dance, Claire and her three friends end up getting in a lot of trouble when Shane Collins' father returns. Mr. Collins is one of the rare folk who can keep his memory outside of Morganville and he's bent on killing every bloodsucker in the town as well as the humans who help them. In order to keep herself and her friends safe, Claire signs a contract with Amelie, the oldest vampire and ruler of Morganville. Michael is forced to become a vampire or die. He's the first new vampire in over 50 years and quite a celebrity among them since new vamps cannot be made.

That brings us to date. Claire's not told her friends what she'd done to keep them safe. Amelie sends her the bracelet that she's required to wear as part of the deal.

What Claire didn't realize is that Amelie didn't just want a pint of blood once in a while. She wants Claire to become an apprentice to Myrnin, one of the oldest vampires around and a brilliant alchemist and scientist. At first, that seems like more of a favor to the super-studious Claire, but she quickly learns that her mentor is mentally unstable and dangerous. The research she's doing could potentially help the vampires -- does she want to do that? Does she have a choice?

Meanwhile, Captain Obvious, who runs an underground newspaper in Morganville for the humans, has outed Michael as the newest vampire and slates him for execution. Oh yes, and Eve's crazy brother Justin is out of jail and coming to exact revenge on her for turning him in. The corpse of a young girl is dumped in the trash of the Glass House, casting suspicion on Shane as the culprit. And if that was not enough, Monica Morrell wants to be allies with Claire. This is a dangerous alliance indeed.

To date, Midnight Alley is the best of the Morganville books. It's not belabored with the setup of the two prior novels and the characters are well-established. The action is nonstop and the book is as hard to walk away from as a bowl of dark chocolate M&Ms.

One caveat: if you are a person who likes novels to stand alone within a series, you may have trouble with Morganville. You'll get some answers from book to book, but the storylines continue with each of the series. Fortunately for the readers, this isn't too much of a problem since Morganville is coming out every few months instead of making us wait a year or more for the next addition.

And Midnight Alley leaves me with such a slam-dunk ending, I am going to be waiting anxiously for the next episode.

review by
Becky Kyle

15 November 2008

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