E.E. Knight,
Choice of the Cat:
Book 2 of the Vampire Earth

(Roc, 2004)

Way of the Wolf was a bold, exciting beginning to what is definitely shaping up to be an innovative, compelling dark fantasy series from E.E. Knight. Choice of the Cat takes the heroic journey of protagonist David Valentine in an entirely new direction, one conducive to even more suspenseful action than before.

Many a young writer finds it difficult to recreate the magic of a successful first novel, but Knight has come through with an impressive follow-up sure to delight all fans of dark fantasy and hair-raising heroic adventure.

The setting for The Vampire Earth series is a post-apocalyptic Earth of the mid- to late 21st century. Back in 2022, up to 90 percent of the human population perished as a result of the terrible Ravies plague, but this was just the beginning of Earth's struggle. The Kur, an alien civilization made up of vampiric creatures who feed on the life aura of others, quickly subjugated large portions of the planet.

Three types of human beings emerged from the apocalypse: those who betray their species and assist the Kur, those who are outwardly ambivalent to the Kur and just try to stay out of trouble, and those willing to fight and die for humanity. Valentine is one of the latter. After the massacre of his family, he followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a Wolf, a member of the military first line of defense of the Ozark Free Zone. As this novel opens, Valentine is assigned to a new unit of soldiers and forced to hold off an enemy attack on orders of his superior officer; when that officer is injured, command falls to Valentine, who oversees a retreat by his outnumbered men based on intelligence received from a Cat (a warrior spy). Much to Valentine's (and my own) surprise, he faces a court-martial for disobeying orders. A tough choice between leaving the Wolves and staying to fight the military justice system is made easier when the Cat he met in battle offers him a chance to become a Cat himself.

Soon, Valentine is off for some incredibly demanding training and an intense initiation that increases his senses and abilities many times over. His first mission involves going into the Kurian zone and gathering intelligence on the Twisted Cross, a mysterious and seemingly specialized group of enemies. Before he's done, he gets an up-close and personal look at the whole nefarious organization.

There is a great deal of action in this novel. Whereas Wolves act in concert with one another, Cats work alone (unless they are training a new recruit like Valentine). Valentine has always been a fighter, and there is still a good bit of Wolf left in this young Cat; even though his mission is to listen and learn, he cannot abandon innocents when he thinks he can save them. There are lots of skirmishes and one humdinger of a fight before the novel draws to a close, and the addition of the most unlikely of allies further energizes this gripping story about two-thirds of the way through. This novel does end, but I feel as if the writer has just taken a moment to catch his breath, and I eagerly await the chance to sink my teeth into Book 3 of the series when it is published.

Don't let the word "vampire" throw you; this is in no way a traditional vampire novel, for the Kur are unlike any vampires you have ever encountered. Knight is adept at creating living, breathing characters that will captivate your spirit and engulf you in their dangerous and heroic feats. This is a unique and wonderfully entertaining novel that truly delivers while promising even greater things to come.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 26 June 2004

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