Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I rather liked this one.

Quincie Morris is a seventeen-year-old control freak, flunking school, orphaned, and left in charge of her parent's restaurant. She's in love with a werewolf, her best friend since they were four, who may just have brutally murdered the chef. In Tantalize (2008), vampires and werewolves are real--living amongst us, not favoured by Republicans, but real.

Quincie has a likable voice, a touch deadpan and a lot neurotic. Cynthia Leitich Smith favours clipped sentences, dropping personal pronouns, articles and conjunctions (she, and, the) to create a staccato rhythm. It's an interesting technique but lovers of plump, grammatical sentences (such as myself) may find it distracting at first. Otherwise the prose is confident and enjoyable. A nice touch are the (often humorously) named chapters ("Brad the Impaler", "Fang Shui"), something I haven't seen a lot of lately, and the five sections of the book named after the Italian words for courses (antipasto, primo).

The love interests, Kieran and Henry, couldn't be more different. Kieran is a classic hunk--long eyelashes, big muscles, the whole package. He's the werewolf, but one that can't change at will, making the beast inside wild and unpredictable. Henry, whom Quincie renames Brad (in a fit of controlling) is sweet and geeky, a couple of years older than our heroine and the restaurant's new chef. He's adorable and talented at what he does, and calls wine "giggle water".

But this book is about so much more than who the heroine ends up with--there's a murder to solve, after all. And with vampires, wannabe vampires and werewolves all over the place, the culprit isn't so easy to identify.

The ending is realistic and I have the greatest respect for the way Smith wrote it and the story itself, but I can't help feel the slightest twinge of dissatisfaction. If, like me, you read for escapism, you might feel the same way. But it's certainly not a reason to avoid this novel. I'm going to look out for this year's Eternal, Smith's latest Gothic fantasy offering.

And a word on the typesetting: generous leading, wide margins, thick paper; in short, a pleasure to read.

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