Title: Den of Shadows Quartet
Author: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Publisher: Laurel-Leaf/Random House, 1999
Where I got it: I bought this at Barnes & Noble.
Set in modern-day New England, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ Den of Shadows Quartet follows various characters who are either a part of or are involved with the vampiric community in Atwater-Rhodes’ world. The first volume, In the Forests of the Night, tells the story of (and is narrated by) the vampire Risika. Alternating between colonial America and present-day Concord, Mass. and New York City, Risika recounts how she transformed from Rachel into the violent being she is today—a powerful and cold predator who holds a grudge against another vampire more powerful than she—the one who began her crossing into the vampire world, and attacked her mortal family. A climactic battle and a surprise reunion keep the plot moving, and add more depth to the characters.
Subsequent books deal with human and witch characters as well as other vampires, some mentioned in previous volumes. Each one reveals a bit more about the world Atwater-Rhodes has created, but the lives of some characters are only hinted at. It is clear that Atwater-Rhodes has created rich histories for most if not all of her characters, yet we as readers don’t get to see all of them and it can get frustrating.
Another disappointment was the difference of the quality of the books as the series progressed. In the Forests of the Night was told by an introspective character that did not have many relationships, and so the book was not at fault for poor development in that area. In the following volumes, though, the forming of relationships were key plot elements, and they all seemed rushed and unrealistic, especially in the books that can be classified as “school stories.”
Atwater-Rhodes gives us an entire underground community of vampires, witches, and humans who are “blood bonded” to vampires (a vampire drinks a human’s blood but not enough to kill him/her, and the human won’t age). Pride is an extremely important aspect of their lives, and the powerful will always try to exert their control over others, often other powerful beings who will fight back. Revenge is also a huge part of their lives, as when a being is beaten or a member of their family hurt, they will seek to regain the upper hand. There is also an intense loyalty between family members, especially siblings.
Though Atwater-Rhodes was only about 13 years old when she wrote the first volume of the series, it doesn’t really matter. The books don’t deal with the grown-up world, as most of the characters are stuck in their teen years, and so maturity is not an issue. The characters are also all complex, which is an impressive feat for such a young author. The female characters are mostly strong and fierce to contend with, no matter what the competitor’s gender or “race” (be it witch, vampire or human). It’s refreshing to find female characters who don’t depend on anyone but themselves for survival, and who also prove to be dangerous enemies.