When you get into serial fiction, you really begin to bond with the characters. Author Rachel Caine established her heroine, Claire Danvers, as a sympathetic character from the beginning. She's been picked on by a gang of mean girls, nearly killed by some of the worst monsters around and yet she's somehow survived with her dreams and hope intact.
That's not easy in Morganville, Texas. This is a small town, which most passersby don't even notice. That's meant to be. You see, Morganville's run by vampires. When people joke about giving an arm and a leg to the taxman they aren't far wrong in Morganville. But you can keep the limbs -- the vamps just want your blood.
There's a new pair of vampires in town, Vasily and Gloriana. And, they've opened a gym, with the Founder's permission, of course. The human residents are going to learn self-defense. That sounds like a really good idea, only the gym is not what it seems. It's a cover for "Bite Club" a cage fighting pay-per-view program that pits vampires against regular mortals.
Shane Collins, Claire's boyfriend, is one of the first to sign up. He's had a lot of experience fighting vampires and he's more than willing to buff up and learn some more. When he gets offered enough money to get him and Claire out of Morganville, he's more than willing to sign up to fight on the show.
Of course, there's even more to the fighting than just the program. One of the Founder Amelie's old enemies is back in town. It's her father, Bishop, and he's ready to take back Morganville.
This is the first book where Shane's had a point of view. It's different to have an additional narrator after nine books, but Ms. Caine does a splendid job of articulating what this reader has always gathered from Shane's descriptions. He's a powerful addition to the Morganville narrators and one I'll miss if she ever chooses to silence him for whatever reason.
As always, Bite Club was a hard book to put down. Both character and action were strong. I personally was surprised to discover that cage fighting made me uncomfortable. It's not a topic I've read before, but the fights were handled well and not a huge part of the book.
With every series, I answer the question--can this book be the first book I read? The answer here is "Yes." Rachel Caine does a great job of integrating the backstory in without too many hitches. Fair warning: after I read the book, I'd probably want the first nine.
For your reference, here are the Morganville Vampire books in order:
The Dead Girls Dance
Feast of Fools
Lord of Misrule
Kiss of Death