August 05, 2012

Alyxandra Harvey's The Drake Chronicles

Having recently met Canadian YA author Alyxandra Harvey at the Festival of Trees in Toronto, as her novel Haunting Violet (Walker & Co., 2011) was selected as the Honour Book for the 2012 Red Maple Award, I learned that she pens a very successful and popular supernatural series called The Drake Chronicles.  So, having enjoyed Haunting Violet, I thought I'd look into The Drake Chronicles and have just finished reading the first three books.  How could I have been so remiss in not recognizing this series when it first came out?  With five books in total already published and the sixth scheduled for release in January, 2013 (see list below), I've got a lot of catching up to do. 
  1. Hearts at Stake (alternate title: My Love Lies Bleeding)
  2. Blood Feud
  3. Out for Blood
  4. Bleeding Hearts
  5. Blood Moon
  6. Blood Prophecy (for release in January 2013)
For now, I'll limit myself to reviewing only the first books in the series here.  After all, you can get too much of a good thing, just like chocolate. And the Drake Chronicles are a very good thing.

Hearts at Stake
by Alyxandra Harvey
Walker & Company
(Distributed by Penguin Canada)
978-0-8027-2074-0
248 pp.
Ages 14-17
2010


Blood Feud 
by Alyxandra Harvey
Walker & Company
(Distributed by Penguin Canada)
978-0-8027-2096-2
258 pp.
Ages 14-17
2010


Out for Blood 
by Alyxandra Harvey
Walker & Company
(Distributed by Penguin Canada)
978-0-8027-2168-6
292 pp.
Ages 14-17
2010


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The Drake Chronicles are called such after the Drake family, an ancient family of vampires, upon whom each story is founded.  The nucleus of the contemporary Drake family consists of mother Helena, father Liam, seven brothers (Nicholas, Logan, Quinn, Connor, Sebastian, Marcus, Duncan) and the youngest and only daughter, Solange.  Also living with the family at the beginning of the series are Aunt Hyacinth, Helena's aunt, and Uncle Geoffrey, Liam's brother.  Lucy, Solange's human best friend, is also an integral member of the Drake family, essentially an honorary sister, daughter and soon girlfriend.

In the first book, Hearts at Stake, Solange is worrying about her impending sixteenth birthday, the time for her blood change from human to vampire.  Knowing the physical and emotional trauma that all her older brothers endured with the change, Solange is already apprehensive.  But, as the only female vampire-born offspring, a prophecy declares that she will be the ruling Queen, destined to supplant Lady Natasha.  And now a menagerie of vampires, including the power-hungry Montmartre, are sending courting gifts, hopeful of a liaison with an upcoming queen.  Luckily, her best friend Lucy, a human, is sticking around to help her still enjoy life, even if Lucy and Solange's brother Nicholas keep butting heads as they have since childhood (though that power struggle now includes surprising kisses!)  So, not only does Solange have to worry about the change (and how good her best-friend Lucy will smell), and the endless (and sometimes gross) gifts of her suitors, everyone is out to protect her, practically suffocating her, especially once they learn of a bounty on the Drakes.  But, Solange is determined to have a life, even if that means getting closer to Kieran Black, the Helios-Ra vampire hunter who is convinced the Drakes killed his father. 

Blood Feud has the Drake family preparing for Helena’s coronation as the new Queen, with special guests and emissaries beginning to arrive.  The representative of the Hounds, Isabeau St. Croix, an eighteen-year-old woman whose aristocratic parents were murdered during the French Revolution, had been turned into a vampire by Greyhaven and buried for centuries before being rescued by the powerful Hounds.  Now Isabeau represents her queen or shamanka, Kala, and the Hounds who have allied themselves with the Drakes, particularly against Montmartre and his Hel-Blar army.  Not surprising that Logan Drake, wearer of waistcoats, frock coats and pirate shirts, finds himself drawn to Isabeau, as they work together to thwart the attacks of Montmartre, the Hel-Blars and even Greyhaven.

Drake brother Quinn and Helios-Ra student Hunter Wild are the voices of Out for Blood, the third book in The Drake Chronicles.  Hunter, an outstanding student at the Helios-Ra Academy, has been chosen by Helios-Ra leader Hart to accompany him and nephew Kieran Black to Helena Drake's coronation, as the Helios-Ra are allying themselves with the Drakes.  Through Kieran, who is still dating Solange, Hunter encounters Quinn to whom she is wildly attracted.  Quinn, of course, is similarly attracted, though with his charm and startling handsome features (like all Drake men), he is known as quite a ladies' man.  Having a vampire as a close acquaintance is problematic for the young Helio-Ra, especially with her bigoted grandfather, but she needs to uncover the truth about some goings-on at the Academy, and Quinn is eager to help and protect her.

If you check out  Alyxandra Harvey's website, you'll see how popular her books are throughout the world by fans of YA vampire books. While it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact features of the books that the fans love, I suspect that it has much to do with the great and varied characters, sweet romances, strong female leads, expressive teen attitudes, and the interweaving of vampires, Helios-Ra, Hounds, Hel-Blar and other assorted groups.  While the paranormal aspects of the books create fantastic context for the stories, the interrelationships between individuals and groups are easily recognizable for YA readers:  best friends, enemies, siblings, crushes, guardians and children, teachers and students, mixed with love, hate, like, disgust, respect, fear, confusion, loyalty, and concern.  The familiarity blended with the fantasy and the resolution of the good-evil conflict is an irresistible combination.

Alyxandra Harvey's books are regular contenders in the best of the paranormal romances that include series like Twilight, the House of Night, the Mortal Instruments, the Infernal Devices and the Darkest Powers.  I couldn't count the number of readers who proclaimed with exclamation their preference for The Drake Chronicles over the Twilight series.  That's high praise for a series by a Canadian author whose books have not had the exposure and promotion that the other has enjoyed.  And as long as Alyxandra Harvey continues to tell stories about the Drake family and those in their circle in her winning style, readers, including myself, will continue to escape into the tempting shadows of The Drake Chronicles.

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As already mentioned, Alyxandra Harvey has a fabulous website with details about the books, trailers, mailing list, bio and other such goodies.  But, if you only want to see a few of the official videos for these books, they are available on the CanLit for LittleCanadians: Book Trailers site here.

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