Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: A decent novel aimed at teenagers mixing vampires and were-creatures. Unfortunately, it's let down by the pacing, taking a little too long to get going and ending in a bit of a rush.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 978-1406315608

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It's said that in the horror field, there are only a limited number of stories you can work with, as so many ideas have already been used that there really is nothing new left to be discovered. So when you find someone who manages to put a slightly new twist on the old ideas, it's always worth having a look at and that's what Cynthia Leitich Smith has achieved here.

Following the death of her parents in a car crash, fourteen-year-old Quincie Morris has to run the family restaurant with both it and her left in the care of her Uncle Davidson. Three years on, the restaurant has become a loss making business thanks to competition and they are turning Sanguini's into a vampire themed restaurant in the hope of cashing in on niche business. With less than a month to go until the grand re-opening, her head chef and close friend Vaggio is murdered, possibly by a werewolf.

This presents Quincie with a number of problems. For a start, she is without a chef and without a suitably vampiric menu with 4 weeks to go until opening night. On a more personal level, but certainly no less importantly, her sort-of boyfriend Keiren is half-werewolf and so it under suspicion for the murder, even though Quincie knows he wouldn't have done such a thing; well, not to Vaggio, at least.

The first problem is easily solved with the arrival of the new chef, Henry Johnson. The latter issue is complicated by Quincie's discovery that Kieren is preparing to leave town so that he can be more at home with a werewolf pack, as he is worried about hurting Quincie and wants to be with people more like himself. However, Kieren and Uncle Davidson have their reservations about each other and as Henry Johnson starts getting closer and closer to Quincie, a wedge is driven between the two would-be lovers and the murderer is still at large, as the increasing number of bodies found around town testifies.

This is a very well written story and it combines the varying aspects very well. Although the main focus of the story is on the vampires, the sub-story with the were-creatures is worked in nicely and if you can accept the fact that both breeds may be living in Austin, Texas, then the suspicion the two races may have of each other seems quite natural. Given this, Quincie's dedication to the restaurant actually starts to seem like the least likely part of the story.

Smith's sense of style is always present, with the naming of the sections based around the menu in an Italian restaurant cleverly done and feeling quite natural. There is a sense of style and showmanship about the vampires, reminding me a little of how they were portrayed in the film Interview With a Vampire. The were-creatures have less of an impact, being mostly presented as an inferior kind of race and making it clear where the main focus of the story lies.

For all the style on show here, there were a couple of aspects that reduced my enjoyment. Firstly, the characters weren't terribly well drawn, which made it hard to get involved. The clothing of a couple of the characters was fairly well described in parts, particularly where it related to the vampires, but the characters themselves weren't. There was no point at which I really got a feeling for how any of them looked, which made it hard to visualise them. Quincie's confusion over events in her life seemed natural, but it didn't make her easy to sympathise with or care about at any point.

However, the real let down for me was in the pacing of the story. It started quite slowly, setting the scene for what was going on, but it kept moving along at quite a slow pace. Admittedly, there was a lot happening, with regards to character building and scene setting, especially with events in the restaurant needing to be ready for the opening night. However, with the focus so much on it, it soon seemed that the restaurant was more of a major character than any of the people. Combined with the lack of description of the people, this de-personalised the story for me even further. If this part of the story took too long, when the ending came, events seemed to happen in a rush and whilst I enjoyed seeing the pace pick up, it felt that too much happened too soon and then it was over.

Given that it's a book clearly aimed more at a market for teenagers and teenage girls in particular, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's a very readable book, despite the pacing not being the best. I suspect that anyone more in the target group than I am and more able to identify with Quincie herself, or with more of an interest in vampires would get even more enjoyment out of the book. Whilst I enjoyed the story, I never felt fully engaged by it, but I can accept that this may be because I'm so far away from the target audience more than any failure on the author's part. I suspect that a teenage girl, particularly one with an interest in vampires, will probably enjoy this even more than I did.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Changeling by Steve Feasey. You'll probably also enjoy the work of Melissa Marr and Holly Black.

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Buy Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith at Amazon.com.


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