January 21, 2019

Christopher Pike: "Thirst No.3: The Eternal Dawn"

Title: Thirst No.3: The Eternal Dawn [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Thirst (previously: The Last Vampire) (3rd of ?? books)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Year: 2010
Age: 14+ (please note: for years it's been considered YA lit, but the human age of the protagonist would place it in the NA category nowadays, and the series get more mature - and darker - by the book)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Original take on vampires. Plenty of kickass action and funny (if often bloody) moments. Blends urban fantasy with thriller, history (though not in this specific installment), and more than anything, Eastern spirituality. More sophisticated than the previous books in the series (also because 14 years have passed), Thirst No.3 has lots of action, conspiracies and high stakes, plus an old friend returning.
Cons: A few problematic assessments about women, in jest but still bad-tastey. The deus-ex-machina device is freely used. But the worst thing is, this particular installment sees Sita sidelined in its second half, when a male hero steps in.
WARNING! Abundance of blood, gore and violence.
Will appeal to: Those looking for a fresh approach to vampires, in what was probably the very first YA/NA series about them.

Blurb: Alisa has spent the past five thousand years as a vampire, living alone and fighting for survival. In her loneliness, Alisa cannot resist bringing Teri - a descendant of her human family - into her life. But Alisa is surrounded by death and destruction, and just by knowing Alisa, Teri’s life is at risk. Alisa’s guilt grows when she becomes involved in a dangerous conspiracy. A top-secret group knows Alisa’s secret and will stop at nothing to use her powers for their cause. As Alisa desperately tries to protect herself and Teri from the unknown enemy, she discovers a force more powerful and more lethal than anything she has ever seen. Alisa doesn’t know who to trust, who to challenge, or who she will become…(Goodreads)
[Please note: "Alisa" is the main character's alias when she's undercover for some reason...or when it suits her, but her real name is Sita. I SO wish these blurbs called her by her birth name 😒]

Review: This series is not perfect. And I won't shun its faults in my review. But for some reason, I can't bear myself to rate it less than 5 stars (well, 4 this time). It's not author bias - there are a bunch of Pike books I rated 3 stars and even less. But if TLV/Thirst stills works its magic on me almost 20 years after I first read Book 1, and if I'm still peeling its layers after all this time, that should count for something...

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

I'm not sure why Pike decided to reprise this series after 14 years - it's kind of unprecedented - but I can speculate that 1) he never got over Sita, and was still haunted by all her unwritten stories, and 2) since vampires were in their heyday back in 2010, Simon & Schuster strongly encouraged him to write more. Now, don't get me wrong - I would very much like to read Sita stories until me or the author leave our earthly abode, and even beyond. But in doing that, Pike also tweaked canon a lot. In Thirst No.3, the very ending of the original series is dismissed, and a supposedly dead character is brought back. I mean...not literally - Pike came up with a clever way to do both things, and it didn't involve necromancy or resurrection 😉 - but he couldn't help creating plot holes/virtual impossibilities in the original books in the process. Even those MIGHT be explained away (and he does try to smooth a few creases, so to speak), but the most notable fact is, he rewrote the whole supposedly dead character's experience. I'm not really complaining, because I loved this particular return, but what I'm saying is, I probably wouldn't have put up with such a trick if I didn't love the concept of this series (and its characters) so much.
Speaking of friends, in this book Sita makes a few new ones too, which is an interesting new angle. She's become a social animal to an extent, and it's a pity that her interactions with Teri (her human descendant) don't get more screen time. Now, don't get fooled - she's still powerful and deadly, even more so. But it's nice to see her more human side for a change...though I'm not thrilled by her flirting with Teri's boyfriend Matt. I mean, there's a reason why the two of them feel a connection, and Sita swears she would never hurt Teri...but still, flirt she does. And Matt too 😒. [...]

HIGH STAKES

[OK, Sita can't actually be killed with a stake in the heart, but the pun was too tempting 😂].
We're used to Sita going all superhero and engaging in battle with seeming undefeatable enemies, but Pike did top himself this time. She's caught between two ancient powers who both know how to bend a person's (and even a vampire's) will, or to turn it completely ineffective, though in two different ways (one of them involving a particularly nasty type of torture). There are conspiracies going on, and both parties try to recruit Sita or to use her for their purposes, while she has to protect her new friends in the process. For what I seem to remember is the first time in her long history, Sita needs someone else to actively save her, though she has already found a way to resist the torture(s) and to avoid giving her enemies what they want - but the fact is, she would die if that person didn't show up. And even when she's able to withstand the bad guys - in the sense that they ultimately can't bend her will - she does have extra help in the form of Krishna (I don't mean that he manifests himself or something of course, but the very thought of him helps Sita in her predicaments, and it happens THRICE in the same book. Talk about deus ex machina). Then again...the stakes ARE much higher than they ever were in the previous books. There's this scene in particular where Sita defeats an unknown enemy at a high cost, and she has to use her cunning as well as her powers. Which always happens, but this time, it's a brutal war of one-on-one.

STEALING THE THUNDER

Pike is usually a master at writing strong heroines, but a weird thing happens with this particular book. Not only a male friend steps in and saves Sita's life, but from that moment on, he's the one in charge. He's like "bigger, better, faster, stronger" and everything under the sun. Sita even admits to being "glad" to have him take command. Now, there are reasons why this character is likely to have some abilities that surpass Sita's (besides a knowledge of one of the enemies), but in other respects, she should be better equipped than him...Either way, this is Sita's story, and there's no reason for her to get sidelined in it. Not to mention, I can't see her submissively settling for being second in command. It's the thing that bugs more in this book (next to some potentially misogynistic jokes, that probably don't mean much in context, but still are in bad taste).
One last point: this installment ends with a cliffhanger. Yeah, I know. But the reason is, Thirst No.3 and Thirst No.4 are two halves of a long story that couldn't have been told in a single book (unless you're Stephen King, because in that case, the publishers would probably let you get away with it).
Now, I probably did a poor job of having you interested in this book, given all my criticism 😂. The fact is, this is still a solid and entertaining installment in a solid and entertaining series which - above all - is unlike any other you've read. You have to remember that sometimes those who love something the most are also those who cut it the less slack 😉.

Note: I didn't shelf this series as Afterlife because Sita didn't actually "die-die" before she came back as a vampire. There are different takes on the vampire mythology, though technically they should all be undead...

P.S.: I'm doing a buddy reread of this series with my friend and Pike fan Carrie. She usually can articulate her thoughts far better than me, so I'll link to her review for this book as soon as it's up. In the meantime, here's a link to her Goodreads page if you're not on Tumblr.

For my "Thirst No.1" review (first installment in the series) click here.
For my "Thirst No.2" review (second installment in the series) click here.
For more books by Christopher Pike click here.

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