(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is —and whom she can trust— before it’s too late?
I liked the first book Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side in a kind of guilty pleasure way. There was an attractive guy, an average girl with hidden strengths and plenty of humour. It wasn’t the most original thing I ever read but I was pleased with the way Beth Fantaskey created her vampires and the sort of hierarchy within them. In all, it was just a good read. However, I was very disappointed with Jessica Rules the Dark Side.
One of the things that I loved about the first book was Jessica as she grew to accept her role as a vampire princess and found an inner strength. With the help of Lucius and her friend Mindy, she almost single-handedly reunited the two biggest feuding vampire clans in Romania. Despite Lucius trying to kill her in a fit of half-madness, she managed to reunite the clans and make him realize that they really can be together because they love each other. She was a sort of stereotypical shy teenager with low self-esteem in the beginning but Jessica triumphed and worked through a lot of those issues. It was really satisfying.
But in Jessica Rules the Dark Side, she seems to have regressed to her former self now that she’s married and it was really disappointing. Sure, she’s very much over her head when it comes to vampire politics but Beth Fantaskey starts the sequel at a point where she should at least be learning basic things about each vampire on the council, things about vampire lore and proper stake etiquette. She should also be learning Romanian, but she seems to make absolutely no effort to do so. It’s really frustrating, especially since in the first book she declared that she wanted to be a princess and learn how to rule. Then rule, woman! Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log waiting as events crash into you in wave after wave of dangerous plot twists. Even when Lucius is put in solitary confinement and deprived of blood, Jessica just sort of wanders around aimlessly. It’s really, really frustrating.
One thing I found the most frustrating about this novel is that it’s told not just from Lucius and Jessica’s points of view, it’s also told from the point of view of Mindy and Raniero, a deadly vampire warrior who just wants to be a surfer dude. Mindy is the most annoying character in this book because she’s such a walking stereotype: she’s slightly ditzy, a fashionista, loves make up, isn’t sure what to do with life, etc. It’s really, really frustrating because her story is told with the poor grammar that she actually uses when she speaks. Raniero, on the other hand is desperately trying to be a surfer dude while knowing full well that he can never really banish his warrior side, no matter how hard he tries. He’s very frustrating in the beginning because of this but I liked him in the end when he actually accepted his role in the vampire hierarchy.
So the characters this time around were mediocre at best (except for Lucius, of course) but the plot was absolutely painful. It almost felt like someone was pulling my nails out in front of my the whole time. Why? Because it’s a mystery and I figured it out shortly after Lucius had been accused of murder, sometime around the first third of the book. I had to watch as Jessica stumbled blindly around like her old self and in the end was saved by Mindy, someone who doesn’t really have the intelligence to figure out that Raniero isn’t all that he seems. It was so frustrating. I get that Jessica’s new to this world and is rather distracted by the fact that Lucius is slowly starving in the dungeons, but really? You only applied modern-ish forensics to the case at the eleventh hour? Wouldn’t it have been easier to examine the body first, like a logical human being would? Not only that, when someone is advising you to do things and those things keep going wrong, maybe you should be suspicious of your adviser!
In the end, I wish I had never read this sequel. It’s not badly written but it’s frustrating to see characters I liked completely regress and to have the whole book revolve around a mystery 90% of readers probably solved before they got to the halfway mark in the book. If you read the first book, I can’t honestly recommend reading Jessica Rules the Dark Side. It’s just disappointing.
I give this book 2/5 stars.