Monday, December 14, 2009

Review - "Hearts at Stake" by Alyxandra Harvey

On Solange’s sixteenth birthday, she is going to wake up dead. As if that’s not bad enough, she also has to outwit her seven overprotective older brothers, avoid the politics involved with being the only daughter born to an ancient vampire dynasty, and elude Kieran Black—agent of an anti-vampire league who is searching for his father’s killer and is intent on staking Solange and her entire family.Luckily she has her own secret weapon—her human best friend Lucy—who is willing to defend Solange’s right to a normal life, whether she’s being smothered by her well-intentioned brothers or abducted by a power-hungry queen. Two unlikely alliances are formed in a race to save Solange’s eternal life—Lucy and Solange’s brother Nicholas, and Solange and Kieran Black—in a dual romance that is guaranteed to jump start any romance-lover’s heart.Even fans of the genre who’ve seen it all will find a fresh read with kick-butt characters and family dynamics that ring true for all brothers and sisters—vampire or otherwise.
Hearts at Stake is the first book in a new young adult urban fantasy series called The Drake Chronicles. What I liked most about this book was its cheerful light-hearted sense of fun. Told in alternating points of view between Solange and Lucy, we experience the human and vampire side of their respective lives - Solange with the weight of turning vampire and fulfilment of the prophecy hanging over her head and the impulsive Lucy worrying about her friend and doing her best to look out for her.

The banter between Solange and best friend Lucy is engaging and certain circumstances are chuckle-worthy in particular the fact that as Solange approaches her change she is emitting vamp pheromones that relentlessly attract would-be suitors. Security staff on the family farm are constantly picking up gifts and presents scattered around the land. I also enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek depictions and quirks of some of the more ancient family relatives as seen through Solange’s 21st century teenagers eyes. The burgeoning romantic entanglements that are presented for both Lucy and Solange I found believable, deftly done and surpisingly emo-free.

There is a Buffyesque vibe in many of the physical scenes where rival vampire and hunter forces engage right down to the dusting of the vampires only without the dialogue snark. Solange has her own Scoobie gang in the guise of her seven brothers. The action scenes are well choreographed and again a lot of fun. Plenty is packed into the 248 pages and the plotting is fast-paced as Solange’s birthday quickly approaches and events unfold. The vampire hunters try to earn the bounty on Solange and rival vampire political factions (there are several) seek to kidnap or kill Solange. All of this builds and converges in a big climax that brings everyone on stage at the Vampire Queen’s Ball reminiscent of a final curtain call in a play.

Hearts at Stake is a nicely self-contained story and concludes with no loose ends or cliff-hangers. The ending is very much in keeping with the light tone of the story and I found it quite satisfying. Although the feel is generally light, I also appreciated that there are some genuinely dramatic and heartfelt moments that add counterpoint and balance to the story.

Hearts at Stake is a strong debut with two very likeable teens at the centre of the action. Rarely taking itself too seriously, Hearts at Stake nevertheless nicely balances humour and drama with aplomb. I think readers of all ages will find the Drake Chronicles a perfect escapist pleasure. The authors’ love of the vampire genre shines throughout the book and I very much look forward to Blood Feud, the next Drake family adventure.

Meet Solange:

Meet Lucy:


Read the Prologue and Chapter 1.

Walker & Company
Published: December 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 248
ISBN #: 9780802720740

The Drake Chronicles:
  1. Hearts at Stake (2009)
  2. Blood Feud (2010)
 UK/Canadian Title


  1. This looks really interesting. I love the cover!

  2. Great review, I was wondering if this was any good. I like that it is in a series, but doesn't leave you dangling.

    Elie (Ellz Readz)

  3. I like light hearted reads and this one sounds perfect to share with my stepdaughter. I think she would love reading this one. Hhm, this could be a potential Christmas gift for her.

    Love the review!

  4. Suzie I think both covers do the novel justice. Alyx is lucky indeed.

    Elie moving forward I think each of the books may involve a different one of the seven brothers.

    Thanks Donna. I thought it was a well balanced teen read,

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