Vampires have bitten such a huge chunk out of pop culture that you can put them in almost any type of story, and they fit. Supernatural horror? Classic. Sweet romance? Awesome. Superhero Fantasy? Yes, please.
I’ve been reading a lot of vampire books lately. Here are three that I strongly recommend but that almost don’t seem like they belong on a list together because they’re so different.
If you’re in the mood for something…
Dark and gritty
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.
Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.
Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?
I should start with a caveat. I usually cringe away from stories described as “dark and gritty” because it often seems like code for unnecessary and exploitative violence that the writer put in just for shock value. But that’s not the case with this book. Yes, bad things happen, but it’s just a natural result of the dangerous world the characters live in.
That world is one where vampires have been (un)living out in the open for decades and currently run the drug trade in Mexico. It feels detailed, lived-in, and real, and it puts the main characters in a constant danger that slowly ramps up as the story progresses.
I was rooting for the two main characters of this book so hard. Domingo is an adorable nerd who discovers that reading old comic books about vampires has not prepared him for meeting the real thing. Atl, said vampire, is a complicated character whose arc I enjoyed. She’s a blood-sucking monster from a family of drug dealers, so I guess technically she’s a morally gray character, but she’s so awesome that I want to call her a heroine.
There are three other POV characters, one who’s a police officer doing her best in a bad situation, and two who are villains. Their stories run parallel for most of the book before clashing violently together at the end.
If you want an ending that’s 100% happy, this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you like darkly beautiful stories and are looking for a take on vampires that draws on something other than European mythology, this is a fantastic book.
If you’re in the mood for something…
Cozy and cute
The Vampire Knitting Club by Nancy Warren
At a crossroads between a cringe-worthy past (Todd the Toad) and an uncertain future (she’s not exactly homeless, but it’s close), Lucy Swift travels to Oxford to visit her grandmother. With Gran’s undying love to count on and Cardinal Woolsey’s, Gran’s knitting shop, to keep her busy, Lucy can catch her breath and figure out what she’s going to do.
Except it turns out that Gran is the undying. Or at least, the undead. But there’s a death certificate. And a will, leaving the knitting shop to Lucy. And a lot of people going in and out who never use the door—including Gran, who is just as loving as ever, and prone to knitting sweaters at warp speed, late at night. What exactly is going on?
When Lucy discovers that Gran did not die peacefully in her sleep, but was murdered, she has to bring the killer to justice without tipping off the law that there’s no body in the grave. Between a hot 600-year-old vampire and a dishy detective inspector, both of whom always seem to be there for her, Lucy finds her life getting more complicated than a triple cable cardigan.
The only one who seems to know what’s going on is her cat … or is it … her familiar?
I had so much fun reading this book. The premise is just plain fantastic, and the mystery kept me guessing. I want to travel to Oxford to visit the quaint little street Lucy’s knitting store is on. It’s a historical building with an apartment upstairs and a secret trapdoor in the back that leads to an underground tunnel where vampires live.
Vampires who knit the main character sweaters.
And they don’t just knit. They also help solve murders. To quote the book:
“We’ve got a dozen vampires with not enough to do, who can go out at night. They can eavesdrop on conversations, get talking to people in pubs late at night. Think of them as your Baker Street irregulars.”
If that’s not enough for you, this book has a cute kitten, a mysterious vampire love-interest, and many different kinds of yarn. If you like cozy paranormal mysteries at all, you should definitely try this one.
If you’re in the mood for something…
Hard-boiled and sexy
Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall
I like my women like I like my whiskey: more than is good for me.
Name’s Kane, Kate Kane. I’m a paranormal private investigator, which is like a normal private investigator except—and stop me if you’re having trouble following this—more paranormal. This business comes with a few basic rules: don’t start drinking before noon, don’t get your partner killed, don’t sleep with the woman who killed him.
Last year I broke all of them.
The only rule I didn’t break was the one that said don’t work for vampires. But then a dead werewolf showed up outside the Soho shag palace of Julian Saint-Germain—a bloodsucking flibbertigibbet who’s spent the last eight centuries presiding over an ever-growing empire of booze, sex and hemoglobin.
I shouldn’t have taken the job. The last thing I needed was to get caught in a supernatural smackdown between a werewolf pack and a vampire prince. Even if the vampire prince was dangerously my type. But what can I say? I was broke, I’m a sucker for a pretty face and I gave up on making good decisions a long time ago.
Kate Kane is my new favorite paranormal investigator. The book is written in first-person, and her internal monologue is just the best. A few choice quotes:
Yes, I was a faery-blooded, thirty-something PI with trust issues and a drinking problem, and she was a bloodthirsty undead nun with a pudding fixation, but I honestly thought we were in with a chance.
Monster Fighting Rule Number Twelve: Never Assume It’s Dead.
Monster Fighting Rule Number Thirteen: No, Really, Never Assume It’s Dead.
In some ways, this book feels like an old-fashioned noir mystery with a down-on-her-luck private eye hired by a dangerous and attractive dame. But in every other way it’s fresh and new. The cast of characters range from a celibate incubus to a vampire drag queen to an animated statue, and Kate fights everything from killer unicorns to gooey tentacle monsters.
The supernatural setting of London will suck you in with secret vampire nightclubs and scary monsters that live in the sewers. There’s supernatural politics, sword fights, and a romance that I ship so hard. This is just an excellent urban fantasy book in every way.
What’s your favorite vampire novel? Have you read any of these books? Share your thoughts in the comments!