Reading level: Adult
Trade paperback: 384 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Publisher: New American Library
Release date: February 7, 2013
Series: Chicagoland Vampires #7
Source: Personal shelf
Reviewed by: Jenn
In a city full of vampires, trouble never sleeps.
At the tender age of twenty-seven, Merit became a sword-wielding vampire. Since then, she’s become the protector of her House, watched Chicago nearly burn to the ground, and seen her Master fall and rise. Now she’ll see her mettle—and her metal—tested like never before.
It started with two . . . Two rogues vanishing without a trace. Someone is targeting Chicago’s vampires, and anyone could be next. With their house in peril, Merit and her Master, the centuries-old Ethan Sullivan, must race to stop the disappearances. But as they untangle a web of secret alliances and ancient evils, they realize their foe is more familiar, and more powerful, than they could have ever imagined.
I was a little underwhelmed by the previous Chicagoland Vampires novel, BITING COLD, so I went into HOUSE RULES with a bit of trepidation and lower expectations. My general reaction to HOUSE RULES? It was okay. Not mind blowing, not terrible, just okay. I think the shine is gone from the series for me now, even though I found HOUSE RULES to be more satisfying than BITING COLD.
Let's start with the good stuff. I thought the main plot points in HOUSE RULES were really interesting. Cadogan is separating itself from the Greenwich Presidium, the body that governs all of the vampire Houses, meaning Cadogan has voted to go Rogue. It's a decision that emerged in the previous novel and that gets our full attention in HOUSE RULES. I really liked this idea because it changes the dynamics of vampire politics in the whole Chicagoland Vampires universe, and it puts Ethan, Merit, and the rest of Cadogan House into a new, more precarious position. It was fun watching everyone scramble to figure out what the GP might do and how they would counter. Seeing Cadogan behind the gun was nicely different, since their lifestyle and future were being severely threatened.
At the same time, Merit has to deal with her initiation into the Red Guard, the secret group that polices vampire activity. Up until now, the Red Guard seems to have been a convenient way for Merit to get information other characters couldn't provide so it was nice to see her face a quandary about her membership. I was hoping this storyline would bring greater tension to her relationship with Ethan, but it wasn't really a huge deal, as it turns out. I'm all for HEAs for characters but I feel like this is a big secret that should have major implications on Merit and Ethan's relationship; the outcome was a bit disappointing in this regard.
And, of course, I can't talk about a Chicagoland Vampire novel without getting into my beef that Ethan even exists. I wish he'd stayed dead. I admit that this may be an unpopular opinion but it's how I feel. (Please don't feel the comments with too much hate!) I thought the emotional and political ramifications of Ethan's death back in HARD BITTEN were really great and beautifully written and I just haven't felt invested in Methan since he came back. I feel like it was a big cheat and I clearly haven't gotten over it since that was three books ago! It would have been ballsier for him to stay dead (like Kisten in the Rachel Morgan series -- unless he's been brought back to life since the last book I read, which was right around the time the series transitioned to hardcover) and now I'm just not into it. And I think this is a major part of why the series isn't shiny anymore.
All this being said, I'm not giving up on the series just yet. I think Chloe Neill is a great writer and I love the world she's created. I'm curious to see if the non-romantic storylines in BITING BAD will be strong enough to win me back in August.