Publisher: Signet; Original edition (November 2, 2010)
Summary: Savannah's most unconventional tattoo artist, Riley Poe, lives on the edge. Now she's put over the edge when her younger brother is taken by a sinister cult led by vampires. Her only ally is the hot-tempered vampire Eli Dupre, attracted to Riley's beauty and rare blood type. To save her brother from certain un-death, Riley faces dangers she's never dreamed of, ruthless bloodthirsty enemies, and an evil of endless hunger that wants to devour it all...
My review: I found the book cover intriguing and after reading the summary figured it was worth checking out. It was. I was really surprised how much I liked this book. Afterlight, the first title in The Dark Ink Chronicles trilogy, started out slow moving but the cemetery scene with main character, Riley Poe, following her younger brother, Seth, and his friends drew me in immediately. Riley runs her own tattoo shop where she lives with Seth. When he inadvertently releases the spirits of powerful vampire brothers, he in turn will become a bloodsucking night walker in one month's time. Riley, a badass with a good heart, vows to fight for her baby brother--even if she has to die to save him. Her vow drags her into a mysterious new world where a sexy vampire named Eli becomes her protector, and she hopes, a lot more, despite the danger a relationship with him holds.
Riley definitely had a 'cool' factor going for her by being independent, strong, gutsy, and raising Seth after their mom was murdered. I really got a grasp on Riley's character-who she was and what she was going through. Though I have read about other tattoo artists in paranormal stories, the character of Riley and her shop, Inksomnia, added allure and fit in perfectly with its Southern setting. Riley's relationship with Seth was special and some of their scenes were the emotional highlights in the book. As for the vampires, the Dupre family was an intriguing lot (though there wasn't anything really new to their lore or the idea of their 'kind' having a contract, in this instance it was with the Gullah people). The Strigoi vampire brothers, Victorian and Valerian, had a brief but interesting moment. I only wished their scene lasted longer. The premise of Victorian's power over Riley is reason enough for me to pick up the second book. Eli Dupre's relationship with Riley happened quickly but the author did a good job showing the instant attraction they felt for each other and how Eli grappled with his desire for Riley, fully knowing the consequences if he lost control.
As much as I enjoyed the book there were some areas I felt needed addressing. Riley's special blood--an idea which has been over used in the paranormal so it had better be unique or different--didn't fully convince me why of her desirableness. Riley's outstanding tats (the dragons running down her arms and up her spine) were mentioned enough times I expected them to play a prominent role in making Riley special. Maybe her gorgeous body art will come of use in one of the next two books? As much as I dug the premise, I felt there should have been more action, especially in the first half of the book. The setting of Savannah was richly depicted throughout the book. At times the exposition slowed down the pacing. I tired of certain overused words (like brine and shadows) and Riley's detailing of what she wore became cumbersome. I knew she had long hair early on and didn't need to reread the amount of times she tied her 'long hair up into a high ponytail'. Not being acquainted with the South, I wanted to know about the Gullah people and their history. Preacher and Estelle were important secondary characters and I waited to learn more about their particular kind of magic.
Despite some of the things I delved into, I believe Elle Jasper has the potential to join the ranks of other beloved authors like Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lara Adair and a handful of others to warmly welcome her to the adult paranormal/fantasy world. The market may be crowded but there's always room for another good book. Afterlight held my interest and I loved the heart of this story: the characters, their conflicts and relationships, Riley's sense of self. The teasing pages of Everdark have made me put the second book on my 2011 Wishlist. Jasper is an author with serious chops. I anxiously look forward to what she comes up with next.
Favorite excerpt: From pages 153-154.
"I stared first at Eli, then at Seth, and my heart ached to hold him, smack the hell out of him, and shake his lanky adolescent body until he sapped out of it. But I knew that wouldn't happen, and no amount of shaking would change anything. It killed me to obey Eli, but I did. "Don't hurt him," I stated, and stared hard at Eli. He didn't agree or even acknowledge my request, but I knew by the way he looked at me that he'd not hurt my brother. I turned and headed for the door, and just that fast, a gust of briny air brushed the side of my face. When I looked over my shoulder, they were both gone. Uncertainty and an agonizing pain I couldn't define washed over me and sucked every ounce of energy from my body, and my knees collapsed. I sat down right there on the floor. I wanted to run to the window, to see where Eli and Seth had gone, how they'd gone; I couldn't. My insides were locked, and an inescapable feeling of helplessness overcame me. Then, the tears. The goddamn tears. I hated them, hated the weakness they represented, and hadn't allowed myself the luxury of them since the day I found my mother dead in a bathtub. By the time we'd had her funeral, I was angry and the tears had dried, and I hadn't shed one more tear until last night. F*** it. Pulling my knees up to my chest, I locked my arms tightly around them, put my head down, and cried."
Cover comment: Co-ol with a capitol "A" but I would have liked to have seen the dragon tats on Riley's arms go all the way down to her wrists as they are depicted in the novel. I also believe her hair is longer. Still, have to show this cover a ton of love.
Book source: Library (And if Santa gives me a copy, that will appreciated:)