REVIEW: Glass Houses

Rachel Caine
Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires #1)
NAL Jam Books
ISBN-10: 0451219945
ISBN-13: 978-0451219947
Young adult fantasy
October 3, 2006

From the author of the popular Weather Warden series. Welcome to Morganville, Texas.

Just don’t stay out after dark.

College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation, where the popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks in the school’s social scene: somewhere less than zero.

When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don’t show many signs of life. But they’ll have Claire’s back when the town’s deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood.

Want one reason exemplifying why this series is awesome up front? It has the series title and order on the covers. Shaaa-wing! Maybe someone looked at the author’s Weather Warden books and thought, That’s sure is a nice idea, let’s do that on her YA titles, too. Or vice versa. Whichever way the wind blows, thank you gods of reading for any series that labels order sequence on the covers. People everywhere with too little memory capacity, like me, thank you.

That being said, what a fun little book this was. Easy, breezy and full of…an interesting plot? Get this, I enjoyed this one most of all for it’s plot. Will wonders never cease. If you’re new enough here to think I’m rambling about something dumb, I’ll reiterate that I’m usually purely a character-driven reader. I need the characters to represent. They often do for me amidst plots that sound too familiar, yet the characters will pick up the slack and turn a familiar story into something new and fresh.

For me, the Morganville Vampire series has been all about the plots so far (I’m on about book four or so). Claire is a cute enough character with her adorable dweebish dedication to her education. Eve is a fun inclusion with her bad-ass Goth girl self; Michael is the dreamy musician that sounds too good to be true and Shane is the resident bad boy with a chip on his shoulder. And we really don’t learn to awful much about them aside from their surface thoughts, feelings and actions. Or it feels like we don’t. Instead of using the characters and their actions, thoughts, etc. to lead it all, the plot is actually pulling all the strings in this book. The plot is the means through which the author is enabling us to learn more about the characters (and the author might be all like, I am? But it sure feels that way to me.). The book is very action-oriented, with lots going on every minute. The pace never slows down and as short as it is, there doesn’t seem to be much room for in-depth characterization anyway.

That all being said, I loved it. I don’t know if my brain was just fried at the time, but this was exactly what I need, obviously. Given that I normally disdain a book that doesn’t exactly develop characters very well, Glass Houses was a surprise to me. It turned out to be a good one though. I got to the end of it thinking – this would make a great TV series. It reads like a really well-scripted TV show. It’s as if I could even see it all playing out in my head, as if I was indeed watching it on-screen. I found this aspect to be rather cool, actually.

In addition to the plot, Caine has produced a refreshing world for her vampires and their inferior but no less important human inferiors. There are some basic vampire similarities to other vamp series: vampires are the infinitely superior breed and they show it in their treatment of humans; humans are the food supply; etc.. But then there is a lot we don’t know after Glass Houses is done – why do vampires control Morganville in the first place? Are there other communities like it elsewhere? How does the vampire “magic” work? There are so many questions, and it’s all so interesting. The book is actually a great mystery, and I don’t usually subscribe to mystery reads, not ones with this many questions. But they’re all enticed nicely and I found myself speeding through the book.

Claire is our introduction to it all, and with her initial actions against a town bully by the name of Monica (who feels over-the-top in her bullying, but even this aspect is explained via the plot and became more believable), we begin a tidal wave of discovery in Glass Houses. It’s a classic case of no one is who they seem, and around any corner could be some new twist. Caine does an excellent, and I mean excellent, job of enticing the reader along, giving just the right amount of info and setting up for the next book. On the setting up though, if you’re not a fan of cliffhanger endings, and you find yourself feeling hooked at all while reading this one, you may as well just go ahead and buy the second book before you’re done. Caine does leave you hanging in a big way. I had actually gotten that hooked feeling about halfway through Glass Houses and ordered the second book, glad to be able to continue on to it straight away.

I asked on Twitter after first getting into this book if there was a romantic subplot at all, I could sense one coming, and it was confirmed that there was. I won’t spoil who Claire herself is interested in, only that I can’t see why she’d be interested in said feller. In my opinion, said feller is lame and I have not grown to appreciate him as a character. In this instance, I felt it would be nice if Caine had made her characters a little stronger, but then some plot point would come along and distract me all over again.

If you enjoy young adult vampire novels, but thirst for something a little more exciting plot-wise, this is a great series to try. Glass Houses introduces a fun twist to the vampire genre and kept me very entertained. If it had included in-depth characters as well, it would likely have been a perfect score, but as is, it’s a winner for everything else it includes. Gotta save room for future books, I suppose.

Rating: Four Scoops

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11 comments

  1. I think Karen Marie Moning just about killed me for cliffhangers, please tell me Glass House isn’t as bad…? I haven’t read a YA since Showalter’s Intertwined, shame on me!

    • K.C., I gotta say, if you don’t like cliffhangers? You won’t like these because Caine leaves RIGHT in a heated place every time.

      BUT if you decide to try the book, again, my advice is go ahead and get the second book if you find you’re enjoying the first at all. The good thing about this series is it’s pretty well advanced by now with up to seven or eight books in the series by now. Too, I’ve found myself getting used to the cliffhangers this time, which is odd. Ones this blatant usually rub me wrong. Again, may just be because I know I can get the next one fairly easily so far. I might want to chop the last book in half if I get to its end and don’t have the next one because it’s not published yet lol.

    • Oh yeah, meant to ask – what did you think of Showalter’s YA book? It sounded like too much to me, too many types of paranormal characters.

  2. I love Caine’s Morganville Vampire series. I found it after reading Twilight and always buy as the books come out. I have the latest in my TBR pile. I try to stay one behind so I always have one to read in my house.

    • Now that you mention it, this is a good series to pick up after Twilight, especially if one feels the characters in that were a little too deep lol. I’d seen the Morganville series around for a while, don’t know what I was waiting for…

  3. I have this and Rachel’s first too Weather Warden books on my shelf..Don’t ask me why I haven’t picked them up yet. I’m definitely planning on it. Very nice review Kmont! I’m really looking forward to starting both of the series

    • I’ve only read the first in the Weather Warden series. It was good, but it’s particular cliffhanger ending actually made me angry. This was unusual for me; usually I can eventually get through/work with a cliffhanger ending. The rest of the book was great, I just need to motivate myself to move along in the series. Hope you enjoy them when you get to them! :)

  4. This is such a fun series. However, the cliffhangers do drive me nuts. I just don’t get why YA often tends toward them. Do publishers think that younger readers=shorter attention span, so they want to “hook” readers? (I don’t buy it.) ::scratches head::

    I read the first few after they had been released, but have been hoarding Lord of Misrule and Carpe Corpus, and will pick up Fade Out and Kiss of Death when KoD comes out in May. That way I can have a good Morganville binge.

    I’ve actually wandered away from the Weather Warden series. I think I needed a break from Joanne’s story. Actually, she’s the one who needs a break! Joanne never seems to catch one for long, does she?

    • I haven’t been back into reading YA for very long so I’m not familiar with a lot of trends in the genre. So a lot of them seem to do cliffhangers? Cuz that would get more annoying over time with me…

      As for Joanne not catching a break, this does seem to be one of the most inherent traits in urban fantasy. Would the genre survive should a lead hero or heroine actually go on…vacation? *gasp*

      • While cliffhangers are not in all YA, it does seem much more common. Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan threw me for such a loop with its (unexpected, for me, at least) cliffhanger, I listened to the last chapter over again to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake when loading the audiobook onto my ipod!
        Kelley Armstrong’s YA series is another with the cliffhangers, though some of the plot is resolved by the end, but there’s still that element of, “what’s going to happen next?” in the last scene of her books.

        Joanne seems especially vulnerable to the one thing after another. Vacation, heck, I’d just love to see her have a normal day. :-P

  5. Thank you KMont. Hmmm. I’ve read all but the latest of the Weather Warden books, but this series I haven’t tried at all. Like Renee, I’ve kind of wandered away from Joanne (the heroine) and her endless trials and tribulations. She doesn’t even need to go on a holiday, just jump the story forward a month or so. Honestly, I keep waiting for Jo to exhibit the signs of battle fatigue! Plus…and this is a me thing, it would be nice if the root of the problem wasn’t about Jo. I’m getting side-tracked :)

    Hmmm, I might have to give Glass Houses a go – at leat to see if it is for me on not. I’m kind of over vampires ATM, but something different might be just the ticket :)

  6. Like you, I just started this series and am very much appreciating the handy series numbers on the cover. They are nice and light reading fare but most of all, I like the Morganville series because vampires are bad and scary and all that. Not sexy, not misunderstood – bad. I’m thinking that’s a nice change and will keep reading for that reason alone.

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