The Eternal Kiss
featuring Karen Mahoney, Melissa de la Cruz, Maria V Snyder, Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Kelley Armstrong, Libba Bray, Rachel Caine, Cecil Castellucci, Cassandra Clare, Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié, Lili St Crow, and Dina James; fantasy (2009)
Running Press Kids, $9.95, ISBN 978-0-7624-3717-7

I cannot fault editor Trisha Telep for putting together a sterling line-up of A-list fantasy and paranormal young adult fiction authors for this anthology, The Eternal Kiss. I can, however, wish that she'd stayed away from writing the introduction of this anthology, as it's not only cheesy, it contributes to the whole misleading advertising for this anthology.

I'm sure you are expecting a bunch of Twilight clones here, stories of insipid sixteen-year old girls squirming in hormonal blush over albino sparkling vampires. Ah, but that's what the packaging would like you to believe.

The closest story here to a vampire romance is Maria V Snyder's Sword Point, but even then, the heroine Ava is more of a Buffy Summers type than a Bella Swan archetype. This one is as far from Twilight as one can go, because the heroine Ava is allowed to keep her ambition of wanting to qualify for a place in the Olympics fencing team even as she is offered a place in the super secret organization to bust evil spooks.

The rest of the stories either poke merciless fun at the Edward Cullen archetype or celebrate the truly bestial and darker side of vampires, and you'd be hard pressed to find any romance in these stories.

On the hilarious parody side, there is Sarah Rees Brennan's adorable Undead Is Very Hot Right Now, where poor Christian, a teenage boy who has been a vampire for a year, is drafted into a boyband... only to realize that his role is to play the brooding vampire, complete with cape, standing on stage before a wind machine as female fans whip themselves into a frenzy. Christian is as hilariously emo as they come, and when he finds that his heart is broken due to the girl he likes wanting him only for his ability to turn her into a vampire, his manager gleefully tells him to keep moping because that's how the fans love him best. Yeah, poor Christian, really, but this story is too hilarious for words.

On the dark side, we have boys and girls who, drawn to the typical black-clad emo vampire archetype of the opposite sex, get badly burned as a result, sometimes losing their lives in the process. Of course, pinpointing the stories of this type will spoil the ending of those stories, so I'd let you discover these stories on your own. There are other stories that simultaneously revel in the savagery of the vampire even as the author tacks on the obligatory cautionary tale about making out with guys with fangs. Lili St Crow's Ambition is one story that becomes increasingly darker as the heroine becomes increasingly besotted with the vampire who, unfortunately for the people in this story that become collateral damage, is not benevolent at all. Meanwhile, Holly Black's The Coldest Girl In Coldtown captures most successfully the feel of urban fantasy before that genre becomes infused with breathless teenage girls and sparkling vampires: this one is dark, savage, and bleak as it is set in a post-apocalyptic urban scenario with a heroine who tries to do the right thing as she succumbs increasingly to the vampirism that has infected her.

There are other stories here, but the ones that capture my attention the most are the ones I have mentioned above. The two stories that happen to be the only ones I do not like are the ones by the authors with the highest profiles. Rachel Caine's story is nothing more than an advertisement for her current young adult series and I suspect that Kelley Armstrong's story is similar as it is confusing and disjointed (I haven't read her young adult Otherworld books at the time of writing). Other than these two duds by authors who should know better, the remaining 11 stories are all very readable and entertaining in their own manner. There are horror, comedy, heartbreak, tragedy, and obvious instances of authors making fun of the surly, quiet, and black-clad emo vampire archetype.

The only thing this anthology isn't is a collection of breathless love stories featuring vampires and teenage girls. So, adjust your expectations accordingly. Those expecting 13 stories of "blood and desire" like the cover promised are most likely going to be disappointed, but everyone else looking for young adult vampire stories done in a complete 180 from the current trend of vapid vampire romances will find plenty to savor here.

Rating: 88

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