Review: Third Strike by Heather Brewer

Review: Third Strike by Heather BrewerThird Strike by Heather Brewer
Series: Slayer Chronicles #3
Published by Dial on February 20, 2014
Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover
Buy on Amazon

Heather Brewer, the New York Times bestselling author of THE CHRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD, brings this spin-off series to a thrilling conclusion.

All secrets will be revealed as Slayer Joss McMillan tracks a murderous vampire terrorizing his hometown of Santa Clara. During his investigation, Joss comes head to head with old enemies seeking revenge and faces the truth about his sister Cecile’s murder. Joss must use all of his skill to protect his loved ones, even if it means paying the ultimate price.

Heather Brewer has done it again! Third Strike is an amazing novel and an epic ending to an incredible trilogy.

The emotional growth that Joss has experienced from First Kill to Third Strike is massive. I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest character growth I’ve ever seen, in any book, period. He goes from a scared little kid, desperate to avenge his sister’s death and thinking all vampires are evil, to a young man, ready to take on whatever challenge comes his way, opening his mind to all these thoughts and possibilities – especially where vampires and the Slayer Society are concerned. He deals with a lot of inner turmoil and conflict, which further show the ways in which he has matured and grown.

I absolutely love Henry. He’s funny, sarcastic, the voice of reason and a loyal friend. He was amazing in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod and I’ve missed him, so it was great seeing so much of him in Third Strike. He and Joss were at odds for so long, but I’m really happy with the way their story ended. It was a perfect ending and it was fitting, considering. It’s hard to explain without getting spoilery. But, as a long-time fan, I’m really happy with where Joss and Henry were at the end of the series.

There are several more characters I would LOVE to talk about, but the thing is – especially as a series ender – there are so many spoilers attached to so many characters, it would be impossible to discuss them without ruining things for those who haven’t read the book. But I will send shout-outs to Sirus and Kat, two characters I loved and who.. Well, their fates were interesting. I’ll leave it at that.

Third Strike had a lot of different themes and concepts. Three that stood out to me were hope, understanding and compromise – Hope that things can get better; understanding that “No group of any kind of person is all good” – or, in some cases, all bad; and compromise, in that you can’t force someone to think the way you do but, over time, you can agree to disagree and sometimes, people can change their ways and beliefs.

There were some pretty epic revelations in this book, which is to be expected in a series ender – As a reader, we always hope the last book will answer all the questions we’ve been asking ourselves since book one. But when it comes to Heather Brewer, nothing has a simple answer and everything has a twist to it. I was literally on the edge of my seat for the last sixty or so pages. Every time something happened and shocked me, something else happened a few minutes later and shocked me more. Though one or two things came as no surprise – and one thing was even a little anti-climatic (though still sad) – I was still shocked with the things we learned. One theory I had turned out to be true, which is always fun.

Overall, reading Third Strike was bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m excited to finally have all the answers, to know what really happened and to see how it ended. I was so pleased with the ending and with where all (or, well, most) of the characters ended up. At the same time, I’m incredibly sad. Third Strike marks not only the end of the Slayer Chronicles trilogy, but also the end of new books set in the world of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod. I’ve been a Minion since 2007 – seven years, guys. For the last seven years, I’ve always had new Vlad or Joss book to dive into, to distract me from real life. I’ve been a proud Minion and I always will be. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for another book set in this world, with these characters, because they are an inspiration, a comfort and a life lesson: Auntie Heather owns her weird and we all should, too. Be yourself, be happy and don’t ever let anyone push you down. Don’t let the bullies win.

If you have not read The Slayer Chronicles, I highly recommend them. And if you’re interested in investing your time, I HIGHLY recommend you read The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd, as well. These books are so amazing, I would recommend them to anyone and everyone. Even if you aren’t a fan of vampires, give them a chance. Because these books are about way more than just vampires.


Review: Second Chance by Heather Brewer

Review: Second Chance by Heather BrewerSecond Chance by Heather Brewer
Series: Slayer Chronicles #2
Published by Dial on October 16, 2012
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover

The stakes are life or death

The summer after Joss failed to kill the vampire Vladimir Tod, he gets a second chance to prove himself as a Slayer. He is sent to New York City to hunt down a serial killer that the Slayer Society believes is a vampire. It is up to Joss to lead his Slayer team, and through their detective work, they discover that there are actually four vampire brothers who are on the killing rampage. Joss must use all his skill to save the innocent people of New York City from the murderers. Joss’s status as a Slayer depends on it.

The Slayer Chronicles can be read alongside The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod or entirely on their own. This second installment gives readers even more insight into the nightmares that drive Joss the Slayer.

Once again, Heather Brewer has written an amazing and entertaining book. I’ve grown to really care about Joss as a character and as a person. You really don’t get to know him in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod – All we know if he’s trying to kill Vlad, and we hate him for this. But seeing his backstory has really changed my opinion of him.

The first chapter was a great introduction. It recapped the first book without being boring and without info-dumping. Brewer jumps right into the story; it’s fast-paced and full of action, right from page one. Sometimes, it takes at least 50-100 pages before the story really gets going, which can make it feel like it’s dragging. But with Second Chance, the action is immediate.

I feel really bad for Joss and his non-relationship with his family. Worse still, his fractured relationship with Henry is heart-breaking. And as much as I hate how Abraham treats Joss, I hate Joss’s father even more. I hate that Joss blames himself for his family’s fractured state.

Joss’s dreams about Cecile are getting so creepy. They seem very realistic, and sometimes I had to turn back a page or two, just to find the spot where it said Joss blacked out or fell asleep, to make sure it really was just a dream. The torment Joss feels over his sister’s death is obvious, the guilt laying a heavy burden on him.

Joss takes on a lot of responsibility in Second Chance, though much of that responsibility is forced on him by the Slayer Society and Abraham. Joss has grown to be wise and confident, though he doesn’t always feel this way. His growth from book one to book two is very obvious. He doubts himself much too much, though he still does a great job of accepting his role in Second Chance. He throws himself into his duties, and manages to do more, learn more, and fight more than his older and wiser team members. At the same time, he struggles with finding his place as a slayer, as well as with his resignation to kill vampires, to see them all as evil.

Morgan quickly became one of my favorite characters. He was always loyal to Joss, helping him and teaching him in any way he could. He treats Joss as an equal, like a brother. He doesn’t dumb things down for him. My fingers are crossed that he continues to play a significant role in the series, mostly for Joss’s sake. I don’t think Joss can handle another betrayal.

We get a lot of insight into what Joss was thinking the night he staked Vlad. Seeing his guilt, his confusion, gives the reader the opportunity to understand Joss’s feelings regarding Vlad and how he feels about being a slayer. I also loved seeing Otis, and the exchange between Otis and Joss was intriguing.

I still want to punch Abraham for how he treats Joss, and some of my favorite scenes are when Joss stands up to Abraham. It shows character and determination; Joss refuses to let Abraham step all over him, refuses to let Abraham treat him like a child.

Overall, I really loved this book. I mean, it’s Heather Brewer. What’s not to like? The end was epic and Joss really – in my opinion – proved himself. The end was a bit ominous and chilling, though, and there are a few characters I don’t fully trust. Second Chance definitely sets things up for an incredible ending in Third Strike. I’m excited to read it and see what happens!

Also, as a side note, I loved the Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference!


Review: First Kill by Heather Brewer

Review: First Kill by Heather BrewerFirst Kill by Heather Brewer
Series: Slayer Chronicles #1
Published by Dial on September 20, 2011
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Buy on Amazon

Joss McMillan’s perfect life crashes down the night he witnesses his sister’s murder — at the hands of a vampire. He then finds out his family’s secret heritage: They are part of the Slayer Society, a group whose mission is to rid the world of vampires. Joss is their new recruit. As Joss trains, bent on seeking revenge for his sister, he discovers powers that could make him the youngest, strongest Slayer in history. But there is a traitor in the Society, one whose identity would shake Joss to the core . . . if the traitor doesn’t kill him first. The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod is still sinking its fangs into new listeners every day. Now, bestselling author Heather Brewer brings us the other side of the story, from the perspective of Vlad’s former friend turned mortal enemy: vampire slayer Joss McMillan. This is the first in a series of five books that can be listened to alongside Vlad Tod or entirely on their own.

I’ve been a Minion (term for fans of Heather Brewer and the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series) since Eighth Grade Bites (Vladimir Tod #1) came out in 2007. So, forever, basically. I’m ashamed of myself for not reading this awesome spin-off sooner! The prologue caught me right away and I knew this book would refuse to let me go until the very last page.

I already knew some of the back-story from reading The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod – we don’t learn a lot about Joss, but enough to know why he was driven to become a part of the Slayer Society. Seeing the whole story, from the beginning, from Joss’s point of view, definitely makes me feel more sympathetic towards him and the things he did in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod.

My heart breaks for Joss throughout much of the story. He’s a dutiful big brother, yet he feels like “the invisible boy,” both at school and at home. He’s a loner with no friends, for no reason other than the fact that he’s a little bit stronger, a little bit faster.

I really liked Malek. He’s calm and funny, yet serious and dedicated. He treated Joss like a son. At one point, he called Joss a kid, but it felt affectionate, not condescending as it did when Abraham said it. Honestly, I thought his fate was a trick at first – a test Abraham had concocted for Joss. My heart grew heavy when I realized this wasn’t the case. In his absence, I quickly became fond of Sirus, but of course, that didn’t end well, either.

Another great character, in my opinion, is Kat. Unfortunately, I can’t describe why I like her without getting too spoiler-ish, so I’ll just leave it at that. I liked her a lot, though, all the way to the end.

About halfway through the book, even though I still hated Abraham, I could kind of see the method in his madness. Near the end, there’s a scene between Abraham and Joss that has a lot of shocking revelations, and it provides a lot of insight for the reader.

Two of my favorite moments were when Joss stood up to Abraham and when he kicked Abraham’s butt. Loved it! Absolute favorite scene? At one point, Kat slaps Abraham. I died laughing.

Joss goes through so much during training – mentally, physically, and emotionally. He breaks a few times, but he always picks himself up. His growth as a character is obvious; he’s wise beyond his years – wise beyond even that of his fellow, more well-trained Slayers.

The ending was insane. I don’t know how else to put it. There are so many twists, turns, and shocking revelations, one after another. There are a lot of character revelations, especially, that had me on the edge of my seat. And we are introduced to two characters, as well, who will be familiar to anyone who has read the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod. With one character, we are shown the events that led up to Joss’s appearance in Bathory.

In all, I absolutely loved First Kill. It’s Heather Brewer – what’s not to love?? I finished this book, and was eager to get right into the second book. Also? Reading Joss’s story really makes me want to re-read the Vlad books, if for no other reason than to re-read the parts with Joss.