Review: The Lair by Emily McKay

The Lair

May Contain Spoilers


When I was contacted about participating in the blog tour for The Lair, I hesitated.  I had tried to read The Farm last summer, but there was so much going on in my life that I had give up and return it to the library.  I thought the premise sounded interesting,  though, and I love post-apocalyptic reads, so I thought What the heck?  Sure, I’ll give it a try.  Let me say that The Lair can be read by itself.  I was only confused a few times, and the author did a nice job recapping the previous book, without the references feeling awkward or out of place.  As someone who hates to read books out of order, or hates starting a series in the middle, I never felt that nagging burst of frustration with The Lair, and I don’t regret reading book two without having first read book one.  I guess I should try this more often with longer series that I’m interested in, but that seem too overwhelming to start at the beginning.

The Lair is told through three POVs – Carter, 1st person, Mel, 1st person present tense, and Lily, 3rd person.  At first I thought the three different narrative styles would drive me batty, but that didn’t happen.  Mel’s voice is urgent and engaging, Carter is loaded with anxiety and self-doubt, and Lily’s chapters putter along on an even keel.  I enjoyed Mel’s voice best, and thought that Lily’s chapters occasionally dragged, even though she probably experiences the most harrowing adventures.  Good thing she can think fast on her feet, because she would have been killed about 15 times if she hadn’t been so clever.

Lily’s world is one of danger; a deadly virus has been unleashed, killing millions and turning those with a specific gene into Ticks, blood-crazed monsters.  The virus was developed by Roberto, an old and cunning vampire, and with the help of his abducturas, individuals with the power to sway others to do their bidding, he has destroyed civilization as we know it.  Teens are gathered on Farms to harvest blood for the Ticks to feed on,  and Lily and Mel have been rescued from their Farm by Carter.  When Mel is killed during their escape, she is turned into a vampire by Sebastian, Carter’s mentor, to save her life.  Once autistic, Mel is now “normal” (whatever that means, and whatever that means in reference to being a vampire), and she’s enraged that Lily and Carter betrayed her and allowed her to be turned.  Lily has been caring for Mel for years, and Mel is the reason that she’s struggled so hard to survive.  Her failure eats away at her, and she’s determined to never fail anyone again.

I don’t want to spoil anything because this is an exciting read, so I won’t say much more about the plot.  I enjoyed The Lair because the characters made me care about what happened to them, even without getting to know them first in The Farm.  They are split up for a lot of the book, and I was getting stressed about all of them surviving to reunite.  And what would happen when Mel and Lily did meet up again?  Would Mel be able to forgive her for having her turned into a vampire, instead of just cutting off her head after she’s attached by Ticks?

The pacing is blistering until about the 50% mark, and then it becomes a bit uneven.  Up until McKenna and Lily leave the base with Ely, I had a hard time putting the book down.  After they head off for parts unknown, I wasn’t quite as committed to Lily as I was to the rest of the cast, and I’m not sure why.  The chapters with Ely just dragged for me, so I was happy when they finally parted ways.  Maybe I just like Lily better when she’s with Carter?  Or maybe I was just terrified that a love triangle would develop, and the fear of that kept me from enjoying Lily’s time away from Carter?  It’s not even that I thought Carter was the perfect guy for Lily, it’s just that I hate love triangles just that much.  I’m happy to report that this overused trope in YA fiction never came to be.  Yay!

Like Carter, I was surprised by the ending.  Everything that he thought was true turned out to be not the case.  Wow!  The vampires in The Lair are a manipulative bunch, and they expertly jerked everyone’s chains, including my own.  Zowie!  Once I hit about the 85% mark, I could not put my Kindle down, so I’ll say that this book’s strengths are the beginning and the end, and middle is where you can catch your breath. 

The world Mel, Lily, and Carter inhabit is interesting.  They don’t know what’s happened to the adults, or to anyone who ages out of the Farms.  Nor are they aware of the fate of other nations.  Is the devastation and population loss isolated to the States?  I would like the answers to these questions, too!  I’m looking forward to more in this series, and if you are primed to read a post-apocalyptic tale swarming with vampires and blood-thirsty monsters, The Lair should be right up your alley.  

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

In the battle against the vampiric Ticks, humanity was slowly but certainly headed for extinction. For months, twin sisters Lily and Mel had been “quarantined” with thousands of other young people being harvested for their blood—food for the Ticks. Finally escaping with a few friends, the twins are separated—and must continue the fight on their own . . .

After making it to a resistance base camp in Utah, Lily learned to survive at all costs. But when a Tick attack decimates the fighters, Lily and her pregnant friend, McKenna, decide to make the hard trek north to Canada—and safety.

Meanwhile, Mel is being taught how to survive by the very vampire that turned her. Living without her sister is hard, but dealing with the fact that her autism was cured by the vampire bite is an even bigger challenge.

But when a monstrous betrayal places Lily in mortal danger, Mel must set out to find her, save her, and begin to unravel the empire of destruction that the Ticks have built.