Review: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

January 22, 2011 Books, Reading, Reviews 2 ★★★

Review: Insatiable by Meg CabotInsatiable by Meg Cabot
Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper.But her bosses are making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn't believe in them.Not that Meena isn't familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you're going to die. (Not that you're going to believe her. No one ever does.)But not even Meena's precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side. It's a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.The problem is, Lucien's already dead. Maybe that's why he's the first guy Meena's ever met whom she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena's always been able to see everyone else's future, she's never been able look into her own.And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future. . . .If she even has one.
Series: Insatiable #1
Published by Harper Collins on 2010-06-08
Genres: Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
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We’ve all seen fiction inundated by vampires, and this book by “Princess Diaries” author Meg Cabot is no exception to that rule. Except, well, Meena Harper hates vampires. She thinks it’s the stupidest trend and can wax poetic on why our culture’s obsession with vampires will be the downfall of feminism; “monster misogyny”, as she calls it. But still one does what one has to in order to keep the bills paid, and so when the soap opera Meena writes for (“Insatiable”) decides to implement a vampire storyline, the best she can do is complain to her unemployed brother, Jonathan. (Yep, Jonathan and Meena Harper. I despair that despite the vampire craze, how few people will actually get that joke.) So she does her job (even though she got passed over for a promotion thanks to nepotism), avoids her neighbor (Mary Lou, who is always trying to hook her up with promising young men), and lusts after designer totes. When neighbor Mary Lou invites her to a party to welcome husband Emil’s cousin, a Romanian prince, readers know where this is going. Lucien Antoneşcu does not disappoint. And Cabot throws in enough Romanian place names that I had to go get my “Introduction to Romanian” book to remember how to pronounce things. (I think the only things that stuck after all this time is “please” and “thank you” and those are important words to know, right?)

Amusingly (though cliché), Lucien is charming, gorgeous, and rich. He teaches history at a university in Budapest, and is completely entranced by Meena. Unfortunately, in introductory conversation (“what do you do?”), Meena lets slip about the upcoming vampire storylines in her soap opera, and then launches into an impassioned rail against vampires. Understandably, Lucien, taken with her as he is, decides not to tell her about his secret after that. Not only is he is a vampire, but he is the prince of all vampires, the son of Vlad Têpes, and he’s not in town to socialize. His half-brother Dmitri thinks the business of vampirism could be a little more productive, and plans on removing his brother from power, and Lucien has come to town to remind Dmitri that he’s not prince just on the basis of his good looks.

Along the way, we meet a vampire hunter as well – Alaric Wulf of the Palatine Guard, evolved from the papal soldiers of old into a demon-slaying brotherhood. Vampires almost killed Alaric’s partner, and now he’s out for revenge. (It sounds much better if you try and say that in the movie-trailer voice.) Alaric’s an alright guy, but I much prefer Lucien and Meena together, so if there is a sequel (which seems likely – Cabot ends it as though it could go either way, sequel or stand-alone, but I’m hoping for sequel), Cabot would do well to write Alaric an ass-kicking girl-slayer who meshes with Alaric on his emotionally stunted level and requires respect by way of ability to knock him into next Tuesday.

But I’ve forgotten what makes Meena Harper so damned special: she knows how you’re going to die. She has premonitions, normally associated with death, and it is one of these premonitions she has regarding a young woman on the subway that starts the threads of mysterious deaths, vampires, and undead coups winding together. And it is Meena’s ability, combined with her kind heart, that threatens her relationship with Lucien even more than her discovery of his status as the Prince of Darkness.

One of the best things about this book is what will make it irrelevant in a decade – its constant pop culture references. I admit to quite a bit of laughter (ie: she has a dog named Jack Bauer) at her cultural commentary, but some of them are just oblique enough that once the vampire fad goes dormant, new readers won’t get the jokes. I enjoy a character who speaks her mind, but isn’t so incredibly smart, fantastic, and funny as to be utterly unbelievable. Meena has few friends, talks to her dog like he’s really Jack Bauer, and wishes she could afford what’s en vogue; she has just enough going wrong in her life so we don’t look at her and think she’s the cliche perfect character that no one can really empathize with. Cabot’s dry sense of humor (seen in her “Princess Diaries” books – yes, I’ve read two or three of them) shines through in Meena, and while she has her preminatory ability, she doesn’t secretly know kung-fu or have a bestie on the force to call when things get rough. Instead, she has Pradip, who sits at the front desk and wants to be a masseuse singing her praises to anyone who asks – because she’s nice to him.

The final battle is good and epic, taking place in a desecrated church (don’t all epic battles between good and demonic evil take place near/in/on a church or church grounds?), and featuring nuns packing heat. Apparently the sisters of the Poor Clares know that sometimes a blessing isn’t enough to take down a minion of Satan. And I do love some nuns with spunk. And there’s a dragon too. If that doesn’t get you to read it, I’m out of ideas. I sat down to start it, and just wanted to get to the part in the story when this or that happened (it is admittedly formulaic, but I don’t always want deep from my books – sometimes I want fun), but then it was four hours later and I thought I might as well just finish it, since I got “this far”. So I read it in one sitting. Easy enough read, and now I’m wondering what else Meg Cabot has written for big kids.