vampire's familiarRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

Kirk Gracewell is back in his hometown of Madison Gully, twenty years after fleeing in the wake of his sister’s death. His sister was all he had with his parents both passed, and when Kirk saw her killed by a cougar shifter, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. Kirk was just a teen then, but now he is not only grown, but has come into his powers as a vampire. With the Madison family having their ten-year reunion, it is the perfect time to return to town, figure out which of the shifters killed his sister, and exact his revenge.

Sage Madison still lives on the family ranch where the reunion is held. While his cousins weren’t happy that Sage’s mother inherited the ranch, and his brothers have all left home, Sage loves the ranch and the quiet. Having his family descend on his home isn’t easy, particularly with his nasty cousins, but it is their chance to all reconnect. It is also the time when their Seer declares who will be the next familiar, a coveted position that matches shifter with witch, enhancing both their powers. Sage is not thrilled when the Seer insists that he follow Kirk and find out who he is and why he is in town. She knows that their fates are entwined and while she can’t (or won’t) tell him details, she insists that Sage is needed to help prevent more violence.

Even though Kirk wants nothing to do with the Madisons, he knows that Sage is too young to have been the killer. When Kirk reveals to Sage why he is in town, Sage is torn between the desire to protect his family and the need to see Kirk get justice for his sister’s death. The men also find themselves drawn to one another, which is complicated not just by the fact that one of Sage’s relatives is a murderer, but also that as a vampire, Kirk can’t touch other people without stealing their energy. While a little graze doesn’t hurt any, prolonged contact could knock someone out or even kill them.

As the men get closer to discovering who murdered his sister, they also find themselves falling for one another. Now they must stay one step ahead of the killer and find out who is responsible before he turns his sights on them.

The Vampire’s Familiar is the second book in T.J. Nichols’ Familiar Mates series. While it is set in the same world as The Witch’s Familiar, the story stands alone completely. We get some mentions of the Coven, and Jude makes a cameo at the end, but otherwise, this book stands apart so much from the first it doesn’t always feel like part of the same series. The tone felt different, and the first book has a darker, more intense suspense feel. But what ties things together is the world building, which continues to be one of Nichols’ strengths. I really liked this take on vampires, and over the course of the book we slowly learn more about how vampires connect with the supernatural world. It’s always fun to see a new take on a old theme, so I liked how Nichols explores vampires, as well as the world of witch/familiar pairs.

Sage and Kirk have a nice connection I could feel from the start. Kirk is a loner and fairly prickly, so he isn’t so thrilled when Sage is following him around town, especially since he knows one of the Madisons is a killer. I liked how Sage is determined to help Kirk right a wrong, even as he knows it might lead to one of his relatives being exposed as a murderer. Sage is strong and steady, and there is something about him that just seems to settle Kirk, who has a lot of internal angst. His mentor took him in when he left home and taught him to control his magic, but he also left some emotional damage that Kirk is still working through. He has really never had a chance to learn what he is and he was taught to fear the supernatural community. So working with Sage gives Kirk a chance to find his place and move past that sense of isolation.

One area that I felt was too unexplored was the issue with Kirk’s mentor. He is spoken of in very dark terms and we know he was hunting shifters, looking for his familiar. He was clearly a violent man who both helped and harmed Kirk. He is spoken about often in the book and there is almost a sense of foreboding around him, but it doesn’t really get developed or explained in as much detail as I would have liked. I kept waiting for a reveal of more information that never happened.

While there aren’t a ton of surprises here, I still found this one entertaining with some interesting world building elements. I continue to enjoy Nichols’ writing and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

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