Moonshine
by Alaya Johnson
(St. Martin's, $14.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-312-64806-0
****
They've begun calling her the Vampire Suffragette.  And, though Zephyr Hollis could do without the title or the notoriety, it's basically true.  A woman on a mission – actually, a lot of them, Zephyr feels hard-driven to give to society.  She gives a lot.  Most of her time, in fact, goes to marches and drives and soup kitchens.  She takes a wage at the immigrants’ night school where she teaches, but it's only enough to cover her basic living expenses, which does not include transportation.

It's bicycling to the school one night that brings Zephyr in contact with Amir, an exotic looking man who, though he looks foreign, does not seem to need her school.  Zephyr is thankful to stumble across him this night, though, because she is toting an underage vampire along on her bike.  Amir takes the boy off of her hands and promises to try to see him through the crazed hunger that is generally the definition of vampires who were turned too young.  

Amir discovers that Zephyr has an immunity to a vampire's bite – something she has discovered the hard way, growing up in Montana with a demon hunter as a father and moving to New York to do the same for a coalition before reality sank in. This makes her very useful to him.  Since Zephyr has recently donated her wages to a good cause and rent is due, she takes Amir up on his offer to pay her handsomely to get him the location of a vampire named Rinaldo.  Rinaldo is a local crime boss – dealing in blood and alcohol, both of which are extremely important in this Prohibition-era alternate reality.  He is also the leader of a pack of young vampires called the Turn Boys.

Turns out the Turn Boys are Zephyr's way into Rinaldo's lair – they are willing to learn, and she offers her services.  But things quickly become complicated.  Amir is an Other being, a djinn to be exact, and Zephyr doesn't understand his drive to take down Rinaldo, whose world should little cross with Amir's.  In fact, no one that Zephyr questions has ever actually seen Rinaldo, even before he Turned.

Highlighted by a fascinating group of supporting characters that include Zephyr's headstrong and mouthy roommate Aileen and up-and-coming socialite turned reporter Lily, Moonshine is a romp of the highest level.  The ambiance is fabulous; readers will feel transported, but 1920's New York City remains a backdrop, not a tool to distract from a lack of plot.  Zephyr is a complex character who works in reverse: as the novel progresses, a little of her shine wears off as chinks in her saintly armor are revealed.  This makes her an excellent heroine and a good counterpart to much of the corruption running rampant during the era.

Historical paranormals are few and far between, and usually weak at best, laden with unnecessary details and fluffy language.  Zephyr Hollis' world is gritty and dangerous but not without hope.  And Zephyr Hollis, a shining beacon of hope herself, evolves into the kind of tough, loving, and lovable character readers find impossible to forget.

--Sarrah Knight


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