After perusing a dozen or so “best vampire series” lists online, I was shocked to find not one reference to Skinners. There were the usual suspects – Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake saga, the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, and Adrian Phoenix’s The Maker’s Song as well as Justin Cronin’s recent blockbuster release The Passage (the first installment of a trilogy) and Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s Strain sequence – but where in the world is Marcus Pelegrimas’s Skinners saga?
“I get no respect” was the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s most popular catchphrase – and it’s a fitting description for the Skinners saga. These wildly entertaining, deeply character driven novels get no respect.
How good is the Skinner saga? Earlier this year, when I reviewed Teeth of Beasts, I called Pelegrimas the 21st Century equivalent of Bram Stoker:
“Just as Bram Stoker reinvigorated Gothic horror in the late 19th century – and brought vampires to the forefront of bibliophilic consciousness – so too does Pelegrimas have the potential to do the same thing here in the 21st century with his myriad of monstrosities. His storytelling style is utterly readable, his characters are unconventional and endearing, his wry sense of humor is priceless.”
In his latest, Vampire Uprising, Pelegrimas takes his dark fantasy storyline, which largely revolved around the relationship between monster hunters (aka Skinners) Cole Warnecki and Paige Strobel, and expands its narrative scope to explore the potentially apocalyptic global implications of the war between Skinners and their monstrous adversaries. Enigmatic Skinner Jonah Lancroft is dead – but his legacy of scientific innovation (weapons, potions, invaluable journals, etc.) lives on. Except who – and what – are they helping?
To complicate matters in the wake of Lancroft’s death: a mythical god is freed and now roams the earth gathering up its minions, the Half Breeds are evolving, and the vampiric Nymar are launching a meticulously planned attack that, if successful, will take down the Skinners forever…
And when I say the action is virtually nonstop, I mean it. It’s fitting somehow that Cole Warnecki used to work as a video game designer because the entire Skinner storyline reads like a heart-pounding, adrenaline-inducing, thumb cramping video game. Here’s just a sample of the narrative:
“In the front bedroom, Abel and Selina traded blows with Lyssa. The feline Mongrel kept her center of gravity low and gripped the floor with talonlike claws. Her wide, triangular head bobbed and snapped from side to side to avoid Abel’s blades and Selina’s wooden pike. As soon as Maddy entered the room, the Mongrel put her down with a savage blow that severed the hamstring in her right leg. Between that and the pain of the wound, Maddy was out cold when she hit the floor. When both remaining Skinners came at her at once, Lyssa jumped to the side, grabbed onto the wall and sprung at them from another angle. Her claws ripped through half of Selina’s face and her body knocked Abel to the floor…”
But that said, this saga is far from conventional. Pelegrimas cleverly explores and injects new life into numerous mythologies (vampires, shapeshifters, nymphs, etc.), meticulously creates and describes hierarchies of distinctive monsters, and weaves together a narrative that is simultaneously gruesome and gratifying.
The bottom line is this: if you’re a fan of vampire fiction, you should make it a point to seek out and read Pelegrimas’s Skinners saga – one of the most entertaining, original – and underappreciated – bloodsucking series on the shelves. The Skinners novels get no respect, I tell ya, no repect at all...
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.