Young Adult fiction is a hot commodity nowadays, with TV networks and film studios snapping up the rights to various literary series and single offerings left and right. We’ve seen how successful the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games series have been, but we don’t hear much from authors who were popular when the YA category was starting to pick up steam in the 1980’s and 1990’s. There are several authors from this era that were hugely popular and still have quite the loyal following, while others disappeared into the world of used bookstores and forgotten literary memories.
Two of the biggest authors of those two decades were popular thanks to their large and expansive collection of book and series that fell under the Horror/Suspense genre. R.L. Stine is best known for the Goosebumps series of YA fiction, and his Fear Street collection of books were quite popular when I was growing up. While I do have some fond memories of staying up late at night and devouring his stories like food for the brain, another author captivated my imagination and I have been a loyal reader for 18+ years now.
Christopher Pike, though not as huge as R.L. Stine but a successful author in his own right, wrote more adult-like YA books that covered topics that Stine’s books carefully treaded around, like sex and alcohol use. The characters were also very realistic and easy to like: high schoolers who navigated the ins-and-outs of high school while trying to stay alive from the creature or killer that was haunting their dreams and waking life. Some of my favorite books during Pike’s first reign were Wicked Heart, Master of Murder, Monster, and the Final Friends, Chain Letter, and Remember Me series. There was one series in particular that caught my attention when I was younger, and to this day I am still a huge fan. Thanks to Christopher Pike, I later discovered novels and collections from Stephen King, Anne Rice, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, and many other authors that I love dearly. His books turned me into the reader that I am today, and inspired me to choose writing as both a hobby and a future career path.
The Last Vampire series features one of my favorite vampires to ever grace the pages of a book. My love for this character fed into a lifelong obsession with those dark and sexy nocturnal beings that fed off of human blood and had us wishing that we could become a member of the immortal children of the night. Sita, our heroine, was the last of her kind – a monster who would repent her wicked ways and protect humanity from those that would harm us. Sita is a very strong and well-written character, as well as a great female heroine that was not seen that often during those days. In comparison to the likes of Bella Swan (yes, an easy target but one that should be pointed out), Sita doesn’t need anyone to rescue her – she’s more of the rescuing type versus the damsel-in-distress. She has a great group of allies who have helped her conquer all types of challenges in Pike’s series, and her adventures are about to continue in The Last Vampire 9: The Sacred Veil.
New interest in Pike’s Last Vampire series can be attributed to the loyal following of the Twilight and Vampire Diaries series, along with the many new series that have inundated the YA market as of late. The first Last Vampire book was released years before the Twilight series and three years after the original Vampire Diaries trilogy. The series has been renamed to Thirst, which can be confusing to fans of The Last Vampire who may be looking for the continuing saga of Sita. The first six books (The Last Vampire, TLV 2: Black Blood, TLV 3: Red Dice, TLV 4: Phantom, TLV 5: Evil Thirst, and TLV 6: Creatures of Forever) have been released in two separate trilogies under the new Thirst banner, though they are still the same familiar stories that we fans have grown to love. TLV/Thirst 7: The Eternal Dawn and TLV/Thirst 8: The Shadow of Death were released in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and helped garner a new generation of readers into Sita’s world, as well as bringing old fans back after the ending of TLV 6: Creatures of Forever had us believing that Sita would not return.
Meet Our Heroine – Sita, the Last Vampire
Sita is an ancient vampire who has lived for more than 5,000 years. Her story begins in India, where she grew up and lived with her family for many quiet years, until one eventful night would change her life forever. As a child growing up, Sita witnessed one of her friends dying while giving birth to her child. A visiting priest from another area was able to bring the child back from the dead by calling upon a demon, which inhabited the baby’s body. The demon was a local creature called the yakshini, and the baby would later be named “Yaksha” by Sita herself, who refused to kill the baby after her father gave her an ultimatum. She felt that there was something evil about him, and as she grew up her suspicions were mostly confirmed when the men of her village who were there at Yaksha’s birth started to disappear. Sita’s own father was taken by Yaksha, who came to visit her and her new family one night with some of the men, who had since turned into vampire-like creatures. He offered to turn her into a vampire or kill her and her husband, Rama, and her daughter. Reluctantly, Sita chooses to go with Yaksha and bid her family farewell, never to see them again.
As a vampire, Sita was a bloodthirsty creature at first, and the world was starting to notice that they were up against demons that they had never encountered before. Yaksha, Sita, and their fellow vampires had a run-in with the Hindu deity Krishna in their travels. Krishna and Yaksha planned a battle against one another in a pit of serpents. Yaksha and the other vampires were “snakelike” because of the yakshini demon, and he thought he could defeat Krishna easily. Krishna used his flute to hypnotize the serpents into biting Yaksha. Afterwards, he made Yaksha swear a sacred vow to him that was kept secret for thousands of years, until Sita realized the truth – Krishna told Yaksha to kill all of the vampires he had created. Only Sita was the last one remaining and under Krishna’s grace after she swore to never create a vampire.
Throughout the centuries Sita traveled from country to country, to avoid wandering eyes and suspicions about her youthful looks and immortality. She encountered people with good hearts and people with ulterior motives, but she always prevailed. But her longevity on this planet was threatened countless times by some menacing adversaries, ranging from psychotic vampires, the government, ancient beings, and even her own maker. She even masqueraded for a short while as a high school student named Alisa Perne, a name that she would use frequently with her human contacts, but only a select few knew her true name.
Sita also has quite a long and tragic romantic past as well. She was Yaksha’s consort for a long time before leaving him after making her promise to Krishna. In high school she met a young man named Ray who bared a close resemblance to her long-dead husband, Rama – his soul reincarnated in the body of this young man. She loved Ray deeply even though she caused him lots of pain in the process. They were inseparable, though, but unfortunately Ray would lose his life at the hands of a psychotic newborn vampire named Eddie Fender. After mourning Ray’s death, Sita met an FBI agent named Joel whole helped her out before perishing himself (her lovers don’t have long life spans). Sita unknowingly reunited with an old flame named Arturo, half-vampire/half-human hybrid who had discovered a way to synthesize vampire blood to allow him to live forever yet still remain human. It seemed like every person that Sita would grow close too would eventually die, leaving her a very sad and lonely vampire.
Fortunately for Sita, she met a young man named Seymour – an uber-nerd who took to the vampire immediately and becoming her best friend, her mentor, her voice of reason, and her biggest ally. Seymour would always have a thoughtful reflection or words of encouragement for Sita, and he also has helped her through many sticky and dangerous situations. Sita, in return, used a drop or two of her powerful vampiric blood to cure Seymour and give him a longer life expectancy; Seymour had been dying from AIDS until he had met Sita. Sita would later use her blood on Seymour again and turn him into a vampire after he suffered a fatal wound to his chest in a battle against Sita’s daughter Kalika. His life as a vampire didn’t change Seymour’s wisdom or sarcasm, much to Sita’s chagrin, but he remained a loyal friend to her when she needed him the most.
Speaking of Kalika, Sita found temporary joy in the birth of her second daughter and child. Kalika was named after the Hindu goddess of death & destruction, Kali, and she seemed to live up to her name. Sita realized too late that her child was not her adversary but an ally after the birth of a special child named John, who bore a striking resemblance to Krishna. Kalika swore to protect him at any cost, and it would end up killing her in the end. An ancient enemy from Sita’s past had tried to take and kill the child, without success. With John safe with his mother, Paula, Sita continued on with her destiny of being the savior of the world and the Last Vampire.
Many new challenges would arise and cause much difficulty for Sita, as seen in the newest installments of the Thirst series. The newest book, The Sacred Veil, will be released in March 2013 and could very well be the last testament of Sita’s life. After the cliffhanger that The Shadow of Death left us with, it’s awesome to see that Christopher Pike still has at least one more story left to tell about Sita, and for that I am grateful as a huge fan of the character. Will Sita survive to live and see another day, or will she finally decide that she’s lived a fulfilling life? We’ll soon find out in 2013.
There’s so much to share and discuss about Sita and the many allies and enemies that she encounters throughout the Thirst/The Last Vampire series, but it’s best left to new and old readers to discover or return to Sita’s world and give it a try. I was so excited and fangirled a bit when the first “sequel” was released to the original six-book series, and I still get an adrenaline rush whenever I see a new title announced. I love the fact that people are discovering Sita and re-discovering her world if they were fans who haven’t read the books in a while, and I’m always recommending them to my friends to read them. Don’t let the generic YA black-and-gray cover pictures featured on the books in the Thirst series dissuade you from reading; they are much better than a lot of the YA books on the market today. The original variant covers of the original six books of the series are beautiful hand-drawn covers full of color and emotion. Give them a shot, and prepare to read a story about a vampire who is strong, sexual, and definitely not a doormat (sorry Bella Swan).