The heroine in a trilogy of vampire novels set in Ashland is back — facing an evil nemesis while also choosing between two vampires she loves.
Released this month in time for Halloween, "The Last Mile" by Blair Richmond is the final installment in the young adult Lithia Trilogy. Richmond is the pen name for an anonymous person who lives in Southern Oregon and frequents Ashland.
The first book in the series, "Out of Breath," came out in 2011, followed by "The Ghost Runner" in 2012. Fans with hazy memories of the first two books — as well as new readers of the series — get a crash course about past events with helpful bits of backstory sprinkled throughout "The Last Mile."
Kat, a young woman and avid runner, is an orphan after her mother was killed by a vampire in the hills above Lithia, a carbon copy of Ashland. Her ne'er-do-well father has recently perished in a wildfire after trying to reestablish ties with Kat.
Readers will quickly discover "The Last Mile" contains doses of ecological lessons. The book is published by Ashland Creek Press, a boutique publisher of books with a message.
Kat muses about the beneficial effects of the wildfire, thinking to herself that "fire is nature's way of housecleaning, clearing the undergrowth of all the dead matter so that new life can grow. Fire tells the older trees to release their seeds, which they do, and, in turn, they give birth to the next generation of forest."
The book is filled with references to Ashland institutions, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Southern Oregon University and Ashland Springs Hotel, although they get new monikers in fictional Lithia. Readers familiar with Ashland will have fun identifying local landmarks.
As with the past books in the trilogy, Kat — a vegan — feels a sense of friendship, love and eco-conscious comradery with Alex, but is also in love with the handsome, serious and mysterious Roman. Both men are vampires but have given up human blood and live off the sap of trees.
An ancient vampire named Victor hates Kat and is determined to stamp out the vegan vampirism trend before it spreads beyond Lithia's borders.
Kat knows a final showdown with Victor must come.
In one scene, Kat tries to convince Victor to give up the vampire tradition of feeding on the blood of humans — and the confrontation degenerates into what sounds like a family squabble around the Thanksgiving table.
"What is tradition, really, but an act that nobody questions anymore? Like eating turkey at Thanksgiving — it's an old tradition, but people keep doing it despite knowing that the turkeys live horrible lives, that those poor birds have nothing to live for," Kat tells Victor.
Aside from the sometimes clunky messages, "The Last Mile" reads well and is a fast-paced book with a cast of memorable characters. Kat, an aspiring actor who works as a theater stagehand, employes a clever Romeo and Juliet-style ruse as she attempts to destroy Victor.
"The Last Mile" is marketed at youths ages 12 and up. The love scenes never go beyond the PG level, and Victor isn't particularly frightening.
Young aspiring writers from middle school on up will likely be inspired by the trilogy's local setting and strong heroine.
"The Last Mile" and the two previous books in the series are available at Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main St., and Tree House Books, 15 N. Main St., in Ashland as well as online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.