Wait up a minute, you have read the first book in this series, right? Knuckle Supper? I hope you have, because this book is (obviously) a direct sequel. I REALLY want you to read the first one, so consider yourself spoiler warned if you proceed…
Drew Stepek, how dare you write another book about that nasty, junkie vampire, RJ Reynolds?! I was already dealing with this crusty punk worming his way into my heart, and then you had to go and make it worse. Now I can’t quit RJ even if I wanted to.
Stepek’s second entry into his Knuckle series is sure as hell no sophomore slump. The action, the violence, the humor, and the HIGHLY inappropriate content are just as spot on as they were in the first book. As I’ve said before, all that stuff is awesome if you can stomach it. Thankfully, I can. But what really keeps me coming back is the heart and humanity in these seemingly unlikeable characters. Knuckle Balled picks up the action after Eldritch (that gothy little drama king) and RJ have avenged Bait by killing her sucky parents (okay, that’s really RJ’s deal) and, at Eldritch’s insistence, have now basically kidnapped Bait’s little sister, tiny Paulina, aka Pinball.
Now the trio are in hipster-infested Austin, Texas and plotting what the hell to do now. We've learned “vampires” are all over the county, and the home of the South by South West festival is no exception. Just wait until you meet these guys. Let’s say they’re a tad more theatrical than the LA contingent. We do have some reoccurring faces as well; Personally, I was elated that Eldritch featured prominently in this novel. Eldritch is a stereotype of the romantic, dark, intellectual vamps I was raised on, thanks to Anne Rice. He is also excruciatingly funny. I can’t think of many characters that could go toe-to-toe with RJ the way he does. Their dynamic is a large part of what makes this book work so seamlessly. Paulina doesn’t have as much “screen time” as her sister did, but what she gives and represents to Eldritch and RJ speaks volumes. These human kids cure something corrupted and lost in these two.
Just like Knuckle Supper, I had no clue where this book was going, nor what was in store for me as a reader. I couldn’t have hoped to guess and, really, I’m glad I didn’t try to. Part of the fun of these novels is simply strapping in for the ride and letting the story take you away. Vampires in Stepek’s world live funky, unpredictable lives. His characters go to seedy and harrowing places. Yet, Drew always gives you plenty of humor and gore to keep it all from getting too emotionally draining.
Like it's predecessor, this book opens with a note about the Children of the Night organization. They do incredible work for kids who need help dealing with trials most of us cannot imagine living through. Also like it's predecessor, proceeds from this book will benefit Children of the Night. A brutal horror writer with a conscience and heart, Mr. Stepek has my loyalty. More importantly than that, his characters have my allegiance! I don’t know if RJ is ever going to get the monkey off his back for good, but I’m sticking with him till the end.