The first book in L.J. Smith’s beloved Night World series is now available as a special collector’s edition!
The pain was something Poppy couldn’t ignore. The diagnosis was death. There was no hope—until James appeared in the darkened hospital room.
James, her best friend and secret love, the most handsome boy in El Camino High. But this was a James she didn’t know, menacing yet irresistible as he offered Poppy the gift of eternal life.
Only he could open the door to the Night World, and spirit her into its lonely, secret universe.
One dizzying kiss and she can see into his soul. She finds that he has always loved her. They’re soul mates—but can she follow him into death and beyond? It’s a desperate choice, and Poppy’s time is running out...
About the Author
L.J. Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the Night World and Vampire Diaries series. She has written over twenty-five books and lives in California.
Read an Excerpt
It’s hard to tell you how much the re-release of the Night World books means to me. It has allowed me to come full circle, to complete a cycle that began with Secret Vampire. It has allowed me to finish Strange Fate, which grew into an epic that included roles for almost every Night World character. And Strange Fate allowed me to show the origins of the Night World, the apocalypse that threatens to destroy it, and even a possible future in which the evil side of the Night World prevails.
I am often asked how I conceived the idea for the Night World series. It began when I wanted to write stand-alone novels that would combine horror and romance. But I wanted more: I wanted to do a series in which this Night World—a vast, secret world that exists within the everyday world—would slowly reveal itself to readers.
That’s why the first book is called Secret Vampire: the inhabitants of the Night World, composed of vampires, shapeshifters, witches, and other supernatural creatures I wanted to invent, are hidden from humans. A vampire is necessarily a secret vampire ... because of the laws.
I also wanted to write about a new kind of forbidden love. That’s not easy—most good forbidden love topics were old by Shakespeare’s time. But with this series, I could create the possibility of forbidden love simply by saying that the laws of the Night World prohibit a Night Person from falling in love with a human.
But I still needed one more ingredient. I needed the rise of the soulmate principle to actively force Night People to fall in love with humans, no matter how hard they fought against it. Voilà! Then it was just a matter of making up interesting characters and setting them loose in my head to see what they would do.
I often begin like that: sitting in a quiet room and searching for a sparkle in my mind that could become my new heroine. Sometimes it’s easy and a whole character shimmers before me. Sometimes I only get the faintest firefly glimmer of a new girl, and I have to hold my breath and see if that glimmer will materialize into a three-dimensional person.
Heroes and anti-heroes are easier. It’s just a matter of picking one that will be a true soulmate for my heroine. I have a whole collection of these characters in my mind, all trying to crash the party. And they’re usually bad boys.
The settings and in-depth plot development are another layer of work. But often the characters just run off and do what they want, and I have trouble keeping up with their antics on my keyboard.
One thing I always do is look carefully at my characters and plot from all angles to make sure I’m not plagiarizing a book or series that I may have read before. That’s just normal procedure for ethical authors: we make sure our stories aren’t too much like another story we might have read. Of course, there are many ideas that have been around since the Babylonian myths, and many characters that are archetypal. But, really, it’s almost impossible to take many things from the body of another author’s work—say, someone else’s character(s) or plot or story device—without actually intending to do so. I can’t imagine wanting to do that. I wish I could say every author felt the same.
Poppy North is a character I examined very carefully. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t too much like Bonnie McCullough, another petite character of mine from The Vampire Diaries. I didn’t even want to plagiarize myself ! But Poppy convinced me that she was a tough little squirt who by high school had already planned out her future, which is very unlike Bonnie. Poppy was going to marry her mysterious friend James—she just hadn’t informed him yet. Also, unlike Bonnie, she had a fatal flaw in her small body.
In Secret Vampire, I knew I was dealing with a serious issue: terminal cancer in a high school girl. So I did a lot of research before deciding on a type of cancer that would be truly inoperable and give Poppy only a month or two to live. I went to several hospitals to talk to nurses in oncology wards. I always brought toys for the hospitalized children, but the whole subject was so heartbreaking I was almost afraid to tackle it. Once I did, though, I found that Poppy was even stronger than I had imagined. In the book, she makes the only choice she can to go on living, and she never looks back.
Poppy is one of my favorite girls, and she ushers in Ash Redfern, who quickly became one of my favorite bad boys. Ash has a murky past of womanizing and ... well, more womanizing. Ash returns in Daughters of Darkness because he has been ordered by the leader of all vampires, Hunter Redfern, to bring his three runaway sisters back to their cloistered vampire island. But when Ash locates his sisters, he runs straight into the human stargazer Mary-Lynnette, and the sparks begin flying—literally.
Mary-Lynnette is a character I made up when I was a kid, and I’m always surprised by how many people like her and Ash together. Mary-Lynnette spends most of the time expressing her feelings for Ash by kicking him in the shins, but their dialogues are some of my favorite passages in the whole series.
Ash, in turn, escorts Quinn into the series. And Quinn (who does have a first name, though he rarely uses it) is one really scary guy. A vampire since 1639 A.D., Quinn is sharp, cold, humorless, and heartless. Unlike Ash, who is mainly guilty of an incredibly long series of one-night stands, Quinn enters the series as a human slave trader. That is, he provides vampires with young girls, and he doesn’t ask questions about what happens to the girls afterward. This led to a problem: How on earth was I going to redeem this villain enough to make him someone’s soulmate in The Chosen?
I really sweated over that. My first task was to make Quinn more sympathetic. The best way to do it seemed to be by telling a bit of Quinn’s own tragic story: how he falls in love with sweet Dove Redfern, and how her vampire father decides to make Quinn his heir.
Dove’s father is Hunter Redfern, one of the most important vampire leaders in Night World history. This is the same Hunter Redfern who, nearly half a millennium later, sends Ash to drag his sisters back home. The same Hunter Redfern who sends his daughter, Lily, after Jez in Huntress. The same Hunter Redfern who tries to turn Delos into a merciless killer in Black Dawn.
But, as a boy, Quinn doesn’t know anything about the Night World, and he is deeply in love with gentle Dove. When Hunter makes him a vampire by force and then when Quinn can’t save Dove from being killed, Quinn’s heart freezes over. For four hundred years it accumulates ice—until he meets Rashel.
That’s another favorite scene of mine: when Rashel, a dedicated vampire hunter since (guess who?) Hunter Redfern killed her mother, encounters Quinn. A group of Rashel’s fellow vampire slayers have captured Quinn and plan to torture him, and Rashel is left alone to guard him. Quinn, feeling old and tired despite his youthful appearance and great power, gives himself up for dead—and is a little glad to do so. Rashel, however, can’t stomach the idea of torture. When Rashel talks to this most-hated vampire and hears his story, she deliberately sets him free. And that astonishes him. But it’s the soulmate principle working its magic. I loved making two such strong-willed enemies succumb to the silver cord that connects them. I especially loved hearing Quinn warning Rashel not to let him go—and then protecting her when her comrades arrive back in time to see that she’s let him loose.
I really loved writing about Quinn and Rashel’s soulmate sequences. As Rashel enters Quinn’s mind, she sees “thorny scary parts” but also “rainbow places that were aching to grow” and “other parts that seemed to quiver with light, desperate to be awakened.” She begins to think that people ask so little of themselves. If the mind of a slave trader can look like this, an ordinary person must have the power to become a saint. It is with this revelation (and much penance on Quinn’s part) that Quinn is redeemed.
That’s the thread that binds all the novels together: redemption. The possibility of a second chance. Everyone has choices to make, but even the most evil of vampires can choose to atone and be redeemed. It may not necessarily stave off punishment in this world or the next, but redemption is possible.
I’ve been asked who my favorite characters are, and the answer always changes because it depends on the book I’m writing. Right now my favorites are three characters from Strange Fate.
As for my favorite couples in the published books? Morgead and Jez—I suppose. Who would find themselves at greater odds than a vampire gang leader and his onetime superior, a vampire who finds out she is half human? I learned some cool martial arts moves as a bonus for writing about them.
Then there is Keller, one of my all-time favorite heroines, and Iliana, the beautiful Witch Child, and Galen, ruler of the shapeshifters: the love triangle in Witchlight. Keller starts out seeming brusque and businesslike, but the love of Galen and of the unselfish Iliana help to heal her inner wounds.
And I can’t forget Thierry and Hannah, and Circle Daybreak. I created Circle Daybreak because the Night World witches had only two clans: Circle Twilight and Circle Midnight. Those, like Thea in Spellbinder, who belong to Circle Twilight are not-so-wicked witches (that is, they don’t want to exterminate all humans like the darkest witches, those who belong to Circle Midnight), but they are still wicked enough.
So what was to be done with all these new soulmates, when Night World law said that they must be put to death? Someone had to make a place for them where they would be safe, and I decided it was Thierry, one of the oldest vampires, and Hannah, his Old Soul soulmate, who has lived hundreds of lifetimes without ever reaching the age of seventeen. They are the ones who revive Circle Daybreak, where humans and Night People can forget about past tragedies and concentrate on a brighter future together.
Although Thierry is an old vampire, he isn’t the oldest vampire. There is one older, the one who Changed him. She provides another thread that binds the series: the pitiless Maya. Maya is the first vampire, the witch who finds the secret of eternal life—and chooses to use it for evil. But there will be plenty more about her, including a look at the young Maya, her sister Hellewise, and their mother, Hecate Witch-Queen, in the upcoming Strange Fate.
And so now I’ve come full circle, back to Strange Fate. But I can’t finish until I add the other joy that the re-release of Night World has brought me. It’s brought me into contact with you by e-mail. Night World fans write so many intelligent, articulate, courteous, exciting e-mails! I love to get messages from “old” fans, who say my works “got them through high school.” Thank you for them! And messages from new fans, who say they have just read all my reissued books—and are impatient for more. Thank you! And the messages that simply demand: “When is Strange Fate coming out?” Thank you, too!
With a full heart, all I can say is thank you, thank you, and thank you again! I never thought I would have a chance to write an open letter to all Night World fans, and I can only wish that you knew how grateful I am ... for this second chance.
P.S. I love to get e-mail, letters, and messages. Visit me at ljanesmith.net!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read the Night World series when I was in Hs and I adored every story! This story about James and Poppy is especially good. This is a series worth getting into.
Its been roughly 20 years since I first discovered L. J. Smith and her Night World series. (Did I just age myself???) Unlike another favorite series from those days, which I re-read in recent years and then questioned my middle grade taste in books, this series is still as amazing as the day I read it. Smith doesn't waste time with describing every little nuance that her readers honestly aren't going to care about, but within 2 pages I had a solid sense of who the heroine, Poppy, was as a person and how she felt about James, the hero of our story. I was always a huge fan of the whole Soulmate trope and this series executes it perfectly. For me, there needs to be some kind of supernatural reason for Soulmates to exist, and in a world of vampires, witches, and shifters, it’s very easy to buy into that reasoning. Add in forbidden love and what teen girl could resist! Certainly not this one, even now that I've said goodbye to my teen years ages ago. This is a short read, but it is utterly satisfying. There's the star-crossed lovers, the villain, and vampires and witches galore! I seriously can’t wait to dive into the rest of these books. Who knows, maybe by the time I re-read the last of them, there will finally be a new release date set for the final book in the series. It's only 17 years past due. So should you read this one? YES. This was the book for the generation before Twilight. (And the author also created The Vampire Diaries - though the TV series took great liberties with the story. For the better IMO. But that's a whole other book review!) So, what are you waiting for? Go sink your fangs into this amazing series!