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Literature / Sonja Blue

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The Sonja Blue series is a set of five novels and one collection of short stories by Nancy A. Collins. The first book, Sunglasses After Dark, won the Bram Stoker Award for best horror novel of the year. The series was supposed to be complete after the first three were finished, but game publisher White Wolf persuaded Collins to write A Dozen Black Roses, a crossover novel which put Blue in the world of their Old World of Darkness role-playing game series. From this point on, the continuity of the series became a bit vague.

Sonja Blue is a vampire who hunts vampires and other monsters. She was the first person ever to become a vampire without dying—she was saved from the brink of death by modern medical technology. As a result, she is far more powerful than any but the oldest, strongest Master vampires. But her human side is usually at odds with her vampire side, which she calls the Other. She has to keep the Other satisfied by offering it a steady diet of violence, or it can take over. So she hunts monsters.

The original trilogy (which was collected in an omnibus edition called Midnight Blue: The Sonja Blue Collection) documents Blue's efforts to track down and destroy the Master vampire who created her.

Books in the series:

  • Sunglasses After Dark (1989)
  • In the Blood (1992)
  • Paint It Black (1995, conclusion of the original trilogy)
  • A Dozen Black Roses (1991, crossover with Old World of Darkness)
  • The Darkest Heart (2002)
  • Dead Roses for a Blue Lady (2002, omnibus books 1-3)
    • Cold Turkey (2011, Novella)
    • Search and Destroy' (2011, Short Story)
    • Some Velvet Morning (2012, Short Story)
    • Vampire King of the Goth Chicks (2012, Short Story)
    • Tender Tigers (2015, Short Story)

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  • All Myths Are True: Sonja Blue's world is full of demons, angels, vampires, spirits, and fairy creatures.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: All vampires and a large chunk of other monsters in the world. Sonja is the exception because she never died.
  • Decadent Court: The vampires of the world have large broods that they rule over as nobility and constantly compete against one another with.
  • Dhampyr: Sonya is called this by her sire but isn't really a half-vampire so much as a Technically-Living Vampire.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Sonja Blue has dark black hair, pale white skin, and the creepy aura of a vampire.
  • Emotion Eater: The vampire nobles feed on emotions as well as blood, and thus were closely involved with historical events like Stalinism and Nazism.
  • Evil Mentor: Pangloss attempts to educate Sonja on proper vampire etiquette but she wants nothing to do with her grandsire.
  • Fiction 500: Jacob Thorn is one of the richest men on Earth as well as a self-made billionaire. He's also Sonja's human father.
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • Sonja Blue qualifies as both human and vampire but this is due to her vampirism not quite taking completely.
    • Catherine Wheele's father turns out to be a "backwoods incubus." This is the source of her Psychic Powers.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: Sonja Blue is a vampire who never actually died, so her human side remains (mostly) in control, and she hunts other vampires and their ilk, while seeking revenge on the monster who accidentally created her.
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Sonja Blue hates Morgan and wants to see him destroyed.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Sonja Blue spends a great deal of time, decades in fact, as a prostitute after her initial turn. It is a very easy way to get victims.
  • I Love You, Vampire Son: While Morgan has nothing but contempt for Sonja and vice versa, Pangloss thinks of Sonja quite fondly.
  • Inhuman Eye Concealers: Red eyes are one of the symptoms of vampirism, which makes sunglasses very popular with the vampires - hence the title of the first book of the series, Sunglasses After Dark.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: People who become vampires experience some moderate involuntary shapeshifting when they first transform. Not a lot, but enough to hide their previous identity. (It conveniently includes fingerprints.) This is why nobody knows that Blue is actually the long-lost heiress Denise Thorne.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Sonja Blue is a fantastically beautiful living vampire that wins over the hearts of even men who are terrified of her.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Master vampires often employ ogres, both as dumb muscle and as walking garbage disposals, consuming drained corpses when the master doesn't want to add to his/her brood. In reference to their Western Fairy Tale origins, they have a tendency to be child molesters.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Blue's quest to find and destroy the Master vampire who created her, and changed/ruined her life forever.
  • Psychic Powers: These are very common in the setting and range from being able to see ghosts to see other people's pasts by touching them. Vampires have them naturally as do people who survive near-death experiences, which may be related.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Sonja considers it worth killing over and engages in several murders of rapists over the course of the novel.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Red eyes are one of the symptoms of vampirism, which makes sunglasses very popular with the vampires—hence the title of the first book of the series, Sunglasses After Dark.
  • The Renfield: This is a semi-official rank in vampire society. Humans with some telepathic ability and a psychological disposition to submission are often enslaved by master vampires (via Mind Rape, which an ideal candidate for the job will actually enjoy) and used as personal assistants. The position is referred to as "renfield" (in lower case), but the master of such a servant dehumanizes him/her by addressing him/her only as "Renfield" (upper case).
    • Claude is one of these in the first book.
    • Pangloss actually had his named Renfield while Palmer serves as one of these to Sonja (despite her denials).
  • Sinister Switchblade: Blue wields a silver switchblade, which she can use to deliver grisly ends to her targets.
  • Technically-Living Vampire: Sonja Blue is the only vampire of her kind to be made without dying first.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: The series is full of vampires who are uncaring of the state in which they leave their victims.

     Sunglasses After Dark 
  • Bedlam House: While better than some examples, Sonja is kept in appalling conditions at the Elysian Fields hospital and routinely abused.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sonja successfully destroys Catherine Wheele's Corrupt Church and avenges her imprisonment (as well as gets a big payday) but is still a vampire as well as permanently disowned by her family. Plus, Claude is dead.
  • Blackmail: Catherine Wheele is blackmailing Jacob Thorne with knowledge that his daughter is a vampire.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Sedating a vampire (even a living one) and keeping her prisoner in an asylum to blackmail her billionaire father seems like a terrible plan.
  • Corrupt Church: Catherine Wheele runs a fairly typical for-profit megachurch. She just uses her psychic powers to enhance her flock's devotion.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Catherine Wheele is torn to shreds from the inside out by the ghost of her late husband.
  • The Dog Bites Back: One of the orderlies attempts to assault Sonja in the asylum and gets his throat torn out in the process.
  • Eats Babies: Sonja comes across an ogre who is in the process of lowering a baby into his maw. He would've been successful in eating the baby if she'd been two minutes slower.
    Sonja: Uh-uh. No veal for you.
  • Evil Plan: Catherine Wheele locked up Denise Thorne in a mental hospital, drugged to the gills, while blackmailing her father that she'd release her if he didn't pay her regularly. She can't be released because her transformation into a vampire would destroy his wife's remaining mental health.
  • Dream Walker: This is one of the powers of vampires. When Sonja is in an insane asylum, and her human side is being suppressed by anti-psychotic drugs and sedatives, her vampire side goes dream-walking at night, making the other inmates even more insane than they were to start with.
  • Fake Faith Healer: The primary antagonist, Catherine Wheele, is a rich and powerful evangelist and faith healer. She is actually an extremely powerful psychic with Mind Control powers, but she doesn't have a bit of healing power—that part is pure con.
  • Freudian Excuse: Catherine comes from a poor white trash background and thus feels justified in doing anything for money.
  • Genre Savvy: A relatively minor example (it doesn't actually do him a lot of good): After Claude Haggerty has been kidnapped by a pair of hitmen who want to kill him for reasons he doesn't understand, and then rescued by a tiny woman who rips the hitmen apart with her bare hands and starts drinking their blood, he passes out and wakes up in what can only be described as a lair. At which point, he desperately begins trying to figure out what sort of horror story he's fallen into, and whether there's any chance he's the hero. And praying it's not a slasher film.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Doctor Ghilardi wanted to be this as soon as he discovered Pretenders were real. However, he was too old and infirm to do it. So he employs Sonja Blue instead.
  • I Have No Son!: Jacob Thorn is repulsed by what his daughter has become and denies she's still alive.
  • Mercy Kill: Sonja uses a Vorpal Pillow to kill the now-braindead Claude.
  • That Man Is Dead: Sonja reluctantly accepts that her life as Denise Thorne is over at the end.
  • Mind Rape: A favorite of Catherine Wheele as she uses the sexual fantasies of others to control them, being half-incubus.
  • Posthumous Character: Zebulon Wheele is Catherine Wheele's late husband and the individual who founded her televangelist ministry.
  • Sunglasses at Night: The first book of a series about Sonja Blue, a light-sensitive vampire who wears just those.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The Blue Monkeys are a bunch of teenage boys guilty of gang rape and other crimes.
  • Vigilante Man: Sonja Blue's first meal upon escaping the hospital is a bunch of guys holding up a convenience store. The guy can't even describe what happens but it involves her smashing them through the plate glass door and taking only a pair of mirrored sunglasses.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Mr. Thorne makes it clear he never wants to see Sonja Blue again through his representative.

     In the Blood 
  • Above the Influence: Despite being incredibly attracted to Sonja, Palmer turns down a chance of sex with her. Sonja is insulted. He eventually gives in.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Palmer is gotten out of a life sentence in prison by Pangloss and given a generous payment to find Sonja Blue. He's also told that refusing would be bad.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lakisha and Fell are dead and Morgan is still alive at the end. However, his plan to create a super vampire baby has been thwarted. Palmer and Sonja also set up a new life with Lethe in the Yucatan.
  • Body Surf: Fire elementals work this way. They possess a body to give themselves a physical presence, but their fiery nature causes the body to slowly cook from the inside, so before long they have to choose another body to leap into.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: This was the fate that Pangloss had intended for Palmer after he successfully delivered a message to Sonja.
  • Cool House: The Ghost Trap House based on the Winchester Mystery Mansion.
  • Defiant to the End: Lakisha can't maintain her free will in the face of Morgan's power but reasserts her name and kills herself instead.
  • Driven to Suicide: Quite a few times in the book.
    • Lola kills herself rather than go to prison, but she frames Palmer on the way out despite the fact he'd been nothing but dutiful. He just didn't die when she planned to kill him.
    • Russell Howard kills himself after Sonja Blue forces him to reveal Morgan's daytime residence.
    • Lakisha kills herself rather than let Morgan make her a slave again.
    • While already going to die, Fell finishes himself off rather than let Morgan know where his baby is.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Jimmy Eichorn is trapped in a state of catatonia where he barely reacts to anything but Sonja Blue's name. Sonja points out he was a gang rapist at 15 and not worth Palmer's sympathy.
  • Femme Fatale: Palmer encountered one of these in his backstory. Lola was a client who wanted to catch her husband cheating, murder him, and then blame the private detective she hired. Unfortunately, her plan was not nearly as well conceived as she thought and she ended up Driven to Suicide. She ended up framing Palmer before it happened, though.
  • Frame-Up: Lola planned to do this to Palmer, the private detective she hired, in order to get away with murdering her husband. It didn't work as he survived being shot by her in "self-defense."
  • Hardboiled Detective: Palmer was already a fairly cynical and experienced PI when a case results in him getting psychic powers and employed by vampires.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: A fairly straight forward example as Palmer arrives in New Orleans to meet with Sonja Blue just in time for Mardi Gras.
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor Howell is a heroin addicted geneticist who Morgan hires to create a super-vampire baby.
  • Mind Rape: A specialty of Morgan in that he turns people from their normal identities to something completely different under his control as well as dependent on him for approval. By the way Pangloss creates his Renfields, its apparently something Morgan learned from his sire.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Palmer, despite being a Hardboiled Detective, is completely out of his depth when dealing with the supernatural.
  • Private Detective: Palmer is introduced in In the Blood and ticks most of these boxes, being essentially from a Film Noir rather than typical vampire story. Then he discovers he has Psychic Powers.
  • Promoted to Parent: Palmer and Sonja become Lethe's guardians with the help of the Seraphim.
  • Undead Child: Morgan's plan is to breed a bunch of Daywalking Vampire minions that will serve him by getting Technically-Living Vampire creations of his pregnant.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: Technically, Sonya as Morgan's plan was already ruined before she could get involved as Doctor Howell created a horrifying mutant vampire to kill the pure vampire child.

     Paint it Black 
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Pangloss becomes a Seraph after he dies.
  • Big Bad: Morgan is now obsessed with Sonja and wants to destroy her or win her over.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Doctor Pangloss is dead. Morgan is dead. Lethe is dead. Palmer has found a Second Love and never wants to see her again. A plan has begun to give all of humanity back their innate Psychic Powers the Pretenders stole from them. Sonja is free to do whatever she wants.
  • Changeling Tale: Lethe leaves many of her illegitimate children with families whose babies died in the middle of the night.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Jacob Thorne never bothered to contemplate that his wife's religion might be true (or there was more to death than Cessation of Existence) even though his daughter is a vampire who regularly deals with ghosts. At least until his daughter points this out.
  • Fusion Dance: Sonja Blue finally kills Morgan and frees herself of her sire's control by merging the Other, Denise Thorn, and herself into one single personality.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Sonja becomes this after both the death of Judd as well as her driving Palmer away.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Sonja removes all of Palmer's memories of Lethe. This proves to be Not Quite the Right Thing as he no longer wants anything to do with her.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: Happens to Sonja twice during the book.
    • Sonja falls in love with a Nice Guy named Judd in New Orleans and ends up killing him alongside his girlfriend.
    • Sonja ends up breaking up with Palmer when she can't share what she did with Judd and closes herself off from him.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: Sonja's secrecy and resentment of Palmer growing older results in them breaking up.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Morgan believes this and believes only by killing Sonja can he purge himself of his obsession with her.
  • Rapid Aging: Lethe undergoes this after her metamorphisis and turns from a toddler to an adult woman.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Morgan has taken to forcing prostitutes to act like Sonja Blue so he can get a sexual thrill out of killing them.
  • Second Love: After Palmer breaks up with Sonja, he ends up married to a local woman.
  • Series Fauxnale: This was meant to be the end of the series and resolves most of the major issues but subsequent books were added to it.
  • Short-Lived Organism: Lethe turns out to be this as the half-vampire rapidly goes from being an infant to a young woman to a crone that dies of old age within the span of a few years.
  • Villainous Crush: Almost dying at Sonja's hands has resulted in Morgan becoming obsessed with her.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: It turns out elder Pretenders eventually die of boredom. Which turns them into Seraphs.

     A Dozen Black Roses 
  • Big Bad: Lord Esher is a wizard-vampire who wants to take over Deadtown.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Esher helped influence the writing of Edgar Allan Poe with Roderick Usher, Prince Prospero, and other characters based on him.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Nikola is mind-controlled and drugged into being Esher's bride as well as abandoning her son.
  • Crossover: A Dozen Black Roses was a crossover with the game Old World of Darkness. It introduced some continuity issues with the main series, but these were mostly glossed over or ignored. Later, it would be republished with no connection to the World of Darkness and extensive rewrites.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Lord Sinjon is burned to death while he begs for his life.
  • Evil Counterpart: Decima is a beautiful punk vampire that serves as The Dragon to Esher.
  • No Name Given: The main character Sonja Blue is referred to as "the stranger" throughout the whole book, when asked for her name, she either refuses to give it, or is cut off. She finally reveals it at the end to one of the few surviving characters. If you read the back of the book her name is given (and there were three previous novels plus several short stories about Sonja as well).
  • Pædo Hunt:
    • Lord Sinjon keeps an enslaved young boy as his Sex Slave. He was also similarly abused as a cabin boy.
    • Father Eamon beat a pedophile priest to death after he found him raping and murdering a child.
  • Updated Re Release: A Dozen Black Roses was originally set in the World of Darkness but was re-written without the World of Darkness elements.
  • Withholding Their Name: The main character, Sonja Blue, is referred to as "the stranger" throughout the whole book, when asked for her name, she either refuses to give it, or is cut off. She finally reveals it at the end to one of the few surviving characters.
  • Wretched Hive: Deadtown is a slum within Detroit where vampires prey freely, poverty is at an all time high, and violence is a way of life.

Alternative Title(s): Sunglasses After Dark, A Dozen Black Roses