Eternal Readers Guide

Warning: Plot Spoilers


EternalAt last Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die. Elevated and adopted by none other than the reigning King of the Mantle of Dracul, Miranda goes from high-school theatre wannabe to glamorous royal fiend overnight.

Her reckless and adoring guardian angel, meanwhile—fighting in guise as the princess’s personal assistant—has his work cut out for him with the Master’s Death Day gala fast approaching. Can Zachary save his girl’s soul and redeem himself before all hell arrives, quite literally, on their doorstep?

In alternating points of view, the vampire Miranda and the angel Zachary navigate castle life and a cutthroat eternal aristocracy while playing out a dangerous love story for the ages.

Here, with diabolical wit, Cynthia Leitich Smith revisits the deliciously dark parallel world of her novel TANTALIZE, this time with a breathtaking new cast.


Zachary’s point of view

I’m Miranda’s guardian angel (GA for short). A newbie created after the first atomic blast in 1945. Miranda is my second assignment and my reason for being. Not that she has clue one. She can’t even see me. Nobody can unless I choose to show myself. That’s a no- no.

We GAs have our limits. Sure, we help out when we can, but not in any way that’s clearly detectable . . . or at least traceable (I’m known to push the limits now and then).

Miranda’s point of view

I debate telling Lucy that my dad is in Alaska (or at least floating on a boat around it) with some mysterious woman who’s forging his postcards, that my mom is in the midst of one of her trademark needy phases because of it, and that she may sign off on sending me to a shrink after I tell her about today’s audition.

“My beanbag is possessed,” I reply instead.

Read a larger sample from Candlewick Press.

discussion questions

  • ETERNAL opens with a quote from A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens. What nods to Dickens are found in the novel?
  • How does Miranda’s relationship with her human parents compare to her relationship with Radford?
  • The naming of Lucy is a tribute to Stoker’s Lucy Westenra and Dickens’ Lucie Manette. How does Lucy from ETERNAL compare and contrast to each of these characters?
  • Would you have gone with Lucy into the cemetery or let her go by herself?
  • Did you agree or disagree with Zachary’s choice to show himself in the cemetery in an effort to warn Miranda? Why?
  • How do you feel about Miranda’s prejudice toward “werepeople”? How do her feelings change over the course of the book and why?
  • Zachary mentions that he and Joshua used to be very much alike, but he’s changed over time. What has changed Zachary and why?
  • What do you think about the fact that the royal and aristocratic vampires insist on being called “eternals”?
  • Why is Harrison is tempted to become a vampire/eternal?
  • Sabine and Philippe are allies, but they’re not “good guys” per se. What do you think about Miranda’s decision to work with them against Radford?
  • Do you agree or disagree with Miranda’s decision at the end of the book, and in either case, why?

author biography

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the acclaimed author of TANTALIZE (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and several other books for younger readers.

About ETERNAL, she says, “Oh, how I’ve longed to explore Dracula’s castle! But I wouldn’t think of it without a guardian angel by my side.”

A member of the faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, author Greg Leitich Smith.

author interview questions

Q: What is the relationship between ETERNAL and TANTALIZE?

ETERNAL is set in the same universe, but features different characters. However, the two casts will crossover in a third novel, BLESSED, which picks up where TANTALIZE leaves off.

One character from TANTALIZE does appear in a cameo in ETERNAL, but I’ll leave that for observant readers to spot.

In addition, there’s a reference to a character in ETERNAL who’s in the same family as a character in TANTALIZE. Again, I’ll leave specifics to the eagle-eyed.

Q: Could you give us some insight into the relationship between your books and Bram Stoker’s DRACULA?

A: Essentially, my three books are a conversation of sorts between me and Stoker. The idea is that, in my universe, his classic novel is loosely based on fact.

With each book—TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, and finally, BLESSED, my characters come closer to entering his world or at least the circumstances that allegedly inspired it.

I also take on some of Stoker’s core themes—corruption, the role of women, the role of Christianity, the “dark foreigner” and other prejudices, etc. from my own political and twenty-first century point of view.

Q: What were your other literary influences?

A: The most significant one was Charles Dickens’s A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859), which members of my ninth grade English class took turns reading aloud over the course of the semester. What better inspiration for a tale involving French vampires, political intrigue, and beheading?

In a way, these books are a love letter to English teachers, and that’s why one of the heroes is Mrs. Levy, who appears in TANTALIZE and will play an even larger role in TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY (the graphic novel adaptation)(working title) and BLESSED.

Q: Any other inspirations?

These abound, but a few examples are: C. S. Lewis’s CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (another Lucy)(1949-54); the film “The Blues Brothers” (“on a mission from God”)(1980); and Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (“take back the night”)(1997-2003) television series. A complete listing may be found in the author’s note.

Q: How do TANTALIZE and ETERNAL compare?

A: TANTALIZE is told from only Quincie’s point of view whereas ETERNAL is told from both Miranda’s and Zachary’s. However, both are set in modern day, feature quasi-epistolary elements, and are written as a contribution to the “conversation of books.”

TANTALIZE is more of a murder mystery and ETERNAL more of a political thriller, though both have strong romantic elements and some humor.

Finally, TANTALIZE is entirely set in Austin, Texas. ETERNAL is partially set in Austin, partially in Dallas, and largely in Chicago.

Q: What special research did you do to build your vampire hierarchy?

Castle BranA: I should point out—because it’s dangerous not to—the royals and aristocrats prefer to be called “eternals.” Beyond that, I’d already done a lot of research on vampire-related folk tales and both literary and pop culture interpretations for TANTALIZE.

So, the question was really how to update the most popular versions of the Dracula character, considering how they might manifest in an underworld where s/he’s in charge.

Being a sense-of-place writer, I started with the castle. I loosely based it on Castle Bran, and then I grabbed my camera and literally went “shopping” for antiques to fill it.

Q: Tell us about the fictional Whitby Estates. How do you go about constructing a vampire suburb?

Whitby Estates is loosely based on a real-life, very affluent north shore Chicago suburb. I also drew from both the prairie and arts-and-crafts architectural traditions.

For the rest of the Chicago scenes, I flew to the city and walked every path that my characters take over the course of the novel. I took notes and shot photos. The ink in my pen froze that February as I was scribbling on Navy Pier.

Q: Why did you decide to add angels to your universe?

I believe in angels, but it wasn’t my idea.

Originally, the book was more for the tween market, featuring a vampire princess and the son of Santa Claus. The working title was “Fangs and Mistletoe.”

My editor, Deborah Wayshak, and her assistant (now an acquiring editor herself), Jennifer Yoon, thought it would be better to follow TANTALIZE with a same-age-market novel and suggested that I change my elf to an angel—not what pop culture thinks of as a cherub, they assured me, but rather the kind of angel who carries a sword.

They left it up to me, but I tried the idea and was wowed by how much stronger the story became.

Q: Do you think of yourself as a vampire novelist now?

From a mythology standpoint, I see these books more as a multi-creature verse. The universe also includes shapeshifters, angels, and ghosts (so far). The vampires may be a draw, but they’re not the whole show.

From a literary standpoint, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a “vampire” novel. Despite enjoying a crossover market, the traditions of Gothic fantasy or horror, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal chick lit, etc. may all integrate vampire mythology, but they also each have different writing conventions and reader expectations.

Q: What do other books may/should be read with your “loose” series?

A: Two of my short stories are set in the universe—“Haunted Love,” which appears in IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, edited by P. C. Cast (BenBella, 2008) and “Cat Calls,” which appears in SIDESHOW: TEN ORIGINAL TALES OF FREAKS, ILLUSIONISTS, AND OTHER MATTERS ODD AND MAGICAL, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2009). Both are marketed to ages 12-up.

Next I would recommend the classics that tie into the books—to date, DRACULA by Bram Stoker (1897), A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens (1859), “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1835), “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw (1913), and “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare (1899-ish).