THE HOST, by Stephenie Meyer, Sphere, 624 pages, $25.99

Fans of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series have been waiting with baited breath for her latest novel. But they're in for a surprise if they're expecting bloodsuckers and werewolves to make an appearance.

With "The Host," the best-selling author has broken free of the vampire niche. Meyer's complex plot and intriguing characters form a compelling story that fans and newcomers alike will enjoy.

"The Host" takes place following an alien invasion of Earth. The aliens, or "souls," have slowly infiltrated the population, getting a foothold in all the necessary places and then have taken it over with swift decisiveness. They've not only taken over the planet, but the humans who inhabit it, using their bodies as hosts.

Meyer introduces this new version of Earth through the eyes of Wanderer, a soul that has lived on eight planets prior to this one. In her ninth life, she is inserted into Melanie, a renegade human who was captured while trying to find other survivors.

Wanderer has been warned of the difficulties that could arise when taking a human host, but nothing prepares her for the overabundant variety of emotions, the number of acute senses and the sudden onslaught of painful memories. Even more distressing is the voice of Melanie — full of anger, bitterness and hatred — trapped inside her mind.

In hopes of helping quash what's left of the human resistance and gaining full command of her body, Wanderer tries to aid the Seekers by searching Melanie's mind for any traces of the group's hidden location. But instead of finding the information she seeks, Melanie hits her with visions of Jared, the man she desperately loves.

This overwhelming love is a new emotion for Wanderer, and she soon finds it hard to distinguish her own feelings from Melanie's.

Filled with confusion, Wanderer struggles between making a new life among her people and trying to find the man who has stolen her heart. When forces beyond her control make that decision for her, Wanderer sets out on a dangerous path that makes her an unlikely ally with Melanie and enemies with beings for whom they both care.

With shimmering silver aliens, body snatching and strange new creatures, the premise of "The Host" has a science fiction feel to it, but above all it's a love story. And Meyer excels with the subject. She develops her characters in such a way that the reader can't help but cheer them on. And the dialogue between Melanie and Wanderer adds depth, their inner struggle adding layers to the already multidimensional characters.

Beyond the trappings of Earth — which the souls have pretty much left the same — Meyer brings entirely new worlds and species to life, vividly painting them through Wanderer's memories. Here creativity knows no bounds with the See Weed's waterlogged planet, Bats on the Singing World, the Planet of the Flowers, claw beasts, vultures and flying dolphins.

Meyer's prose is not only accessible but interesting, and — as with her other novels — the pacing is fast and addictive. Meyer's writing has also matured and has a confidence about it that her earlier works lacked.

With "The Host," Meyer has proved her prior success was no fluke. Her attention to detail and her ability to capture the reader's interest from the start bode well for her future endeavors.

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