Sunday, October 07, 2007

Knights of the Darkness – review

Author: Nick Lewis

First published: 2005

Contains spoilers

I felt really torn when I sat to review this. Nick Lewis is a new author and, whilst there were generally some issues with the book, I didn’t want to be too scathing. I had criticism that, I hope, will still prove to be constructive re the writing and, in fairness, a major aspect of the story is rather interesting. However there is another aspect that has forced the score down, I am afraid.

The book is the first of the ‘Slayer Archives’ and follows Malcolm, all round good guy, whose world is torn apart when he takes Brittany, his girlfriend, into the mountains for a romantic moment and a proposal. They are attacked by vampires. Brittany is killed but Malcolm is rescued by Thad, a slayer, who recognises something within Malcolm – he is to be Thad’s replacement.

Within the things I liked about the novel was the fact that Lewis constructed a nice, multi-layered story, with back stories for many of the characters. I also liked the concept of the slayers, born out of a blood ritual they are the antithesis of the vampires they hunt – created in a similar way, imbued with special powers such as flight, long lived (if not immortal) and yet very much creatures of light.

Some of the back story element irked, however. Namely around Malcolm who was altogether too much of a good guy. He is athletic, good looking, kind to young children (and presumably furry creatures). He is also an air force trainee. It was all too perfect and that prevented buying into him too much. Characters such as Brittany and Thad had a dark element in their past that made them more accessible.

Lewis showed a flare for writing the more action orientated sequences, although he occasionally became bogged in a narrative explanation that made the action flow falter slightly. The biggest negative in the writing was the dialogue. There is a fine line in dialogue and it is an area that more inexperienced writers can struggle with. In this case there wasn’t too little but too much. The dialogue felt unnatural because a lot of it probably would have been better as narrative rather than conversation between characters. That said, go back to the first few Anita Blake books, they had good story but the writing style was poor in places, we stayed with them because of the story and Hamilton developed into an excellent writer.

However, the big problem with the book lies in the story and specifically the vampire lore. It is not only derivative but, with a few minor tweaks, appeared to have been lifted from a licensed source. I corresponded with the author over this and, for the most part, it seems the similarities were coincidental but it is still, unfortunately, rather close and has impacted the score slightly.

That said, I do not want Lewis to give up. Any dialogue issues should improve as time goes by and he naturally develops. As I said, the action areas are really quite nicely done in places and he has a sense of opening up background stories. The basic premise is good and I didn’t have to force myself to keep picking the book up, but he does need to rethink his vampire lore and create his own unique vampire society back story or, even, use more traditional lore.

Overall 4 out of 10 but with plenty of scope for development both as a series and as a writer.

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