Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Release – review

Author: Nicole Hadaway

First published: 2009

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: “Forever.”

That’s the response Ben Gongliewski receives, when he asks Miranda Dandridge how long she’s been a vampire. He doesn’t expect the word “forever” in her reply, but then again, Ben never imagined meeting vampires, let alone demons and werewolves, during his time in the Polish Resistance during World War II. Far from being horrified, Ben discovers that Miranda and her friends have very useful … talents … especially when it comes to saving children from concentration camps. After all, in these desperate times, while the line between good and evil is clear, the one between heroes and monsters is very, very blurred.

The last thing Miranda wants at this point in her immortal life is a human lover, but as she and Ben perform rescue after daring rescue, she can’t help but be drawn to his passion to save his fellow Jews. As the War draws to a close Miranda must choose her love for Ben or her duty to her race. Ben is blindsided by a betrayal that no one sees coming, which leads to a danger where all hell is about to break loose … literally

The Review: Let me start this with a confession, I dislike e-books… not the content, you understand, but the format. Yes, I know that they are the new big thing, and thus I am clearly a dyed in the wool luddite, but to me books on paper are so much more pleasant to read and books – ultimately – should be physical objects to be owned and treasured. Don’t get me wrong, I will read e-books but it takes more of an effort for me to read said book than its paper printed brother.

So, when I say that I devoured Release in short order you know it had something going for it and, in a word, that was story… This is what I have previously termed cornucopia fiction (I’m sure there is a real world term that I am unaware of), in other words a book that has a plethora of otherworldly beings. In this case fallen angels, demons, nephilim, vampires, witches and werewolves. Unlike most, which are contemporary based, this is set during the Second World War and that, in the first instance, makes it more interesting.

As well as story, which kept me reading – and surprised me at the end as well – what Nicole Hadaway does is draw a rich vampiric lore around us. The vampires are a separate supernatural race – descended from Lilith and fallen angel Sammael, putting a definitive spin on the lore. As such, most vampires feel superior and abstracted from the human world; humans are only food for the most part. Of the Dandridge twins, Cray feels that way. His twin sister Miranda is much closer to the human condition emotionally.

One of the first pieces of lore we come across is that they can transform into animal form. The twins prefer the form of a crow, it would seem, and they are able to transform another (or indeed a body) into twigs and carry them in said form. They are cursed to be nocturnal, sunlight burns them and they become powerless in daylight hours when out of the rays of the sun. Holy objects will ward them if the bearer has faith and Ben (our human character) has a Sennoi amulet – specifically used to protect from Lilith – that is rather effective as the vampires are descended from Lilith. They cannot enter a church and holy water will burn them, indeed ordinary water renders them powerless due to Sammael being an angel – a being of fire.

A stake through the heart will paralyse a vampire and cutting the head off will kill one – however earthly metals will not work, it has to be a blade made of enferous metal (a metal from heaven). Lack of blood will also kill a vampire. They do not look in mirrors as a mirror is a portal to the demon world (they never know who might be looking back) and they must sleep with a small amount of native dirt as Lilith was created from dust. They cannot enter a domicile without being invited in as they have been cast out of the human race and thus it is only right that they are cast from their homes.

I liked the way the lore was tied into their heritage; however one aspect that was not was the ocd need to count grains – a fact that emerges as the heroes raid an SS controlled castle and grains are knocked over. Whilst it wasn’t tied to the Lilith/Sammael legacy it was nice to see this aspect of traditional lore added in.

So a good use of lore and a story that kept me interested. Were there negatives? Yes. Occasionally the dialogue didn’t seem to flow naturally, but, to be fair, this is a debut novel and it was certainly no worse than some other debuts, indeed better than many – reread early Anita Blake stories, the story is there but the prose is conspicuously poor. Partially this was down to the fact that the vernacular used seemed too modern for the setting at times. Maybe Ben’s reactions – as the human of the tale – were a little too open-minded but one could put that down to an understandable mental numbness due to the stage upon which the book is set.

We perhaps do not see the horrors of war drawn quite as starkly as they might be, but that isn’t actually the direction of the novel so this is an observation and not a criticism. However the war back-drop and the use of the resistance movement make a great basis for what is, ultimately, an adventure story.

The bottom line, however, is that there is a story here and it was one that as I started I wanted to read and it carried me through to the final page. 6 out of 10. The ebook can be purchased through

No comments: