Wednesday, October 05, 2011
First published: 2010
The Blurb: I didn’t look a day over sixteen, yet – if someone had calculated – on that particular day I officially turned 592.
For more than 500 years Lenah has been a vampire – a life of seduction, blood and destruction. But she is sickened by her dark powers and longs to be human again. To feel the sun on her skin; the grass under her feet; the warm breath of a human kiss. But that requires a great sacrifice, for the soul of a vampire is not easily shed…
The review: Having (some time ago) looked at the uncorrected bound proof of this book, I sincerely hope that the blurb changed for the published release. You see it is quite misleading.
The book is unusual in that, rather than look at a vampire who wants to become human, from the first page we are with a vampire who has become human. The first sight of Lenah that we receive is of her awakening as a human for the first time in some 500+ years.
How many years? Lenah had been in hibernation – pending the ritual to turn her back to human – for 100 years. This began in 1910 and so we can assume that the book is set in 2010. She has a flashback to 1444, as a 15 years old mortal, thus she is some 581 years old. To a degree the age doesn't matter; more interesting is that this is the story of the rebirth into humanity of a vampire who was particularly vicious in her time and Maizel manages to balance the dichotomy of the vicious vampire and the pleasant girl we meet by suggesting that the more good and pure the mortal, the more vicious the vampire they make.
This works well as a concept but also makes you wonder why such a vampire would want to become human. Maizel’s answer is that the life of a vampire is a life of misery, pain and torment. All well and good but she hardly seemed wracked with guilt over the countless mortals she had murdered as a vampire. Something didn’t quite gel but, looking past that and accepting the premise – as flawed as it may be – we have quite a good take on something that, in many a book or film, is the vampire’s goal but the aftermath is not often explored.
Typically, almost clichéd one might say, Lenah is placed in a school to relearn her humanity and the crux of the story is that it is a school set human/vampire romance – with the breath of fresh air that the vampire is now an ex-vampire. Peril exists in the fact that the coven of vampires she created is going to want her back – or dead, but this is kept for the climax of the book and for the main it is assimilation into humanity and her love story that is the focus of the book.
In truth the cliché of the in-school love story would have been off-putting except for the fact that Maizel does something unexpected – be warned this is a major concept spoiler – and turns the model on its head and makes it a tragedy.
Lore is fairly secondary in the book (after all we are dealing for the most part with an ex-vampire) but we have a reason for a vampire’s reaction to sunlight – the sun scorches the dark magic that animates the body – and the concept that a vampire’s senses (bar those needed to hunt) are dulled and dead rather than hyper-sensitive as is often the case.
We also get the ritual that will allow a vampire to become mortal – a ritual that involves the self-sacrifice of a vampire of more than 500 years of age. There is a potential problem in the logic of the story with this, but it is a spoiler too far to discuss.
The writing itself is solid enough. The style is easy to read, though too fifteen year old girl rather than 500+ vampire, perhaps. 5.5 out of 10. A curtailed version of this review was first published on Amazon.