Monday, March 25, 2013

Vamp or Not? Seven Kinds of Hell

The Blurb: When archaeologist Zoe Miller’s cousin is abducted by a vicious Russian “businessman” she must come to grips with a haunting secret: unknown to even her closest friends, Zoe is not entirely human. She is a werewolf and the daughter of the “Fangborn”, a secret race of werewolves, vampires and oracles.

Zoe’s rescue attempt leads her on a quest for artefacts and Pandora’s Box, a relic of mysterious and deadly power.With the fate of humanity in the balance, Zoe will be forced to renew family ties and pit her own bestial abilities against a dark and nefarious foe.

The Investigation: Another urban fantasy book with the elements that we have come to expect: a female protagonist with a chequered and painful past, a secret stash of abilities to tap into and written in first person. These series are becoming two a penny and they have to do something spectacular and/or unique to make readers sit up and pay attention.

Dana Cameron has gone down the unique path, creating her own lore of a group of supernatural creatures who don’t necessarily conform to the standard tropes. The Fangborn are of three varieties (all interlinked societally and genetically it would seem). These are oracles (hardly seen in novel and, apparently, fangless. They have visions of course), werewolves (which can take wolf or wolfman form, have constant mass, unusually, and like all the creatures in this are born not made) and vampires (of a snake like variety).

Zoe’s mother was an oracle, but was unaware of it. She had been committed to an asylum (we discover this was more insidious later in the novel) but once out she met Zoe’s father. Unbeknown to herself he was a wolf. Having seen some of his handy work, that handy work being ripped up corpses, and assuming it to be mob related, Zoe’s mum ran and Zoe spent her formative years moving from town to town (her mother getting hunches, due to her nature as an oracle, whenever Zoe’s father’s family were getting close).

At the start of the book her mother has died and Zoe, who has spent a lot of time trying to deny that she is insane following delusional episodes when she believes she has become a wolf (of course they aren’t delusions), comes face to face with an underworld of supernatural creatures. Because she pocketed an artefact, having had an urge she didn’t understand, she is drawn into a factional world where humans, government agencies and fangborn alike search for the keys to open Pandora’s Box.

Cameron makes the Fangborn good; they have an instinct to kill evildoers. This, of course, is morally grey as it is vigilante 'justice'. It also leads to an ends justify the means mentality and this is shown within the book. The fact that the US Government have a liaison body with the secretive creatures seemed strange (one would have thought they wouldn’t want werewolves and vampires going vigilante on their citizens, criminal or not). The idea of evil Fangborn (a strenuously denied concept) dangled at the end of the book was fascinating though.

So why ‘Vamp or Not?’ Well the vampires are more like snakes, they are born and they were altogether off when it came to lore. They relish being in sunlight – now whilst I don’t necessarily care if a book relies on the Nosferatu-developed sunlight rule, actually relishing the sunlight seemed out with vampirism to me. We even hear of vampires being tortured by being kept in the dark. They do have fangs and can inject a venom that causes memory loss and enables mind control or a bite can be used to “clean blood and heal”.

Of course cleaning blood at least involves blood but it isn’t vampirism. None of the normal apotropaic measures work – bar a stake through the heart but that is just because such trauma would kill anyone. The Fangborn are not immortal but are long-lived.

After all that I had to say to myself, when is a vampire (named as such) not a vampire? The answer being, when they are a Fangborn vampire. They seem more like lamia than vampire (and I am aware of the lamia/vampire crossover and have classed some lamia material as vampire in the past). The book itself is well enough written but it is just one of innumerate urban fantasy novels. I would say that you might well enjoy it, but it didn’t do enough for me to actively pursue the series. Not Vamp.

A shorter version of this article first appeared on Amazon UK as part of the Vine Programme

No comments: