Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Crimson Corset – review

Author: Alistair Cross

First published: 2015

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Welcome to Crimson Cove

Sheltered by ancient redwoods overlooking the California coast, the cozy village of Crimson Cove has it all: sophisticated retreats, fine dining, and a notorious nightclub, The Crimson Corset. It seems like a perfect place to relax and get close to nature. But not everything in Crimson Cove is natural.

When Cade Colter moves to town, he expects it to be peaceful to the point of boredom. But he quickly learns that after the sun sets and the fog rolls in, the little tourist town takes on a whole new kind of life – and death.

Darkness at the Edge of Town

Renowned for its wild parties and history of debauchery, The Crimson Corset looms on the edge of town, inviting patrons to sate their most depraved desires and slake their darkest thirsts. Proprietor Gretchen VanTreese has waited centuries to annihilate the Old World vampires on the other side of town and create a new race – a race that she alone will rule. When she realizes Cade Colter has the key that will unlock her plan, she begins laying an elaborate trap that will put everyone around him in mortal danger.

Blood Wars

The streets are running red with blood, and as violence and murder ravage the night, Cade must face the darkest forces inside himself, and perhaps even abandon his own humanity, in order to protect what he loves.

The review: One of the dangers of accepting books for review is that sometimes I am faced with poor editing and at other times a good story is threatened with burial beneath amateur prose. Another danger is that, whilst I will read anything with a vampire in it, the book turns out to be yet another paranormal romance.

Despite the cover and title, which screams paranormal romance, the Crimson Corset is not of that genre. A dark or urban fantasy is probably the best descriptor and, as I started reading the book, I found that the prose was mostly solid and the editing good. I also found myself drawn into the story, never a bad thing of course.

The book follows Cade Colter as he moves into the small town of Crimson Cove, staying with his brother and starting a new life, whilst he writes his first novel. All is not well in the town, the occasional child goes missing (this also occurs in the nearby towns) and a young librarian has vanished without a trace also. The sheriff, Ethan, is aware of the vampires – having become aware when his sister vanished (and then returned, turned, and committed vampiric suicide). Ethan is convinced that the librarian’s disappearance is down to vampires but dismisses vampiric involvement with the missing children as he has been informed that, to a vampire, a child’s blood is thin and unappetising.

There are two factions of vampires in the town. Those controlled by Gretchen VanTreese are evil (and generally psychotic) and are kept in check by the treaty she signed with the head of the other faction Michael Ward. He is bound by a promise he made Gretchen’s mother – for her part Gretchen wears her mother’s ribs in a corset custom made for her (the crimson corset of the title).

This brings us neatly to lore. The vampires can be killed by the “five S’s” – “Starvation, sunlight, silver, stakes and severing – of the head”. Stakes kill until removed (not so with a silver dagger in the heart, where death is permanent) and the vampires do not “dust”, though sunlight (and holy water) will melt the flesh (holy water is unlikely to kill but will permanently scar). They only need to have a couple of pints of blood per week, but the evil vampires are clearly greedier than that.

The more unusual lore is threefold. The area attracts vampires because of minerals in the earth, in that location’s geology, which affects the vampires and helps them keep self-control. Secondly the vampires exude a venom (that they administer through a bite but can harvest and administer manually) which makes a victim feel good, causes feelings of devotion to the vampire and is very addictive. This venom can also heal humans (in small doses) and is the catalyst of turning. Cold Turkey is likely to kill the addict (though they can be weaned off) and whilst a human turned can be made human again if their maker is killed before they feed, if they were a venom addict before they will revert to being one when freed of vampirism.

The third piece of unusual lore is the concept of Sire’s. Vampires are, to all intents and purpose, infertile. However there are very rare humans, known as Sires, who can be impregnated by or impregnate (depending on their gender, of course) vampires. The smell of them send vampires crazy – if of the opposite gender to breed (then feed) and if the same gender to feed. A resultant baby may be a daywalker.

So unusual lore, a good story with a splattering of kinky sex and quite a bit of gore. Does the book go wrong at all? Yes, but not very wrong. I felt the middle section stretched out a tad, after drawing me in I felt it meandered a little. I was taken by a very human (and very psychotic) character called Piper, who ended up rather side-lined and this was a tad wasteful as she was a well crafted character. The prose was strong mostly, including naturalistic dialogue – however very occasionally (normally when dialogue was used for exposition) it became a tad forced. One thing, and it is trivial but nevertheless, was the vampire factions describing themselves as “groups” it just didn’t feel right (perhaps too mundane) and pulled me out when used.

However these are actually minor things and shouldn’t detract from the overall impression of the book, which deserves a solid 7 out of 10.


Michelle Kellogg said...

It certainly sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing your review!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

No worries Michelle, thanks for visiting the blog :)