Sunday, March 06, 2016

Fifty Percent Vampire – review

Author: D K Janotta

First Published: 2015

Contains spoilers


Living at home is driving seventeen-year-old Astrid Sonnschein nuts. She’s desperate to leave her parents behind, and why not, with stepfather George a foul-tempered old vampire, and Mom — well, the less we say about Mom the better.

Our heroine has another compelling reason for getting out of Dodge. If she stays home any longer she’s in danger of being transformed forever, and the last thing she wants is to become the newest Nosferatu.

She escapes to start a new life with her aunt and uncle, but soon finds out that nothing lasts forever. Living a lie proves to be more than a challenge, and Astrid is soon tracked down by the one person she hoped never to see again.

To make things even more complicated, she falls for Mike, a handsome young cop who has every last girl in town under his spell. Will Astrid be able to keep her guard up, or will her new love be her downfall?

The review: The great thing about the vampire genre is that it covers a wide variety of bases. That means that there is plenty out there to like and plenty to dislike but that doesn’t mean that because you dislike something it doesn’t have merit or wouldn’t be liked by someone else. All of this preamble is to set the stage for a book that I know some of my readers will not like – by dint of it being a high school set vampire book, aimed at young adults and with a female main character. But hey, as I say, just because it isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean it is bad.

Because it isn’t bad, not at all – though I did find a logical faux pas within the story (there if you think a little too hard). Astrid is half vampire (her father was a vampire) and looked after by her mother (turned after her birth) and her step-father – her uncle, who stepped in after her dad died. She also has a vampire “brother” and lives in a town that was taken over by vampires.

As she approaches adulthood she knows that her stepfather wants her to be turned and also fears Angus, the brother, who shows a little too much interest in her blood. She decides she wants to experience human life and goes to her aunt and uncle’s home – to her step-father’s chagrin – and enrols into school. We then get a mixture of teen-growing/angst material and the vampire fitting in. Unfortunately her school develops a high student attrition rate – all of whom are dead, drained of blood and connected to Astrid.

The vampire rules we get are that sunlight burns and kills – this doesn’t impact Astrid as much and any reluctance around sunlight can be written off as caution due to her redhead complexion. A need for a liquid diet – Astrid has lived on blood her whole life and finds it difficult to switch to a solid diet. Occasionally the author mentions eating disorders (especially as her cousin doesn’t know what she is) but more could have been done around this – however that would probably have been too heavy for a book that isn’t pitched like that, so the mentions are probably around right. They neither photograph nor cast a reflection – half-vampire Astrid is impacted by this trait and one can’t help but wonder why this was not noticed by anyone (mirrors that is, photo glitches were noticed and too easily dismissed to be honest). This also leads to the logical faux pas that I won’t explain due to the level of spoiler entailed.

Other traits seem to be the ability to pass through mirrors (Astrid doesn’t have this so we don’t learn the mechanics/specifics). Shape shifting is included also (though Astrid seems strangely ignorant of this and so when confronted by overly intelligent raven or out of place wolf doesn’t put two and two together when the reader does). They turn to dust on death and religious icons are apotropaic (Astrid is immune to the icons but scared due to her upbringing, she also goes into cold sweats around stakes).

If it sounds like I am being overly critical, I don’t mean to be but the impact of the traits show the difficulty in setting the supernatural into an oblivious non-supernatural world. The author does well but there has to be a degree of suspension of belief. What the author does do well, especially for an adult male writer, is step into the shoes of a teenage girl – or at least as far as an adult male reader can tell.

The prose rattles along nicely and so long as you can suspend disbelief, not thinking overly on the supernatural intrusion into a normal world, and are of the target audience then I am sure you’ll enjoy this. 6 out of 10.

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