Monday, May 24, 2010

Dance on Fire – review

Author: James Garcia Jr

First Published: 2010

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Two Kingsburg police officers have been butchered in an attack as ferocious as it is mystifying. Now two detectives and their families are being drawn into a battle that threatens to destroy them and those around them. In a marriage of horror and Christian themes of good conquering evil and redemption, Dance on Fire is the fictional account of characters drawn into the fire by supernatural forces.

The review: Dance on Fire is another book from the Vamplit range. Vamplit release books in e-format and I have been impressed with the solid catalogue of material, all varied despite the core vampire theme, which they have produced. I have been less impressed with the fact that they are e-format… that is not, however, a criticism of the press but a personal foible. Let me explain.

I love books but reading off a screen is unpleasant in my opinion. I could, of course, had read them on my iPhone but… the iPhone screen is way too small to read a full page and the scrolling around necessary after resizing is annoying. Anyway, for my birthday I received (from my lovely wife) a kindle. Finally a way of reading e-books that is pleasant. I still prefer the texture and aroma of paper books but now have a way of reading e-books that is enjoyable. The first book I read in this format was Dance on Fire… and so, on to the review.

I have read a comment, by Nicole Hadaway, which suggests that Dance on Fire is the vampire equivalent of Jaws and I very much concur in that it is set in small town America, a town that has an annual holiday season (in this case a Swedish festival) and that holiday (as well as the populace) is threatened when a predator starts picking off town folks. In this case the predator is a vampire.

Said vampire is called Vincent and he is there to reclaim that which he believes is his; another vampire called Nathaniel. Nathaniel was taken as a child, in Cimpulung, Romania, after Vincent destroyed his family. He was forced to be companion to the vampire and was, eventually, turned. Nathaniel ran away but Vincent has found him.

Vincent sows confusion and fear amongst the townsfolk by killing indiscriminately, firstly two policemen and then anyone who takes his fancy – Nathaniel, on the other hand, feeds only from animals. Victor also purposefully leaves a survivor who believes him to be someone called Nathaniel. It is all, allegedly, designed to get Nathaniel to return to him but one gets the feeling that Vincent simply enjoys slaughter and sadism.

Drawn into this violent drama are the police detective Michael Lopez and his wife Barbara. Michael, of course, is investigating the crimes but Barbara, or rather her twin babies, are rescued from Vincent by Nathaniel and subsequently the two (Nathaniel and Barbara) are drawn together.

Why were they drawn together (Barbara was dreaming of Nathaniel, by name, before they met)? The answer seems to be because God drew them together and there is a strong Christian ethic drawn through the book. Barbara reads the bible daily, prays to God and her words and actions seem juxtaposed against the violence occurring around them by the author. To a degree this didn’t quite gel at first, she seemed not quite real until, during the reading of the book, I actually met someone whose conversation was actually like hers and I realised that it was my own cynicism that was at play. However I must admit that I found the Christian centric aspects of the book to be a little off putting, but that is just me – and should in no way be taken as a criticism, but more my own commentary. An exploration of faith is a very personal journey and thus the author who puts it on page, baring his soul, is brave but not every reader will be able to share in that journey.

The vampires themselves are incredibly strong and fast – humans do not stand a chance – and this was great, it added a lovely brutality to the vampires (at least through the character of Vincent). Holy objects were not a factor in respect of the vampires – the religious aspect was more a theme James Garcia Jr added into the book in order that he might explore it, rather than a tool within the lore/story. Bright light blinds a vampire momentarily, sunlight burns and a pierced heart steals the vampire’s strength. There is mention of a wider society of vampires (and rules that govern them) but this is not explored in depth and one assumes it will form part of any further story. As it stands it just adds a frisson of depth to the vampires’ world.

There is an effect, caused by contact and mind control, on the twin babies that seems to accelerate their development (in regards emotional development and things such as standing) this just is and, like the main characters, we are not entirely sure why.

The book itself, writing wise, reminded me of horror novels from the 70s/80s. The language used had that undercurrent and I am struggling to explain to you exactly what that means beyond that description, but it was welcome as a departure from the dark urban fantasy that is currently vogue and also fit the cop story aspects well. Garcia would then spin the book towards a more cobweb festooned horror fantasy when describing the events in Romania. There were occasions Garcia would throw in a phrase that was so wondrously descriptive that the word poetic springs to mind. Occasionally I felt that characters took things a little too much in their stride and an even deeper exploration of the emotions of some of the characters might have balanced that aspect but generally Garcia created three dimensional and filled out characters.

A good first novel deserving of a solid 6.5 out of 10 and leaving me expecting bigger and better things from James Garcia Jr. The book can be purchased via Smashwords.


James Garcia Jr said...

Mr. Boylan, I would just like to thank you for having considered my novel for review in the first place. I appreciate you taking the time.
I know what you mean about reading e-books. It took me a while to get used to it. Enjoy that Kindle. It'll make reading them easier. My wife and I are really beginning to fill our's up.
Thanks again.

Taliesin_ttlg said...


no problem and congratulations. It is a good, solid first novel and I meant what I said about the exploration of faith beeing brave and I hope you found this constructive.

I look forward to the sequel

Marissafarrar said...

Great review! As a lover of 80's fiction this book is definitely on my 'to-read' list.
Congrats James!

W.J. Howard said...

Excellent review. The statement, "Christian centric aspects of the book to be a little off putting," actually attracts me more to the book. Off to move Dance on Fire to the top of my 'to read' list.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Marissa and Wendy.

Marissa, hopefully you'll see the indefinable 70s/80s horror novel something that I found...

Wendy, its very much horses for courses. James Garcia Jr really tried to pin aspects of his faith down whilst summoning a veritable storm that his characters go through and some folks will get a huge amount out of that.

Anonymous said...

Huge Congrats James! And way to go Vamplit Publishing!!! I read James's novel on my iPhone and loved the characters (but then again, I like cozy mysteries), and the fact that vampires were added, one good, one evil, was the best!