This here book is being touted as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Jane Austen”. I could definitely see the Buffy part because Ms. Gleason even does the “In every generation…” thing that’s in the intro of every Buffy episode. As for the Jane Austen… eh, not so much. It’s really more like Buffy meets A Well-Written Regency. That’s not a slag, by the way. It’s a compliment. I have never been able to finish anything written by Jane Austen, but I read Regencies by the truckloads. I was very excited to get my hands on this here book because the premise of it was so crazy that damn it, it was crazy enough to work. It doesn’t work all the way through, but it held pretty well for about 80% of the book. My main issue with it was the heroine’s whole-hearted acceptance of the fact that she is a vampire slayer without even blinking. What made the Buffy character special—and really, most of the folks from Whedonverse—is that she’s multi-faceted as well as completely aware of her thoughts and feelings. All Buffy wanted was a normal life, but deep down, she also knew that she is the only one standing between the world and utter destruction. We felt her pain. We knew that every single decision she made on an everyday basis could affect the rest of the world, or at least Sunnydale. Sure, our heroine makes noise about wanting to be a normal girl who can attend balls and marry her childhood sweetheart without worrying that a vampire will crash the party, but there’s something vaguely robotic about her. She kills vampires! She’s a super-duper easy learner who’ll probably surpass the broody Master Slayer soon! She has no qualms about sticking a stake into somebody! Apart from that, there is really a lot of good things in this book. The secondary characters, most especially the heroine’s mother and her cronies, are well-rounded and fun. Gleason is also particularly good at setting up the creepy atmosphere of the dirty London streets in the evening and the action scenes were really well-written as well. I also dug the developing mythology. It’s too bad that there isn’t more of an emotional resonance, but hey, what can I say… I love the feelings shit.
“In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy…” and thus begins the tale of Victoria Gardella Grantworth, a nineteen year old debutante in nineteenth century London. She is a little late in coming out (being introduced to the society) because her father and grandfather died within a year of each other, so instead of dressing up in fancy ballgowns and dancing the night away with some handsome lord, she and her mother have been in mourning for the past two years. Luckily, the most eligible bachelor of the London Season, the Marquess of Rockley, just happens to be looking for a bride and he’s got his eyes set on Victoria. Unfortunately, just three weeks before her come-out, her eccentric Aunt Eustace decides to reveal the family secret to her: they’re all a bunch of vampire slayers and it is now up to Victoria to take up the mantel. Her mother was once called to duty, but the woman opted out in exchange for a normal life, so her memory of it was erased, and her powers were transferred to Victoria. Vickie, on the other hand, decides that damn it, she WILL be a Venator (what these folks call themselves) AND a society belle at the same time AND she’ll do it with a smile on her face. Maximillian Pesaro, the best Venator ever, doesn’t think she can do it and openly expresses his skepticism at every opportunity, which provides plenty of bantering between him and Vickie. As if that’s not enough drama, Lilith, the Queen of Vampires along with her creepy entourage, just happen to descend upon London in search of the Book of Antwartha (didn’t Angel once steal a book from the Master to give to Buffy and Giles?), a… umm… book filled with evil spells and other cool stuff that’ll do things like bring about the destruction of the world or something. On top of that, there’s also Sebastian Vioget, an enigmatic French guy who may be friend or foe to the Venators, and knows a little more than he should about the world of vampires and Venators. Oh, and Victoria shows him her boobies and navel piercing. Long story. Nevertheless, Victoria is a whoooore and now it’s up to her and her gang of sidekicks to grab the Book of Antwartha before Lilith beats her to it.
I guess the reason that Victoria was so quick to jump into the world of Venators is that she had never really felt like she fit in with the London society. Growing up, she has always preferred reading or riding her horse over learning about niceties and social graces. Because of this, she’s not exactly a delicate, genteel lady, much to her mother’s eternal consternation. Instead of hanging out with other debutantes and doing debutante things, she prefers hanging out with her Aunt Eustace, an eccentric relative who believes in vampires and won’t stop talking about it. Eustace herself was a Venator and was a pretty good one until old age and arthritis forced her to retire. Now, she merely serves as the supervisor and mentor to all the Venators. Eustace is a big believer in letting a person make her own mistakes, which is why she doesn’t stop Vickie from marrying the Marquess of Rockley, a man who has been in love with Vickie since she was twelve (he was sixteen at the time). At first, Vickie handles being a Venator and a society wife quite well. Eventually, Rockley starts noticing that she seems to disappear a lot for the flimsiest of reasons and becomes suspicious of her. Soon enough, she’s resorting to outright lying to him or drugging his drink, so she can go out on patrol. Worst. Wife. Ever.
As for the men in this book, I was only marginally interested in them because I was mostly focused on the developing mythology. There’s Max, who became a Venator because his family was murdered by vampires, and his main purpose in this book is to hassle Victoria for wanting to have a normal life (he doesn’t believe that a Venator should ever fall in love—uh oh!) and save Victoria’s ass whenever she gets in way over her head. There’s a bullshit scene between them where he and Victoria are out to get the Book of Antwartha and Victoria knows that no mortal can ever touch the book and live, but for some reason, she doesn’t tell Max that right away, so there’s some shenanigans there that made me roll my eyes. There’s also Sebastian Voiget, a French guy who owns a place called the Silver Chalice (kind of like the Bronze), a seedy bar in a seedy part of London where vampires and the dregs of society hang out together in perfect harmony. He has no allegiance to the Venators or the vampires and I got the feeling that he’s playing the both of them to see which one comes out on top. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be a vampire with a soooooul. Lastly, there’s Phillip, the Marquess of Rockley. If this were set in a modern-day high school, he would be the prom king. He’s not a bad guy—he’s actually kind of sweet and romantic—only he can’t accept Vickie for who she is. When the Vickster reveals to him that she is Ultimate Best Vampire Slayer Ever, he doesn’t take it very well and tells her to quit. Silly wabbit. This is just the first book of a series!
Like I said in the beginning, my main issue with this book is that I don’t think the Vicksmeister was really developed as a character. She was really more like Slayer Femmebot 3000 with all the preset functions than a real woman with real emotions and real concerns. I would have liked to see what she was like as a person before Aunt Eustace revealed the family legacy to her. Yes, she preferred reading or riding her horse over sitting down to have tea with her mother and her society friends, but that’s 95% of all historical romance novel heroines. There wasn’t anything that made the Vic-o-nator remotely original. She seemed like an amalgamation of every paranormal and historical romance heroines ever written. The Vixtress acted on auto-pilot. I would have liked to have seen her reaction to her Aunt Eustace revealing to her that she was a born Venator and would probably never have a normal life because she has to go and kill vampires for the rest of her life. The author tells us that the Vixmaster-Vee wasn’t that fond of the London society, anyway, so really, where’s the struggle? Buffy wanted to be a cheerleader and a homecoming queen and go out on dates with a boyfriend that didn’t have fangs or was a member of a super-elite military force designed to kill supernatural creatures, but she also knew that she is the only one who can save the world from destruction, so there is a constant battle within her. Gleason shows us glimpses of the Vixtress contemplating what her life would have been like if she had turned her back on being a Venator, but I don’t think there’s enough of it. On top of that, she seemed oddly disconnected from the rest of the characters of the book. What’s with that? Even when she was making out with Sebastian, she portrayed very little emotion. What makes Spiderman or Superman great is that even though they are comic book characters, we can see that they really do look at the people they save and seriously wonder what their lives would be like if they were as normal as they were. There is this sense of alienation and loneliness, this constant questioning of whether they made the correct decision in turning their backs on “normal” to become the world’s saviors. With the Vic-o-nator, I don’t sense the self-sacrifice. Where’s the angst, man? Because this is the first book of the series, I have high hopes that Ms. Gleason will develop the Vixtress as a stronger character and we will see more of the Man Versus Superman stuff.
All and all, I really enjoyed this book. Some of the dialogue is a little stilted and over-laden with exposition, but on the whole, the prose flows pretty well. I also enjoyed Ms. Gleason’s development of the Vic-o-Nator’s sidekicks, her maid Verbana and her hackney driver, Barth. I think these two would be very useful to the Vixtress in the subsequent books of the series. Ms. Gleason also did a very good job in setting up the book for the sequel, which I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on. What happened to Sebastian? Is he a vampire? Will Max and Vickie yank out the sticks from their asses and make out? Will Aunt Eustace install an emotional chip in Vickie’s brain? I surely hope that most, if not all, of these questions are answered in the next book. I think this series has a great potential and I really gotta give Ms. Gleason props for setting up a believable, though not entirely unique, mythology, as well as likeable characters. Though a bit flawed, I can definitely see this series becoming severely addicting and pretty soon (if not already), I think Ms. Gleason will have crazy fangirls on her messageboards arguing about the “shipping” of characters as well as where the series is going. I, for one, can’t wait for the sequel. What are you waiting for, bitches? Go pre-order it on Amazon now!
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