Review of Amy Mah’s ‘Vampire’

These days a simple “thumb’s up” or “thumb’s down” too often passes for a book review.  Well I don’t agree with that, and rarely more-so than with the novel Vampire by Amy Mah.  Why?  Because the book won’t appeal to everyone the same way.

For example, yours truly doesn’t enjoy anime all that very much.  And this book clearly falls into that genre, complete with some things I find so irritating.  But that remains a personal preference not an objective judgment.

Here’s the blurb:  Today’s world is difficult for everyone, especially teenagers. They face the stresses of school, deciding whom to date, and the biggie of sex, just to name a few. Imagine all of those things ten times worse, and you might get an idea of what it’s like being a living, breathing teenage vampire. At last, the world can read about the life of a girl with good teeth, her problems with strong sunlight that gave her spots, and the sunblock that made her hair go yucky and produced more spots. Yes, sunlight was dangerous, as she could be the first teenager in history to die from terminal acne! In her everyday life, older vampires expected her to walk about at night in the traditional female uniform, a see-through, 18th-century nightdress, without undies! Well, this female vampire knew why the cold winds blowing along the corridors were called, “male winds,” so she wore her see-through nightdress over jeans and a very thick jumper. To be sure that people would still know she was a vampire, the jumper had a very large, pink bat on it. And as to guys, well, it was normal for a girl to dream about guys; she just wished the dreams could have involved chocolates and holding hands, not leaping out at someone, ripping off his shirt, and demanding to know what blood type he was (at least not on the first date).

This specific blurb hints slightly at what gave me personally a hard time getting into the book–namely, the raw immaturity of the central character.  Amy (aka Amelia, Hell Cat, Lady Pinkbat, A-Me, etc) made me want to hit her.  Or least run somewhere else other than her company.  In fact, I’d recommend her as an example to show Twi-haters just how grating teenagers might be (so thank your lucky stars for Bella Swan!).  The rampant sexism of the vampire society with which she eventually interacts also made me recoil.

However, I’m glad my obligation as a reviewer made me continue.  What followed eventually provided a peak into an imaginary world very nearly on parr with Hogwarts.  Okay, that is an exaggeration but still, this place proved very interesting and (more importantly) entertaining.  Imagine if you will an underground (literally) culture of human-shaped predators, binding themselves with rituals and rules to keep themselves from mutual murder.  Now look at it from the point of view of a new-commer, one who slowly learns that lots of these rules are routinely broken.  Especially by teenagers or the vampiric equivalent.

Amy, our heroine, starts off as a teen orphan frustrated by her fangs and claws and the desire for blood.  Born a vampire, but not knowing any of her own kind–until one night when someone she eventually comes to call “Uncle” comes across her.  Then Amy begins a journey.  Kicking and screaming (something also biting and scratching) she finds herself adopted into a Nest.  More, she finds within herself what seems like an ancestral memory, a primal self from before the time when vampires changed to look like human beings.

She gains a family.  Eventually, she even gets a boyfriend.

Revealing too much of what happens would indeed spoil what seems like a rollicking good tale, but suffice to say I enjoyed the ride.  Well before fifteen percent into the book I found myself engrossed and eager to find out what happened next.  Glimpses of vampire politics, history, lore and how predatory instincts shape their society wove into a really cool, interesting tableau.  Plus a real sense of humor, such as Amy’s vampire ‘Aunt’ with her formidable insistence on pink bats woven into black outfits.  Even stuffed pink bats.  Still wonder about her… I mean, pink?  Really?

I’ll make a couple of points, though.  One is that the story covers more time than I would have thought reading.  Quite a bit more time.  Second, the shift in POV can be disorienting (on the other hand one does get used to it before too long).  My biggest complaint is length–feels like there’s so much of this specific story that never ever gets told.  Like the woman who raised Amy–she remains a total cypher and we never do read a single line of her dialogue.  Monologue, either for that matter.

More importantly, kudos to Miss Mah for fashioning what seems like a very consistent and interesting type of vampire, one that makes sense in ways that frankly Anne Rice, Bram Stoker and Stephanie Meyer sometimes do not.  The ending, happily, remains open and I look forward to reading the next book in this series!

By david

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.


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