Amber Fang: The Hunted by Arthur Slade

Amber Fang: The Hunted by Arthur SladeCombining the twists and turns of a spy movie with the particular challenges facing the humane vampire, Slade provides an urban fantasy that will appeal both to fans of both action and moral quandaries.

Amber Fang is a vampire. Raised only to eat murderers with no remorse, she divides her time between studying for a librarianship degree, using her research skills to find suitable prey, and picking up her entire life at a moments notice to flee possible discovery. Until a secret organisation offers her a seemingly perfect deal: all the resources she needs in exchange for hunting and eating the world’s worst criminals. But, are they deliberately keeping secrets from her or just a typical bureaucracy?

Slade takes tropes from several different varieties of vampire fiction and tweaks them to produce a new perspective: vampires are born, but they don’t all live as part of immensely rich dynasties; there are secret agencies that know about vampires, but they are neither run by them nor devoted purely to killing them; vampires and humans can feel attraction to each other, but are no more or less obsessive about it than ordinary people. This fusion produces a narrative that contains the familiar challenges that vampire aficionados seek without losing the sense of surprise at how things unfold.

While the plot is a combination of horror and espionage thriller, Slade weaves in thread of humour that is likely to appeal especially to librarians yet is not so abstruse as to lose those who have never considered books might be shelved in more than one way.

Amber is a well-crafted protagonist. Born a vampire but not raised as part of a sprawling network of vampire uncles, aunts, cousins, and assorted relatives, she is plausibly socialised without losing the outsider status that makes the vampire such an engaging predator.

The supporting cast are equally a careful balance of horror/espionage tropes and nuanced variation. Remorseless murderers drip with evil, yet are more than Englishmen in suits or grimy labourers. Even characters who appear once in passing often display a layered reaction to events, both giving the sense that they are protagonists of their own narratives off-page and leaving the reader unable to sort the cast into survivors and lunch.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking a refreshing take on modern vampires.

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