This novel is the second in the New York Vampire series. Ineffable mysteries of the first volume might be unveiled beyond this point.
Having, barely, survived Gilles’ attack, Christian is whisked to receive training in both mortal and vampiric skills. Training that, if he is lucky, might make him useful enough that the rulers of vampiric society don’t have him put down out of hand. And, perhaps worse, if he does prove he has value, he might become an equal threat to his friends as his deranged creator.
As in AMYM: The Mamluk Who Defied Death , the centre of this story is about the transition from happen-to-have-been-turned to useful-vampiric-tool. However, unlike Amyn, Chris was not already a warrior and leader when turned; thus both the skills he needs to learn and his instinctive reactions to intensive training are different. Therefore, readers familiar with Amyn’s story will find a fresh perspective on early vampirism that expands McQuain’s mythology rather than any significant duplication.
McQuain’s narrative style continues to be heavy on exposition, both on the eponymous culture and the streets of New York. While this is for the most part interesting, some readers might find the occasional listing of which roads a character walks along and other factoids distract from the plot. Fortunately, these are few enough and mild enough that the novel overall remains fast-paced.
Where the first volume was set against the New York punk scene, this one occurs as the first wave of Goth is surging into clubs. While McQuain maintains his detailed focus on the real-world music and scene, he also makes use of the vampire tropes that exist in Goth, fusing the musical history side of the book more closely with the plot than in NYV: Punk.
While McQuain sometimes shifts the camera between characters within a scene, both the scenes and the majority of viewpoints within them are divided between Chris, Gilles, and Pet (a girl Gilles has “saved” to be his servant, whose former identity readers might well guess relatively swiftly). However, unlike the psychic echoing of current events that blurred the line between Chris and Gilles in the first volume, the overt mental overlap in this book provides scenes from Gilles’ past in other countries. This both provides insight into Gilles and the history of McQuain’s world, and increases the tension by denying Chris even scant clues as to his creator’s schemes or location.
While this novel leaves a number of broader threads hanging, the arc from accidental turnee to tolerated vampire is concluded in a satisfying fashion, making it unlikely readers will feel they have been left halfway through a story. Similarly, although some nuances might be missed, the major threads of the book do not require familiarity with the previous volume, making this a reasonable entry point into the series.
Chris remains a sympathetic protagonist. While his youthful rebelliousness continues, he remains aware of the immense danger he faces if he doesn’t conform; as such he comes across as someone plausibly struggling to adjust to what was forced on him rather than someone who is selfish or contrary for the sake of it.
The supporting cast, both new and returning, are an interesting dichotomy of formal ancient hierarchy and punky individualism, bolstering the contrast between what Chris’ human side is and what vampire society expects him to become. However, the characters are more than stereotypes deployed to symbolise his challenges, each possessing a mix of interests and flaws that provide nuances of perspective on each camp.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking a grungy urban vampire tale.
I received a free copy from the author with no request to review.