Continuing my quest for female bisexual vampires… Joseph E. Arechavala’s Darkness Persists: A Vampire Novel (not sure why it was necessary to emphasize that it’s a vampire novel, although Darkness Persists is strange by itself and maybe Dark Brides could be an alternative title), published in 2012 (for Kindle; there was a paperback edition published in 2008 or 2009), has a very traditional take on vampires. The vampires have fangs and cool skin, no reflections, burn in sunlight, the cross burns them too, they are strong and resilient – and they drink blood, and only human blood.
Remy St. André is a rich, powerful, handsome man, and a vampire, with a harem of beautiful, lusty brides slaved to his will. As soon as he meets Kristen Lightner (the main character and our narrator) he determines to add her to his collection, and his mesmerizing eyes soon have her following him unquestioningly back to his mansion for a nightcap of fresh vampiric blood. When she rises, she accepts him as her master, and lusts after both him and Sofia, another of his brides. But when she feeds and kills for the first time, she snaps out of the fugue of servitude and flees back to her human life.
Which is when things actually start to get interesting…
This is another one of those vampire stories where a human heterosexual female is mysteriously transformed into a bisexual vampire. (I’d never been attracted to another woman, but this sexual desire overpowered self-control I suddenly lacked. Also later: it was a result of being turned; I’d never been into girls as a human.) Still, given how that has almost become a standard element of vampire mythology, maybe it fits here.
Then again, if bisexuality is an inevitable outcome of vampirism, why doesn’t Remy have some gorgeously sexy grooms as well as brides? There’s a curious exchange about this at one point.
Kristen: ‘Why not just turn him?’
Ruth: ‘Because the master doesn’t want competition.’
Huh. Is this seriously saying that in the vampire world the males are alphas and the women merely harmless submissives to the alpha male(s)? Of course, maybe this is just the sexist attitude of ‘the master’, but… maybe it’s an indication of how fundamentally sexist this representation of vampires is.
The ‘no reflection’ thing as well. I’ve never liked this trait of vampires (well, okay, sometimes it’s nice). It only really makes sense for a vampire who is a spiritual immanation, i.e., not physically there. A better variation on this theme is the vampire (or other creature) whose true visage is apparent in the mirror, but who casts a glamour to appear different when seen directly.
When Kristen awakes as a vampire, Remy’s skin no longer feels cool to her, but a few pages later her lips graze his chilly face. Maybe that was just the effect of his cold smile.
She snaps out of her haze of domestic bliss rather too easily. It would make more sense, I think, if there were some traumatic incident in her past, and the memory was triggered by the sight of the girl she killed.
Her friend, Jessica Harker, accepts and responds to Kristen’s transformation in a way that doesn’t feel quite right. If my best friend were suddenly turned into a vampire, I don’t think I’d be so quickly shouting, ‘You’re a goddamned vampire! Get away from me!’
Some random comments and drive-by criticism
The grammar and spelling are good, although there are some typos and errors.
I can’t escape the feeling that the author isn’t comfortable writing about intimacy. For example: We kissed and caressed each other for many passionate minutes, my desire rising and sexual heat making me so warm. I’m easily distracted by words, and that sentence left me wondering what exactly a passionate minute is like – is it where the second hand races around the clock face, numbers mounting steadily, until it climaxes at the twelve? Also, sexual heat making me warm? Is that a tautology? Another example: He pulled off his clothes and lay next to me on the bed as I kissed his chest, running my hands up and down his beautiful body. Okay, interesting, do continue. Hours later we were done. Huh. Can’t we at least have some waves crashing onto a beach or something? But maybe it’s just intimacy with a man that’s problematic, since the F/F scenes are more convincing.
My biggest problem with the style is all the foretelling, which is something I always find irritating in books, and is one reason why I will always prefer first person narration to be present tense rather than past. For example: Maybe if things had gone differently with Anne… but they didn’t. Why, why, why does the reader need to be told that things are about to go wrong?
All of which is just the minor quibbling of a vampire enthusiast. Certainly the writing style is a little detached for my liking, particularly during the first few chapters, and I want to get into the head of the main character more, but once she escapes from the influence of her ‘sire’ and regains her independence, it’s a much more comfortable and enjoyable read.
I have very mixed feelings – thus the length of this review. The story was interesting enough that it kept me reading to the end, but ultimately I am left unsatisfied. With the exception of Kristen, all the characters are one-dimensional, not helped by the author’s wholesale buy-in to vampire stereotypes, and even Kristen spends much of the story in a wholly submissive state of mind.