Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle, (Real Vampires Book #1) Amy Fecteau
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Tags: Violence/Gore, Humour, Elements of Flirtation (Gay)
Length: 386 Pages
Matheus Taylor didn’t ask to be murdered.
To be fair, the percentage of people actually asking to be murdered is probably small enough to be safely ignored, but he felt it was worth stating regardless.
His life might have been ordinary, but it was his life and he wasn’t done with it yet. Quin didn’t care. A seventeen-hundred old Roman, Quintus Livius Saturnius had a different view of morality than most people. Killing Matheus and hijacking his undead existence seemed perfectly acceptable to him.
Now, Matheus spends his nights running for his life, questioning his sexual orientation, and defying a mysterious new threat to the vampires within his city. Not that he set out to do any defying; he just wanted to be left alone.
Unfortunately, that was never going to happen.
The synopsis gives readers the basics about this book and it was released nearly five years ago so mostly it’s my overall likes and dislikes that form this review.
There isn’t any real lead in to this story. No backstory to either main character. Quin is an old vampire who turns Matheus in an alley one night after he’s effectively coerced him into stealing an item for him. He can’t leave any loose ends and Matheus would be one big one if left alive. He not only turns him he claims him, which is different. Clearly there was a bit more to this, why he sought out Matheus specifically and claimed him – forming a bond – instead of just turning him, the whole fancying blond men aside. Perhaps I’ll see why in the next books in the series.
Matheus is resentful of his new life. He doesn’t like that a decision was made to turn him, that Quin tells him he owns him. He also has problems with the feeding, something he has to do to survive now. He has more problems with Quin ‘controlling’ him from the get-go. We discover that Matheus left a dominating father a decade ago at eighteen. Now he finds himself turned against his will, and entwined with another man whose presence is larger than life, seeming all-encompassing. Part of the reason Matheus railed constantly at anything that appeared as personal direction or an order in navigating the otherworld is linked back to Carsten Schneider, his father. Being turned into a vampire without consent is a pretty big control mechanism too.
There are events that the inexperienced Matheus is thrown into very quickly which don’t endear this new life to him. Other vampires and beings he meets who don’t leave a good impression on him, or Matheus on them. One part of the puzzle as to why Quin likes him so much is that Matheus is stubbornly feisty. He’s had quite a bit of practice at not fitting in easily in his human life and it seems it readily transfers over into his paranormal one.
This is a darker paranormal world. It can be brutal. Quin on a rampage dismembers and tears people apart when necessary and has no remorse. The vampires don’t ‘glamour’, drink a little, then allow their food source to head off. No, they drain and kill their victims, or food source, and you have a glimpse into who the food source is too, something that Matheus struggles with. They only need to feed around every twelve weeks, considerably longer periods apart for older vampires, so feeding wasn’t mentioned that often. Killing by fang is though. This is a hybrid vampire story between the older school vampires and the more modern versions. My favourite vampire stories include sex and blood but this certainly was the second best option.
Quin: I loved him. Aside from the whole turning Matheus against his will thing, but old school vampires, what you gonna do? Otherwise, he was supportive, funny, with the patience of Job, and I felt for some part of the book that he could have chosen better progeny than Matheus, but then Matheus would do something and I’d rethink that part. I’m certain this started out as Anne Rice fanfic with the Louis style complaining of Matheus and the amused frustration of Quin. There were times I liked that Matheus had a definite opinion, like when Quin transferred Matheus’ savings offshore into another account for safe-keeping. Matheus justifiably wanted control of his money, he had earned it, he should control it even if it’s simply placed in a drawer.
It seems Matheus has a few unique qualities for a vampire. He dreams for a starter, including nightmares. He also wakes up earlier than other vampires, and while daylight is still present. I’m guessing there is a more to Matheus than we know right now.
I enjoyed the dry humour of all of the characters. I actually think Milo, Quin’s tech guy, had the most droll moments and every time he spoke he was consistent in his apathy for anything that wasn’t IT or tech.
The hunt near the beginning, the time spent being hunted in a local forest by some very angry, cultish men with crossbows, and a few grenades for the cheaters, was interesting and action-packed. This sort of thing, this action and edge-of-your-seat reading is what I like so much about UF but it slowed down after that and became more about the mundane aspects of life, which is fine if the world was built more, which it wasn’t. So it could have been paced a bit better. Quips are great but large chunks of them grow frustrating after a while. Then the ending ramped right up again with plenty of action.
Meeting the lords of the city – Grigori, Apollonia, and Zeb – who have to approve of a turning, of newbie vampires, was interesting in the sense that they are definite personalities – Grigori is like a surreal, paranormal Hugh Heffner/Marquis de Sade wannabe. Apollonia is otherworld Beverly Sutphin with that extra sadistic twist, and Zeb is a hoarding academic, one who has an old friend of Matheus’ working for him, Bianca, or Bibi as he calls her. It just wasn’t what it should have been – they weren’t tough on Quin turning Matheus, they didn’t seem to care about that at all. That was odd.
Matheus holds onto secrets. Quin does talk and he does discuss some things, but he also withholds a great deal more and they’re important facts. Some of it, probably most of it, is to protect Matheus, to not allow Matheus to be scared off so soon. But as Matheus tells Quin later in the book, he’ll only be more liable to being hurt if he doesn’t know what’s coming or what’s going on.
He managed to be both the most transparent and mysterious person Matheus had ever met. Quin answered his questions, but none of his responses brought Matheus any closer to figuring out his motives.
For all I lament some of the churlish words by Matheus, I could understand where it came from. I also enjoyed the witty banter between him and Quin. I felt for Matheus being thrown into a world he knew nothing of before Quin. That he has issues of his own, particularly dysfunctional family issues that burst into his present, help make him somewhat more sympathetic as a character – he is a mix of vampire with more of his humanity still remaining.
I’m terrified all the time,” he said, softly, almost unaware that he spoke aloud.
“Of me?” Quin asked.
Matheus shook his head. “Of myself. I’m not strong enough for this. I’m weak. I’ve always been weak.” And his father had never let him forget it.
“Sunshine, you’re too damn stubborn to be weak.”
I’ve also never read a contemporary UF paranormal book with so many crossbows being used by several undead-hating factions. It took a bit of getting used to and then I accepted it and rolled with a different weapon choice in a modern tale.
I especially enjoyed the nickname of ‘Sunshine’ that Quin gave Matheus. There’s a romantic aspect behind this moniker of Sunshine for Matheus. However, there is no romance in this book. There are a few subtle moments of flirtation, sometimes from Quin, and Matheus tries desperately to shutdown thoughts of Quin close to him, around and about him, but nothing is particularly overt.
He didn’t think of himself as homophobic, but he drew the line at cuddling with other men. The strange connection he shared with Quin had to be the reason he wanted to curl closer.
Matheus is dealing with dreams that morph between Quin and his father. Dreams of his father aren’t pleasant, they’re nightmares, the ones with Quin scare him as well but for entirely different reasons. His subconscious mind is pretty much asserting that the whole I’m not gay line is awfully incorrect. The fact that he sometimes thinks of Quin in more than platonic ways, it really isn’t just the claiming bond, is telling and it’s wholly disconcerting to Matheus that he notices notices Quin.
Interestingly, this book read British more than American. I honestly kept thinking they were in London as opposed to some town, Kenderon, in America. The words used – love, Pet, Sunshine, slag, prat, later twat and twit – are more British (Australian) in nature than American.
There are some potentially interesting characters to march forward into the next series book with, including the sometimes handsy Juliet, who loves to call Matheus Pet, the self-flagellating and dramatically jealous-of-Matheus Alistair, who holds a firm torch for Quin, and they’re just for starters.
The overall editing needed to be tighter, some sections needed to be stripped back, there are quite a few missing words throughout. At the time of e-book purchase, Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle cost me in excess of AUS $8 dollars. I actually expect all the editing to be as tight as a drum for that money.
Matheus could be childish. There is a difference between snappy and snarky dialogue and retorts and juvenile words and actions, Matheus straddled both behaviours – one I liked, the other not at all. When Quin eventually said he had his limits I had to agree with him because Matheus could be too much. It’s one thing to be angry over being turned against your will and to adjust, I understand that, but it’s another to constantly blame/be angry at someone for your problems with another person, in this case Matheus’ own father.
I would have liked a POV from Quin. I know I didn’t get one because he’s the enigmatic, older vampire, and the author has clearly put Matheus front and centre for reasons, but I really, really liked Quin. I also felt things about Quin’s life were not given enough depth.
In the End:
I found this to be a satisfying read. Promising. The world building isn’t so much the environment around them, it doesn’t stamp itself on a place, it’s more about the characters themselves and their individual and collective dilemmas. The darkness of Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle appealed immensely. It’s so hard to find the combination of decently written and dark vampire stories with elements of romance, or a romantic subplot, as is the case with this book, and some fitting humour. The characters are mostly forming here, as happens in a series, but there is a promise of things to come. So I shall move on to the next book and hope for a strong follow up. 3.5 Stars.
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