This edition: advance review copy, ebook (thanks to the author!)
Publisher: Pocket Star Books
Published: 21st October 2013
For centuries an ancient evil has slept beneath the streets of New Harbor. This Halloween, it wakes up.
Nightclub bartender and serial heartbreaker Beth Becker might be a cynic. But when her best friend goes missing Halloween night, Beth knows it’s up to her to find out what happened.
Her quest will take her on an odyssey through the crumbling city of New Harbor, Connecticut. Along the way she meets a homeless prophet warning of something he calls the “Night Angel”—a bloodthirsty creature that feeds on the forgotten. And she will form an unlikely bond with a hunted stranger who knows all too well what stalks the streets at night.
The strange man tells Beth the hideous truth about the nightmare creatures that have haunted mankind’s imagination for eons—creatures the world calls vampires. Together they are the only hope for New Harbor, but to defeat what lurks in the shadows they’ll have to conquer something far stronger than fear—their own desires.
Word of mouth can be a wonderful thing when it comes to discovering new authors, and/or new books. In this case, it helped me do both. Now, normally I say I don’t accept solicited review requests – I prefer to put my hand up if I come across a book that I think sounds like it’s worth reading. But this time, I took a chance – and heck if I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by the result.
Matthew Quinn Martin’s debut novel is probably somewhere between horror and urban fantasy, though I would advise not being too misled by the cover copy. It may read like ‘typical UF’ but this was where my pleasant surprise came in – it is not. Much like M.L. Brennan’s Generation V (incidentally, I have her to thank for setting up this author-reviewer introduction in the first place), this takes the tired old trope of vampires preying on humanity and gives us something new, much fresher and infinitely more interesting by that cleverly simple trick of taking the idea of vampires back to their nastier, much less sexy basics. I make a point not to engage the fandoms with my cane-shaking “kids today” grump about how vampires don’t sparkle, dammit, but … well, they don’t!
And Martin evidently agrees, because yikes. These critters are freaky. It’s fan(g)tastic*.
Where Brennan’s book sticks more to the urban fantasy trappings, however, this is much more about the horror. In the book’s prologue, we’re introduced to Jack, one of our protagonists, as he’s being interrogated following what seems to have been the murder of his fiancee, Sarah. But the people interrogating him don’t appear to be your average police detectives. There’s mention of a shady-sounding ‘Division’, who are looking into what really happened to Jack and Sarah before his arrest. If there’s a trope anywhere in this story, I suspect that this is it, though of course we never get the full story on The Division in the opening act. That’s for later books … and yes, I’m hoping we get them.
When we next meet Jack, he’s gone from an average guy, reeling from all that trauma, to a thoroughly hard-bitten, cold-hearted monster hunter, chasing down the creatures that have been causing local disappearances when Beth, the second of our protagonists, crosses his path on the hunt for her missing best friend. Again, nothing original there – but thankfully, Beth is not the typical screaming damsel to Jack’s fearless hero. Both of these characters are strong enough to hold their own in dangerous situations, though of course Beth has a lot to learn about danger.
This partnership is what also helps to make this book interesting. Solitary by force of habit, Jack doesn’t agree to it easily – and there’s where it gets really interesting, because Jack’s method is somewhat heavy on the madness. And, in turn, this is where Martin’s vampires get interesting.
These creatures – and they are indeed ‘creatures’, nothing even remotely human about them – use as many psychological tricks as they do physical strengths to snare victims. Again, perhaps this isn’t brand-spanking-new in terms of horror story tricks (what is nowadays?), but it certainly makes Jack and Beth’s hunt for the source of the city’s ‘infection’ much more interesting, especially as they get closer…
Then there’s the fact that Jack’s approach to offsetting these effects, impressively scientific where it could easily have gone for the old “just add bullets” method of vampire hunting, leaves me wondering if he’s a smart guy with serious nerves of steel, or so far gone that he’s one short step away from doing the vampires’ work for them…
Of course, none of this is to say that Martin’s debut is without its flaws – for all of the interesting approach and intriguing characters, I was left with the impression of something a little bit sketchy, and not quite as smoothly done as it could have been. However, as first novel efforts go this is a solid one, definitely worth giving a try if you want horror that’s had thought put into it. These vampires do not sparkle. Unless, perhaps, that kind of thing floats your boat… Read it and you’ll see what I mean.
So. All in all, a solid four-star effort. There’s room for improvement, but that can always be a good thing – and I suspect pretty strongly that it will, in this case. Take a chance, why don’t you …
Links to where you can get your hands on this book can be found here.