Book Review: Thirst by Claire Farrell

Thought I’d post a review on a newer vampire novel that you can get free on Amazon.

This is a self-published e-book on Amazon and the first in a series of books called the “Ava Delaney Series”. I don’t know if this is her first novel or not, but she has a few short stories and collections out. She’s also written a few more books since this one, which is always good to see.

This is a vampire novel. I wanted to have at least a review of a vampire novel up with my Contemporary Fantasy article so here it is.

So here’s the virtual jacket copy since this one is available in e-book.

Ava Delaney calls herself a hybrid – a living, breathing human who happens to have vampire poison running through her veins. The only thing greater than her thirst for human blood is her capacity for guilt. She does her best to avoid the human world, for everyone’s sake.

When Ava accidentally enslaves a human while saving him from a vampire, she realises she has to look for help setting him free. Despite her misgivings, she expands her world but finds herself dragged into a possible vampire civil war. With the help of some new friends with ambiguous loyalties, she tries to find a way to keep her human, and herself, alive.

I got that from Amazon, it seems to be the text that’s thrown around on the various review boards.

Synopsis

The book starts out with Ava seeing a vampire attacking a human. To save the human she lies to the vampire and claims he is hers even though the vampire can’t ‘smell her on him’. This act enslaves the human who’s name is Carl and he follows her home. She can’t get rid of him, and doesn’t know how this happened, so she seeks help to break whatever is influencing Carl.

Along the way she meets Peter, a vampire and ‘bad things’ hunter, and Eddie, a wizard of some sort that runs a local book shop. She also runs afoul of two vampire covens who learn that she is a hybrid and want to control her for various reasons.

Tearing it Apart.

I didn’t post much of a synopsis because there isn’t a lot to this book. It’s a pretty typical urban fantasy/vampire story that doesn’t get too deep into character development or plot, but makes up for that with back story and entertainment value. It’s a good, but not very bold start to a series.

I’m going to talk about Ava first. Ava is a stereotypical urban fantasy heroine, meaning “super awesome, but has flaws to compensate”. She thinks herself plain but, even though she’s a shut in with no reason to care, she’s pretty hot. If the jacket art is any indication, she’s really hot. So we’re pretty normal for urban fantasy so far. She’s a half-vampire so she’s pretty strong, and has some other advantages to being a vampire, with none of the weaknesses, though she seems to forget this a lot. She is troubled by her heritage and by the fact that she almost killed a former boyfriend. Her grandmother was just this side of completely abusive and on top of all that she shows signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She counts everything, something that comes up a lot. This apparently calms her “Thirst” for blood and helps her deal with her day-to-day life.

At first I thought this was a pretty cool idea because it showed what a person from an abusive home that had a real need to live completely by herself might be like. The OCD was kind of neat with her running through the numbers all the time. Then I realized she wasn’t really showing any other sign of OCD, and for a shut in who makes her entire living off of selling things on the internet she’s a fairly normal person socially. One would think being mostly devoid of human contact would make it tough for her to be sociable. Nope. Totally normal.

So basically all her interesting, yet totally stereotypical, flaws are just there to show she isn’t Superwoman. That’s fine, I don’t read fantasy for realism, but come on she isn’t at that much of a disadvantage in most situations. If these were just quirks I’d say she was just “quirky”. However, these flaws and weaknesses are shown to be more than just quirky behavior.

Ava also gets some artifacts of amazing power right off the bat. Eddie the clairvoyant wizard, gives her a cross necklace that makes her thirst go away. He also gives her a vampire disintegrating knife that some people refer to as “the knife”, indicating that it is amazingly powerful. She also gains power from drinking blood and learns to fight really well pretty quickly. I forget if it mentioned if she had some martial arts classes or not before. I will assume she has, because all urban fantasy heroines have taken at least one martial arts class and are therefore experts at not getting beat all to hell by much more experienced opponents.

Did I mention if she licks a wound it will heal almost instantly?

The whole romance angle was kind of off too. She meets Carl, who I imagine to be something like a Norse God. She accidentally enslaves him which causes an inner conflict with her non-rapist self and her vampire self. Then she meets Peter, whom she is instantly attracted to. He’s also handsome, terribly grumpy and totally interesting to her. Basically what we have here is an “Instant Love Triangle!”. Thankfully they aren’t really fighting for her affection yet. Can’t have a vampire novel without an instant love triangle. At least neither of these guys are vampires, or Scottish highlanders (so far as has been revealed yet). They are your basic ‘nice guy’ and ‘bad boy’ types that you see in a lot of contemporary fantasy with female protagonists.

The story really isn’t about the romance though. It’s like the romance is there because it’s obligatory. Because it’s a vampire novel it’s a very strained one.

I can’t really tear it up a lot more as there isn’t that much to tear up. It’s a short book which for this story is good, and it’s fairly well written. While there are some good ideas, and the characters are at least original, the book is fairly generic. And generic isn’t always bad as you’ll see below.

Singing Its Praises

The book has some really good points. First of all it is a different take on the generic vampire story. She’s looking to break the enthrallment of Carl and needs the vampire she met in the first chapter to do it. This is the overarching goal of the book and it doesn’t stray from that. I found that really great.

The vampires in this book fit the more old school view of vampirism. They are not sexy, they are repulsive and they are definitely dead. The vampires feed on people, they have a strict social hierarchy and laws that keep them from eating everyone. Ava seems truly scared of them for most of the book, and they come across as pretty scary. There’s no sparkling, there’s no “the stories were wrong” garbage, there is no major reinventing of the mythology. The vampires are monsters and are treated as such. It’s good to know that Irish vampire novelists can still do it right.

I did like the character of Eddie. It is obvious he has his own agenda and isn’t helping Ava because he just feels he should or because she’s some sort of “chosen one” though that is implied at one point. I haven’t really looked at the author’s other books but I wonder if Eddie isn’t a character in one of them or if he hasn’t come up in stories she’s written but didn’t publish. I just have a suspicion that he is a character she’s used before.

Note: I asked the author about this point too. She said that she hadn’t used him in other stories, but wasn’t entirely sure that he wasn’t in a notebook somewhere.

The motivations of the characters are probably the best part of the book. Ava doesn’t want to be a vampire hunter as you’d expect, she wants to find a specific vampire to talk to. A lot of the conflict in the story comes from that. I thought this was pretty cool. I also thought that the two coven leaders wanting her for vastly different reasons was great too. One wanted to know how to make half-vampires, and the other one wanted her because she wanted to make sure no more were made and they both had good reasons. So that was well thought out.

I also liked how sort of anti-climatic the climax was. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not but I found it to be great, and amusing. Not a lot of authors have guts enough to make the high point of their book so mundane, and for that I praise Miss Farrell. Of course the climax was not the end. The end was a good end to the book, closed the book out but left me curious about the next books in the set.

This book was to the point, and didn’t spend a lot of time on irrelevant details. The story was well laid out, and didn’t wander off track. It flows well and I had a hard time putting it down because of that. She didn’t leave a lot of loose ends or plot holes hanging around either. That is rare these days.

Some people have commented on spelling and grammatical errors. I did not notice any, it’s obviously well-edited. This book is written in UK English, not US English so that probably explains why some readers would think this. If you are an American reader, know that they spell things different in the UK. This spelling isn’t wrong, it’s just different. They might phrase things different too, again it isn’t wrong, it’s just different. Do not demand free books because they use the letter ‘U’ and ‘Y’ in places that seem unfamiliar and frightening to you.

This brings me to the last praise, and something I’ve seen complained about, and I was curious about when reading. The author is intentionally vague on the setting of this book. There are some linguistic clues that led me to believe this story was set somewhere in Ireland. Seeing as how the author is Irish this is not a bad assumption since most people quite reasonably write about what they know. I contacted the author and she said that it was vague because the places were made up and she wanted the readers to visualize their own world (I didn’t copy the quote directly as it might be a bit spoilery and editing it would be more difficult than paraphrasing). So those of you complaining about this, it’s unwarranted. I think it made the book better.

Is it good and who should read it?

I liked it for the story. I know I used the term generic to describe the story. That’s a bit unfair. I’d say it is “formulaic” and the author works with that formula very well. So I’ll say it was good even with the overly stereotypical characters. I definitely want to read the next books.

After reading a book I like to look around a few different places to see how people have responded to it. It helps shape my opinion of the target market, and who may or may not like something.

As for who should read it, I think just any fan of urban or paranormal fantasy. If you like vampire novels, this is a good one to curl up with in the evening. It won’t take too long to read. A lot of people who’ve commented on it say that you can read the first few books in a couple of days.

If you don’t like the vampire novels that have come out recently but you do like vampires, then you might give this one a try. It definitely has old school vampires, and it isn’t about how some pretty girl seriously wants in some vampire’s pants. Or multiple vampires. Or vampires and werewolves, or vampires and werewolves and werelions. Plus, it’s free now on Amazon and you can pick up the second novel or the collection for your Kindle pretty cheap.

The Author

The author’s name is Claire Farrell, she is from Dublin, Ireland according to her Facebook page and blog. I’ve got some links here to share. Her blog is especially neat, lots of great articles and book recommendations. I am looking forward to checking out some of her dark fantasy.

I’d like to thank her for replying to my e-mail and answering a few questions I had about the books. She can definitely count me as a fan!

Her Blog: http://doingitwritenow.wordpress.com/
Her Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113867680854257839276/
Her Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/clairefarrell27
Her Twitter: @doingitwritenow

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