Albert Manlii is a more than two-thousand-year-old vampire and head of the city’s faction of his kind. Not only does this mean organizing training, education, and employment and overseeing various businesses, but Albert works with the members of his team to find new recruits. In this contemporary world, where vampires walk amongst the general population unnoticed, individuals are carefully chosen and approached discreetly, asked to make and informed choice about their future.
When Albert sees the man he will come to know as Phillip Brewer, Albert can sense his depression and disease, as well as feeling a deeper connection to the human, whose aggressive form of gall bladder cancer means that he only has a short time to live. However, when Phillip is faced with the reality that vampires really do exist and can offer him an extended lifespan, what he decide?
The Recruit is a short story and therefore I did not expect the character arc I prefer in novels, but Albright still provides her readers with solid personality profiles of her protagonists. Albert does not display the cruelty that is so often associated with fictional vampires; he is loyal to his faction and his kindness and pragmatism make him a good leader. Despite the fact that Albert can feel the potential of a blood mate bond when he first sees Phillip, he knows that the decision to recruit the sick human must be put to a vote once the research on Phillip’s background and current life has been carried out.
In the first chapter, which concentrates solely on Phillip, Albright ensures that the reader feels Phillip’s desperation. It is here he is preparing to end his life:
At this point, he just wanted it to be over. This was no longer a life he wanted to cling to.
The fact that Phillip is unable to turn the bathroom faucet on until he has been for a walk shows something of Phillip’s strength of character and his appreciation for the small things in life, even though he feels an overwhelming sadness. However, before we have even met Phillip, the background checks the faction have carried out reveal much to us about who Phillip is: a loner who was disowned by his father for being gay; “intelligent and reasonable”; “easy-going” and “liberal minded”.
I think it is really interesting that Albright has written The Recruit when the subject of assisted dying has once again been a prominent news story. It is, indeed, a contentious issue and readers may not agree with Phillip’s choices, but Albright is still able to evoke an empathetic understanding that Phillip’s natural life will be unfairly shortened by his cruel and painful illness and his decisions are his alone to make.
Though The Recruit is a contemporary paranormal novel, Albright’s representation of vampires is unique as she has allowed them to evolve with the modern world. The vampires are described as being “progressive,” “organized,” and “vastly diverse” and as Albert explains to Phillip, his immortality means that he will not age at the normal rate or die of natural causes, but unusually these vampires can be killed by any means that would instantly kill a human being. I read a lot of paranormal fiction and so, for me, any changes that an author can make to a species and still keep their story entertaining, is always welcome.
The only element that I felt was lacking was the connection between Phillip and Albert. Albright has been sure to tell the reader that Albert feels the blood-mate tie and Phillip acknowledges that the attraction between them goes beyond just being physical, and these men do express themselves sexually, albeit in fade-to-black scenes. It may be that I was hoping for romance that Albright never intended to be there, but I wanted to feel this connection beyond just the couple’s sexual activity and Phillip’s need to look to Albert for guidance as he begins his new life.
Albright does not allow her imagination to be confined by tropes in The Recruit and it is a enjoyable story that I would recommend.