By day, Joseph Roth pretends to be a waiter while, at night, he works at his real job as a member of the Rockfort Paranormal Department where he helps keep the vampires, shifters, and other inhuman creatures in check. A string of grisly murders targeting humans and monsters alike hints at a rogue vampire, which is certain to stir up a hornet’s nest of anger as the powerful vampire families — already chafing at the short leash the RPD keeps them on — are protective of their members.
Gregory is a verto-vampire, a less powerful but more adaptable offspring of a true vampire, who serves Damian, one of the ruling lords of the Vallascas vampire family. While he’s lived over two hundred years, things have changed for him lately in a new and alarming way. Twenty five years ago, Gregory lost interest in feeding from humans, even the most willing ones. It’s as if there’s some part of him waiting for something, but he doesn’t know what.
Tired of sitting still, tired of endless lectures and the handsome young men thrown at him as offerings, Gregory decides to take a walk. Not only is this unheard of — to disobey Damian — but to be out without his family’s protection and permission as he wanders the city leaves him vulnerable to the RPD who are already, unbeknownst to Gregory, hunting the killer vampire. But when Greg meets Joseph, he knows there’s something special about the young man. He has to get closer, he has to discover what hold this young human has over him. And he must do so while fighting off the Darati responsible for the killings … and who just so happens to want to make Joseph his next target.
There’s an interesting story here, hidden behind clumsy, stilted writing, tired and bored characters, and confused and confusing time jumps. It has the feel of a debut novel, with sections that either have too many commas or a disturbing lack of them, which gives some sections a breathless air. Tenses shift, the wrong “there” is used, and a few phrases are used incorrectly.
Joseph is twenty five years old and has a marked lack of empathy towards other people. He has very little personality beyond being a bit of an idealist and being physically attracted to his new neighbor, Greg. However, he seems to have a problem understanding the world around him. When something happens, be it his boss yelling at him or watching someone getting beaten up in front of him, he has the same reaction, which is to say: none. When he sees magical colors no one else does, he has no curiosity about it, no questions or concerns or even smugness. He just keeps doing what he’s doing. After being part of a fight in which Greg is badly hurt, Joseph lets his body do what it wants to do and heals Greg, after which he goes home and goes to sleep. There is no sign that he understands what happened, that he’s internalized it at all or even has an opinion. When breaking into a victim’s house, there’s no sense that he realizes that’s not the normal thing to do, or the right thing. It’s just what he’s doing because he wants to do it. Joseph has such a marked lack of reaction that I wonder if the author did this on purpose.
Greg, on the other hand, while not having much personality himself, does have reactions. He thinks about things, such as whether or not to follow Joseph to work to make certain he’s alright, and then realizing that might be a bit too much like being a stalker. When he’s confronting the werewolf who attacked them, he’s angry, he’s concerned for Joseph, and he’s angry at Damian for sending thugs after him. Unfortunately, there’s not much more character beyond that. To be fair, we don’t really get to know Greg, save that he understands stalking is bad, and being considerate of other people is good.
The relationship which most interested me is one of the side characters, Ryan, who, like Greg, was created by Damian and is therefore bound to him. While he is available for Damian whenever and however Damian wants him, he has also caught the interest of the alpha werewolf, Maximus. And the interest is returned, as much as he can. Ryan can’t defy Damian, but he can’t deny that he is attracted to Maximus. All three of these men, Damian, Ryan, and Maximus, have more personality in their brief section than Joseph and Gregory do in the entire rest of the book, which makes the contrast only that much more stark.
Just as the story starts to get into the mythology of the world and the reality of vampire families, the book jumps back in time and off to the left to explore new characters and their story. We learn about the creation of the Durati and the people who summoned him, and are told they’re evil. We also meet a witch and her students who are good (we know this by their use of nature magic and how they absolutely hate darkness and shadows). One of those students is Derek, who happens to be a powerful magic user, though he’s stepped back from magic to be with his husband. Their story is set up as the book ends with hints that Derek, Joseph, and Greg will somehow all have to come together to stop the Durati, but it’s so poorly handled that it comes off less like a deliberately laid out quilt of characters and plot and more like a pile of scraps and some glue. It doesn’t help that the exposiltion is everywhere with information being repeated first by one character, then the next. In one place the background was nicely implied only to have it baldly explained a few paragraphs later, and then re-explained in the following chapter.
The story, the hints of it, is interesting. The idea of watching someone who has difficulties with social interactions would make for an interesting main character in a romance novel, but I’m not convinced that the author meant it to come across the way I’m interpreting it. Between the writing, the clumsy time jumps, the heavy handed and over-explained infodumps, and the lack of development or personality in the main characters, I just can’t recommend this book.