Witches, vampires, and vampire hunters tangle in this middle-grade adventure.
Ten-year-old Henrietta “Etty” Steele thinks that all vampires drink blood and are evil, pale, coldblooded, and emotionless. She also believes that they see poorly in bright light, have “extremely white” teeth, and stink like cabbage and other rank substances. She knows this because her no-nonsense mother, Felicity Steele, told her so. Felicity is married to a much-loved grocer, but she isn’t very friendly herself. Neither does she put bows in Etty’s hair or encourage her to make friends. Instead, Felicity, as an undercover vampire hunter, expects her daughter to develop supernatural hunting skills. She trains Etty in cemetery reconnaissance and how to kill vampires that transform into bats. However, Etty is perplexed when her skills remain weak despite nonstop summer practice. She’s also confused by a gentle, stuttering vampire boy named Vladimir Nox, who doesn’t smell a bit noxious. It terrifies her when her only friend, April Showers, whose style is as bright and cheerful as hers is dark, befriends him. Like Etty and April, Vladimir has a first name he dislikes, so he asks to be called “Dimi” instead. April’s kind attitude toward him causes Etty to reconsider what she thinks she knows about vampires. Debut author Grave, a former primary school teacher, deftly draws readers into the story via Etty’s perspective with simple yet creepy language (“The further we walked, the darker the graveyard became”). There are some moments of violence in the brisk text, but the author effectively counters the tension with humor, as when Felicity slyly compliments a “ratty” vampire on his teeth that look “almost perfect,” and he replies, “I brush twice a day.” The book has a less-than-happy ending, but this may also lead to real-life discussions about parent-child conflicts.
A fun, fast-paced, and spooky read that may get young readers talking.