In Gronwald’s first novel, modern-day San Francisco is home to a secret underground culture seething with vampires, werewolves, witches and other supernatural beings.
New to the numbers of magical creatures living in the Golden Gate city is Sabine who, bitten by a vampire on a Halloween night, has joined the ranks of the undead. But in the novel’s opening chapters, she is then returned to breathing life, only to be staked through the heart and buried in her grave. Weird new supernatural forces have converged in Sabine, and she is something unique to the world of sorcery and vampirism—a fierce half-alive fighting machine that seeks sharp revenge for the wrongs done by monsters to her and others. Sabine and her friends navigate the labyrinth of vampire politics and assassinations in pursuit of Neville, the one who made her, and who has darker plans for The City by the Bay. Secrets are revealed, and memories are erased and traded at will. Werewolves attack; bonds of blood are broken, and Sabine discovers that there is a spectrum of vampirism—some are more human than others. Fast-paced action and humor abound. Romance is sprinkled in, and the standard-issue World of Darkness/Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Underworld worldbuilding bears scrutiny. The telepathic conversations sometimes confuse, particularly when the dialogue goes without attribution. Amusing nicknames such as “Vampire Barbie” offset the sometimes clunky dialogue and breezy, lightweight, slightly flat characterization. The cast’s names offer commentary in the text, too, given the fate of the historical Sabine Women and the observation that “evil” is in the middle of “Neville.” The fact that the villains have succeeded in magically turning a dead person (admittedly a vampire, but a dead person all the same) back into a living person is nonchalantly discussed throughout the novel, though it means that someone in the story has actually conquered death itself. Regular genre readers will be unsurprised that the book sets up a trilogy.
A satisfying bagatelle of horror-lite dark vampire fantasy.