Bryson Miller, almost 17, has a lot of tough stuff to deal with, including lingering grief over his mother’s early death and his father’s alcoholism. Talk about going from bad to worse: At a party, he’s turned into a teenage vampire. Then, while pushing his girlfriend out of the way of an oncoming bus, he’s struck and killed. Now he’s a dead teenage vampire. As an 8-foot-tall, blue-skinned, toga-clad being explains to the confused, hurting Bryson: “Here’s the deal. This is the Underworld….I’m a god, your god, the Creator of Vampires, to be precise,” aka the God of Temptation and Eternal Fury. Few further explanations are forthcoming for Bryson, just unconvincing reassurances from his terrifying bat-winged mentor, Lupe. Things improve somewhat when Bryson makes friends with Jeremy, a gargoyle, and when Bryson finally learns of his new, satisfying job: using empathic abilities to heal souls. As the book ends, Bryson—though he mistrusts Eternal Fury—accepts the god’s assignment to cross temporarily back into the Physical World and prevent a girl’s kidnapping. In her debut novel, Thompson offers a thoughtful, sensitive and modest young hero with a wry sense of humor, a strong moral compass and courage. For instance, he’s endearingly glad to make a best friend in the Underworld. The drawback is that Bryson spends a huge chunk of the book reeling in pain and shock, learning the rules or engaged in empathic understanding, and the book, the first in a planned series, ends just as he learns important information about his past incarnation and is about to do something actively adventurous; this doesn’t seem like the whole story. Also, while Bryson’s progression of challenges is intriguing, all the emotional loose ends from his Physical World life are frustrating.
A genre-busting, surprisingly thoughtful novel, though inconclusive.