The fifth novel for my 26 Book 2017 Reading Challenge has probably been my most disappointing so far. I read/listened via audiobook to Vlad by Carlos Fuentes, a short novel originally written in Spanish. I had such high hopes for the novel. Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is one of my favorite books due to the grotesque descriptions that are almost beautiful. I was under the impression that this short novel was meant to be a follow-up to the Dracula legend. The basic plot is Yves Navarro and his wife, Asunción, help a new gentleman, Vladimir Radu, set up a home in Mexico City.
While the novel was well written, had vivid descriptions, and caused a deep uncomfortableness to set in at just the right moments, it felt lacking in something. Maybe I expected it to be a retelling of the Dracula story in Mexico City and it really wasn’t? The story focused on Navarro and his relationship with his wife. They had lost a son to the sea. Navarro said they need to move forward and live on. However, Asunción would have drained the sea to discover a body. She never fully recovered from their son’s death. Their individual decisions at the end of the novel echo how well they were or were not able to survive following their son’s disappearance. They had a daughter too. She ended up being an important part of the novel and a foil to the short lived life of their son, but you hardly see her until the little girl until the end. Since the book is from Navarro’s POV, the lack of discussion of his daughter demonstrates that Navarro did not really pay attention to her until he desired to rescue her from the vampire’s clutches. He discussed his wife throughout the novel, but mostly when describing their sex life in great detail. She seemed to be merely an object of his life otherwise consumed by work. Work was the most important thing to Navarro and he had done much to make sure he succeeded in his job as a lawyer.
Overall, it was an intriguing and grotesque story. If you enjoy reading magical realism novels by Latin American authors you would enjoy it. His writing style matches many of the short stories I read in my Spanish classes in college. Latin American storytelling tradition has a beautiful way of incorporating magical realism into its stories, which is probably why I had expected so much from Vlad.
My next novel in the 26 book 2017 Reading Challenge is Someday I’ll Be Redeemed, a self-published novel by Kelly Blanchard. This blend of fantasy and sci-fi is a work of art. I love the combination of the kingdoms. Each kingdom is unique and has its own sets of codes and values regarding technology, magic, and morality. Blanchard has woven together a fantastic tale of love and hate that makes you eager to pick up the next book in the series.
I’ll start off by saying I discovered this author through an online writing group. I liked her encouragement and support in the group. Some time after learning she had a sci-fi fantasy book published, I ordered a signed copy through her directly! I love supporting local authors when possible and am always excited to see what kind of stories they craft.
I am an odd reader in the sense that if there is a book I truly enjoy I want to sit down and plow through it, but if my schedule doesn’t allow for this I put it on my desk in plain view for a time when I can sit down and finish it with fewer breaks. Therefore, some of my favorite novels will sit on my desk right before the crazy action is sure to begin. It will sit and wait. Wait for me to return. This is a horrible habit of mine. This situation occurs most often when I am reading The Dresden Files for some reason. It happened with this book, which means it must have caught my attention and I was super excited about what would happen next in the story. Right before Blanchard takes us on the journey to finding answers I stopped reading for a few busy weeks. I wanted to have the time to sit down and read it all at once. Eventually, I picked it up again and was not disappointed.
The characters are fun and intriguing. However, I had a difficult time keeping up with all the characters, not to mention remembering what country they were from. I ended up determining who my favorite characters were: Lorrek, Vixen, Therth, Erita, and Heldon. Then I focused on their stories and simply kept in mind the other characters they interacted with regularly. Part of my difficulty had to do with changing character perspectives. At the beginning of the novel I would finally get used to one character and their voice, but then I would be yanked to another character who I hadn’t built any connection with at that point. Building connections with characters is extremely important to me, which is why I was so excited when we would be delving into Lorrek’s head at a certain point of the story. However, it ended up reading more like a global flashback than a memory that belonged to him alone. Regardless, this section was still my favorite part of the novel, as the author continued developing the world and the plot in a concise and stunning way. I will also note that the transitions got much smoother in the later chapters and by the end of the novel I hardly noticed the changing perspectives.
Overall, I recommend this novel if you’re interested in sci-fi, fantasy, or both. Blanchard builds a beautiful world and crafts an intricate plot. It is a good read and makes you want to know more and see where the journey takes our protagonists.