[EDIT: Please note that the Twilight reference in the title, which has met some disapproval, is in no way suggesting that Kolodziej’s vampires sparkle nor that she makes use of the themes of abstinence/virginity. Rather, it is drawing a comparison between the two plots: both contain an unassuming, clumsy main character who falls irrevocably in love with a mysterious love interest who is actually a vampire. She then turns out to be special in some way, which makes her a precious commodity. Also, there are werewolves.]
Following the short interview of the main character of this book, here comes my review. Many thanks to the author for the review copy.
Vampyre Kisses by Elizabeth J. Kolodziej
The current popularity of vampire and werewolf literature has brought forward many new writers to the genre, amongst which Elizabeth J. Kolodziej, whose debut novel Vampyre Kisses takes much inspiration from bestseller favourites.
Vampyre Kisses follows twenty-something Faith, whose boring working life is turned upside-down when the mysterious Trent sets his sights on her. Their budding relationship brings her into contact with the other side of New York—a world of vampires, werewolves, and witches—and soon Faith is neck-deep in an evil conspiracy, fighting to restore peace by recovering stolen vampire and werewolf gems. Melding together a mixture of supernatural lore, Kolodziej creates a complex world of conflicting factions, romance, and self-discovery.
Vampyre Kisses is an ambitious first novel, epic in scope and complex in its world-building—and while it succeeds on some fronts, it falls short on others.
One of the novel’s strongest points is its highly detailed world-building, which combines contemporary vampire, werewolf, and witch lore with older myths such as Circe and ancient gods. As a matter of fact, my favourite character was Oran the volucris, a shape-shifting flying cat who can grow from the size of a kitten with wings to a giant leopard you can fly on. On top of that, not only were all supernatural factions represented, but their respective nemeses as well: slayers, hunters, and Salt Whips. Kolodziej has clearly put a lot of thought and research into the setting—perhaps even to her own detriment, as occasionally certain facts and myths were discussed despite having no bearing on the plot.
Not only is the world-building complex, but the plot covers a vast scope as well: throughout the course of the novel Faith discovers the supernatural, realizes she is the last witch alive, falls in love with Trent, trains and grows into her powers, and recovers the stolen gems in a major final battle. That is a lot of ground to cover in a 200+ page novel, and I feel the characterization suffered as a result — so much happens that we don’t have the time to get to know the characters.
Faith’s progression from weak ‘normal’ human to capable witch comes about rather suddenly, Faith and Trent’s relationship for the most part skips the delicious uncertain stage and jumps right to the honeymoon, and even the initial reveal comes too quickly—for someone with no knowledge of the supernatural world, Faith is far too observant of Trent’s ‘otherness’ for it to be believable (e.g. thinking he is “too pale even for the city” where a normal person would rationalize his paleness).
Also hurting the characterization were the numerous one-dimensional background characters, amongst which the villains, and the werewolf and vampire extras. It doesn’t help that many of the names used were lacking in originality—other than the protagonists, there was Mr Zack Zanwick (Faith’s boss), and even a club called Club X.
As for the writing, like with many debuts, Vampyre Kisses reads very much like a first novel, complete with purple prose of the Twilight variety. A distinguishing factor is that the chapters alternate between Faith’s and Trent’s first person point of view, which gives the reader some interesting insight, although the style is not always consistent: the one-off chapter from Morgan’s point of view and the last three chapters in third person were a little jarring.
Furthermore, while I enjoyed the switching point of view between Faith and Trent, the several repeated scenes (first from Faith’s point of view, then from Trent’s) were a little tedious—the tactic worked well initially, but lost its efficacy with subsequent repetitions.
Overall, Kolodziej has some talent, but it’s still rather raw and underdeveloped. Vampyre Kisses would be a much stronger piece if it were made more cohesive and — most importantly – tighter. Streamlined. Kolodziej has some wonderful ideas which lose their power in the execution, but as this is the first in a series I can only hope Kolodziej will continue to improve and give readers the chance to fall in love with her characters.
This book is one of my 100+ Reading Challenge!