Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Review: The President's Vampire
Let's face it, with Twilight and its related ilk, vampires were denigrated to brooding, emasculated visions of adolescent girls' dreams. In Blood Oath, Christopher Farnsworth reversed that trend; in The President's Vampire, he takes it a step further.
Cade and his human handler, Zach Barrows, come up against an evil that Cade first confronted in Innsmouth, Massachusetts in 1928 (yes, that Innsmouth, Massachusetts in 1928), only since that time, it has mutated into something he had never seen. The trust and betrayals are more intimate, more personal this time, as is the horror.
Farnsworth has definitely come into his stride with The President's Vampire. As with Blood Oath, many of the chapters begin with excerpts from various sources; some fictional, others real; that give you glimpses into Cade and who he is. Additionally, the use of flashback chapters provide a depth to both the character and the narrative without detracting from the story or its overall flow. The dynamic between Barrows and Cade is filled with tension and a growing respect as the two continue to work with and begin to trust one another.
Part suspense/spy novel, part horror, it is to Farnsworth's credit that he does not rely on violence, blood, and gore to tell the story or to shock the reader. Cade's vampirism definitely augments what he does, but in a very Miltonian twist, just as you grow comfortable with him as a character, and perhaps even begin to like and sympathize with him, Cade does or says something that reminds you exactly what he really is: a predator that only barely resembles a human being:
"And what would you do with them? Terrorists. Traitors. Murderers. How would you handle them?"
Cade showed his teeth.
"I would kill them all," Cade said, his voice flat. "I would burn their cities until the desert fused to glass. I would tear the wombs from their mothers. I would poison their babies and dismember their children. And then I would drown the men in the blood of their families."
Graves stared back at him for a moment.
"But then, I'm not human," Cade said. "I don't need an excuse to act like a monster." (p. 81)
The supporting cast of this series, notably Zach Barrows and a female vampire named Tania, are also developing into intriguing characters in their own right. Barrows is becoming more comfortable in his role and establishing a certain and definite confidence in his work and with his partner. Tania provides an interesting foil to Cade, even as both of them struggle with the remaining vestiges of their humanity.
The story itself is fast-paced and filled with enough tension to keep one reading late into the night, yet Farnsworth masterfully counterbalances it at just at the right moments as to not exhaust the reader. In addition, Farnsworth has capitalized on the technology available in the 21st century with a website that further enhances and deepens his fictional world. (As far as I've seen, only Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass Wars series has capitalized on this concept as well.)
As a general observation, this series started off well and continues to develop strongly. I'm looking forward to book #3.
From G.P. Putnam's Sons (a division of Penguin Group Publishing) and available at your local, independent bookstore. (Shop local and independent...it makes a difference!!)