Is a novel by a certain Abigail Gibbs, who is 18 years old, an Oxford student, and was in 2012 awarded a six-book deal for this novel, which is subtitled "Dinner with a Vampire," and its sequelae. This was because she was first discovered on Wattpad, which is kinda like Fanfiction.net but for original fiction and has some fribbling social networking thing about it as well. On this site, she racked up thousands and thousands of viewers for the tale... then HarperCollins signed her up before the volume was finished and so all her followers had to go and buy it to see how it ended.
This little tale doesn't exactly inspire confidence that it's any good, now, does it?
Well, I therefore considered it a prime candidate for snarking at. And I'm glad I did. Because this novel bites. (Drum fill.)
More reasons why fanfic-addled teenagers should not be allowed to write novels.
A bit more detail, if you wouldn't mind, hm?
Our heroine here is one Violet Lee, who is posh, seventeen, and the daughter of the Minister for Defence. She's out in London in Trafalgar Square late one night and she espies a sextet of vampires polishing off some other guys, nomming down on their blood, and dumping their body. But before she can raise the alarm, she's snatched off the street, chloroformed, and taken to the vampires super secret base, where she meets a bunch of other vampires. Naturally, they're all gorgeous fellas with their shirts hanging open and/or preternaturally gorgeous and perfect women.
Is it just me, or should this novel's title be changed to "Planet of the Mary Sues," n'est-ce pas?
Anyhow. Once she's been explained the situation and how the vampires are all perfectly normal and harmless and approximately as dangerous as a soufflé (they do eat people, yes, but only out of necessity, and they're predators, not murderers), she finds herself inducted into their underground society, in which they plot, plan, have extravagant masqued balls (to which she is invited), and generally being lusted after by bishie male vampires. Then, shock horror! One of the vampires tries to rape her, partially succeeds, and she has to be turned, well, half-turned, into a dhampir at least. Oh no! This is drastic! Now you probably reckon we're gonna get some brilliant personal horror and densely written, introspective character studying into he who fights with monsters, and so forth, now, don't you. Well... nope. Because that would be original and good, and this is neither. In case you haven't already noticed, it's The Vampire Lestat meets Mills & Boon on a bed of Twilight, and there seems to be bits lifted from classic World of Darkness as well, what with the vampires having kingdoms and princedoms and all plotting against each other, except without the fact that the vampires in cWOD are genuinely creepy and dangerous and can do unpleasant things to you for shiggles, and that one day the stars will align and their colossally powerful predecessors will come forth from beneath the earth and suchlike.
What actually happens is she falls in love with one of them, specifically, Kaspar, who is the other viewpoint character. He manages to be even creepier than Edward Cullen. He was one of the folks who kidnapped her, and held her hostage in a super secret vampire base God knows where, and threatened to slay her entire family if she tried to escape, and this is because, he claims, he loves her?!
I've thought of another new title for this book now: "Stockholm Syndrome: The Novel."
Anyhow. On to the writing. It sucks. In an attempt to cockwave about how erudite and sophisticate Ms Gibbs is, she opens it with a quote from William Blake. Unfortunately, and like many, nay, almost all, teenage writers, she cannot write a believable character. In fact, I am the venerable age of 27 and I am only just starting to be able to generate characters that are believable. This is because to make your characters act like people can believe they ought, you have to have life experiences. You have to get to know the reasons for which people act as they do. At 18, your experience of human interaction will be of necessity limited. I know mine was. My frame of reference when I was 18 was me, my mates Alexander, Craig, Spunky B (whose real name was Ben) and Lumpy Dave (whose real name was Adam - don't ask) who all played endless rounds of Magic the Gathering at lunchtimes, slaughtered each other at Unreal Tournament and Command & Conquer after school, and lied about how much crumpet we were slingin' our peckersnot up at the weekends. Hence, when I tried to write as a teenager, all my characters were, well, STANDARD NERDS! Even when at university, I still had limited frames of reference and experience on which to base believable characters because then it was STANDARD NERDS and university students. So my characters swung from caricature to caricature. So, the vampires of The Dark Heroine act like catty, spoilt teenagers towards each other and Violet. In fact, it might as well be set in a girls school in the south of England, such do they all come over as.
And this is the first of many problems with The Dark Heroine. Abigail Gibbs wrote most of this as a teenaged Twilight fangirl and, especially on a site like Wattpad, her entire audience was probably Twihards as well. She therefore had nobody to tell her, lassie, take note, people do not act like this. For instance, why would you say that Violet, our protagonist, is "feisty" yet have her do absolutely nothing but bellyache about how she's a hostage (albeit a hostage of scrummy vampire men). The plot is also bereft of sense. Why would an immortal, ageless, undead being have any meeting of minds or fancy for a teenager who he doesn't know, especially when there's thousands of tasty vampire women for him to bone, all of whom probably bang like a shit house door when the plague's in town. And why would he not immediately turn loose someone whose family was important as hers was, especially considering that the whole vampire secrecy thing is enforced by secret treaties with human governments, and pay her off to forget about it? Sense is not made by this, and let's be honest. Who's gonna believe a spoilt Robert Pattinson-addled teenager who claims that there's a secret cabal of vampires in London and they're out to have a big fuck-off war with each other? They're just gonna tell her that her Vampire: The Masquerade LARPing group isn't real and ignore her.
Then there's the whole excusing-an-abusive-manchild-and-kidnapper because he's hawt, which I've foamed about in previous writeups.
Then there's the fact that in just 334 pages, there's 61 chapters. The chapters are therefore short and stumpy. Yet while this can be used to make your novel all fast paced, it's really not a good idea when your protagonist spends her days moping about being captured and things go on around her. It breaks up the narrative flow, especially as the chapters keep changing just as you're getting into something. If ever the book has ADHD. No doubt this is caused by the fact that the novel originated on social networking, and we all know what that does to one's attention span.
Then there's the fact that the writing style is bland as a very bland thing. I don't think there are any actual sex scenes (I kinda skimmed the last half of the novel because it was completely failing to engage any interest) but if there are, I bet you anything they're of the "insert tab A into slot B" variety.
Finally, I should mention that in the acknowledgements she refers to her 16 million readers on Wattpad as "kaspary." Pass the sickbags.
So that's about it really. If you were thinking that surely 16 million internet users can't be wrong, well... yes, yes they can, and here is the evidence. It's a lazily written sub-Twilight knockoff, flatly written, with no originality, and no believability. That the author netted a six-book deal with it boggles the mind, because I'd rather have teeth pulled than read this again.
And just in case Abigail Gibbs is reading this (which I suspect she will eventually, as I'm gonna cross-post all my reviews of books on here onto Amazon), then yes, I could do better, and one day, should I feel the need to, I will. However I'm still stuck at 39,000 words in "Hazelnut's Completely Indomitable Law Procedural" right now, so expect "Hazelnut's Utterly Bodacious Vampire Novel" much later.
In the meantime, I'm off to read some Sheridan Le Fanu.