A Dark Vampire Story
As much as I hoped, A Journey of Black and Red by Alex Gilbert did not get its hooks in me.
Firstly, I want to commend the author on the effort they put into the stream-of-conscious type first-person narration of the main character. As a reader, you become intimately involved in every feeling, desire, and passing thought that the main character Ariane has. Ariane is a southern belle type of woman in the south in the 1800s. There are certain sensibilities and characterizations that one associates with this era that the author hints at. It helps explain some of Ariane’s thoughts, reactions, and rationales. However, one of the initial problems I ran into was that the author’s style of dialog left me disconnected from the world Ariane found herself in.
For example, the first few lines of the book are:
“Where… where am I?
I take a deep breath in, which promptly turns into a coughing fit as I spit… something on the ground.
Agh! Disgusting. This is entirely too disgraceful.
I hope there is no one around to witness my shame! The thought is born and dies in an instant.
I struggle to remain calm, but I can already feel the onset of panic. I smell dampness, old stones, and rust.
This is not my bedroom, nor is it any hospital I would be sent to. What has happened? I am lost.”
Description-wise, the author nails Ariane’s confusion about her situation. Still, as a reader, I need more visual descriptions of the situation around Ariane, so I can anchor her to a point. It wasn’t enough to see the world through Ariane’s eyes because if I have no anchor point to build her situation on and around, Ariane can not fully flesh out to me. She is in a room, and it smells damp. It could be anything from a castle to a battleship. Obviously, as we go on a bit, we realize that it is a cell. But I still lack a connection to the outside world. This might be entirely me as a reader, so your results may vary.
I want to be clear that there is a lot of good going on in the story. The political intrigue that Ariane faces is interesting. And, you slowly see her blossom and come into her own. I also enjoyed how Gilbert wrote the vampires to be more animalistic and less human. These are creatures that suck blood, heal, and are unbelievably strong. They are hunters, pure and simple, and should behave that way. There are no sparkly vampires in Ariane’s world.
I think if I had continued the story, I DNF at 23%; I would see Ariane fight, learn, and earn her place among the creatures of vampire society. She would become the dangerous huntress. And going by all of the super 5-star ratings for the novel, if you like vampire fiction and first-person narrative style, this is absolutely the book for you. But due to my lack of connection to the world outside Ariane’s inner monologue, I had to cut this.