Disclaimer: I consider the author a friend; I received an electronic advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
The first thing you notice about this novella is the vibrant narrative voice. You learn everything you need to know about the main character and his circumstances within the first chapter, during the inciting incident, without any hint of the dreaded “info dump.” I was fascinated by this vampire before I ever learned his name.
It soon becomes obvious that this vampire, Andrew, is not a “good man.” But he’s a great vampire. The author uses the basics of the mythology to create a monster suitable for her world and plot purposes, while making it clear that it is impossible to judge him by the standards of human morality. Luckily, the starring human, Edmund the wandering naturalist, is a perfect match for Andrew. His own unique quirks and personal history make him an equally intriguing character. His discovery of, and reaction to, Andrew’s vampirism is satisfying in a way that gives you hope for a relationship you can’t quite help cheering for. This is not a love story I ever expected to read, and even though “ancient vampire + madcap human” feels like it should be quite a trope, Andrew and Edmund are a whirlwind pair who challenge and delight each other.
The structure of this novella is a perfect blend of present-day action and flashbacks to show how Andrew got into this particular situation. I also appreciated the realism of a hot and sweaty climate (on both the island and in New Orleans), including sensory details that too many authors brush over as inconvenient, un-sexy, or both.
I almost didn’t read this story. Cannibals are one of my biggest “nopes” in fiction, but the author manages them well here. They are not cliched island savages — instead, they are monstrous creatures almost as mythical as Andrew himself. Though this tale is the first in a trilogy, it does not end on a cliffhanger. The author sets great expectations for this world she has created in further installments of the Escape Trilogy.