Posted by: Sarah | January 9, 2011

Review of The Vampire Sonnets

I was recently sent information about an opportunity to review The Vampire Sonnets by David Nelson Bradsher and this is what I thought about the “verse drama.”  Beware, spoilers ahead.  Some spoilers anyway.

I’ve honestly been burned out on the vampire sub-genre of fiction, and I thought that a vampire story written in a new way would help reawaken my love for it.  If the tale had been well constructed, with characters I could in any way like, that would have been true.  What I found in The Vampire Sonnets was a story full of clichés and characters that flopped back and forth between one thing and another. The characters were also hard to like because many of them were very alike and less developed than I would have liked, especially considering the not-so-subtle use of the names of famous British poets.  For example, William Shakespeare is one of the vampires, as is Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Other possible vampire poets include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and George Herbert.

The story is told mainly from the point of view of Tristan Grey, a newly turned vampire, although there are some sonnets that seem to be written from the point of view of other characters.  Tristan is characterized throughout the verse drama as being inhuman and then human again (in his mentality), loving his so-called “brothers,”  who are the vampires his new vampire mistress/queen turned before him, and then hating them for being unrepentant monsters.  I understand that because the author is writing this story in the form of several sonnets (which, in total, span less than 100 pages) that he will be somewhat constrained in the construction of his world and characters.  That is no excuse, however, for having inconsistent characterizations.

Starting off with the main character Tristan; he is the worst offender of the crime of “wishy-washy” mentality.  Some sonnets, he is without a conscience, a vampire willing and able to kill those he feeds upon.  Then in one sonnet, he decides he’s going to stop feeding all together, after having killed a prostitute.  There is no indication as to why this particular woman was the catalyst to his change of heart, or that he had just killed to many people to continue “living” as he was.  It’s very abrupt, and makes later passages seem to be even more out-of-place, if this is to be taken as truth.  Later in the verse drama, he is angered over human beings who are hunting vampires and who have captured one of his “brothers,” Samuel.  Tristan thinks of nothing but anger, hatred, and death to the humans because they have dared to capture one of his beloved brothers.  This is in spite of the fact that there really seems to be no reason for him to even like any of the other vampires, especially since they seemed hostile or indifferent to his being added to their number, except that the author decrees that it be so.  It’s a case of telling the audience that he loves his brothers-in-undeath instead of showing why he should and why he has come to feel as we are told he does. Even later than this, Tristan and a dear friend of his from before becoming a vampire meet and he feels very little of the old sentiment at that time.  Then near the end of the verse drama, they’re back to being best buds, at least in Tristan’s eyes.  It is just inconsistently done, especially considering how it could have been made believable if there were more sonnets to flesh out the storyline and characters.

All of the poet-vampires are underdeveloped as characters, making me think that Bradsher bit off more than he could chew.  They are all very similar, with only small snippets of personality, aside from William.  He is still a pretty “cardboard” character, and seems to have lost almost all of what made him special as a human.  The vampire mistress/queen of this “coven” is Nina, who is about as psycho as they come.  She, like Tristan, flies to both ends of the characterization spectrum.  This could actually be accepted though, as the parts where she claims to love her vampire creations, including Tristan, could possibly be showing a mask she uses to manipulate others.  There’s also some inconsistency with her appearance; at times she is as beautiful and seductive as a siren, and somewhat characterized as such, while at others she is envisioned as a crone, with wrathful red eyes and entombed in a body in varying states of decay.  This is again, a part that could be accepted as good characterization if there had been any kind of explanation of vampire powers indicating that she could hide what she truly looked like under some kind of glamor.  Besides having enhanced speed, strength and healing capabilities, the vampires are not attributed any “powers.”

SPOILERS AHEAD, BEWARE

The characters were the biggest problem I had with this work.  I didn’t like the story in part because I didn’t care enough about any of the characters to care what they did, if they died, or whether or not they found their magically reincarnated love from their past life, who, oddly enough, cannot be turned into a vampire.  Yes, I said it, and it’s true:  Tristan’s love from his mortal life is back, and without a vengeance, as she… dies again.  Cliché time:  Tristan’s mortal beloved is somehow able to “cure” him of some of his vampire-ness because he can stand the sun – sometimes.  Then the evil vampiress who transformed him kills her, even though there’s no mention of how she found out about Maggie/Mary.  It just happened one night, by “the author says so” magic.  I already didn’t like the story, as it didn’t seem to be really building in any way, and then this particular storyline threw it over a bridge.

In terms of writing, outside of the story and the characters, the sonnets are mostly well done in terms of technicality.  There was one sonnet which had a mistake that disqualified it as a sonnet – a word left out is really important in poetry, especially when it is distinct from other types of poetry through specific requirements in rhyme and meter.  There were some issues I had with some of the words picked; “vampire” was replaced with words I don’t consider synonymous, such as “demon,” “incubus,” “succubus,” and “siren.”  There may be certain similarities among these fictional creatures, but I do not consider them the same thing.  I also had issue with the word “coven” as I consider that to mean a group of witches, although it is apparently a sometimes valid term for a group of vampires.  I’d never heard it used this way until this verse drama, so I looked it up. A few sources listed it as correct, while others listed the correct term as “clan,” “flock,” or even “pack,” which I feel pertains more to werewolves.  The reason the terminology bothers me is because this is a story told in poetry, and it is a very short book of work.  Every single word is going to count more than in a normal novel length work.  Every word is important to the imagery that the audience will create in their minds when reading this, and having a term that seems incorrect can completely burst your bubble of creativity.

Honestly, I think if I elaborated any more on why I didn’t like this work, I might make a bully of myself, if I haven’t succeeded already in that regard.

Edit:  Although I didn’t like this particular work, you might.  Here is a link for further information:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47383438565

And we also have pictures of the cover and the author:

Secondary Edit:  I left out certain details and discussions on certain characters so as to not be entirely spoiler-ish.

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Responses

  1. Thank you for your review of this book! There are so many vampire stories out there, and it is refreshing to see that character, storyline, and structure are all things you considered when rating the quality of this one. This was very helpful.

    • As I’m still getting to know this blog software, I found myself looking on my blog for your comment, but I had to approve it before it would be “published.” (I just thought that was funny.) I do try to think of all those things in the books I read now because I know when I was younger I was much more easily pleased and would sometimes overlook authors committing naughtinesses to their world, story, or characters because I was still influenced by how much I’d enjoyed their earlier works.


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