Posted by: Sarah | May 10, 2011

Review for Fangs Rule: A Girls Guide to being a Vampire by Amy Mah (Vampire)

I’m going to try a new format for my reviews since some of my previous reviews wandered into the realm of rants.  I will list three good things and three bad things about the item being reviewed.  If I cannot think of that many I will say so outright.

A little explanation before the actual review:  This is not a young adult novel.  It is a cross between a dictionary and a fictional ethnography in some ways.  The format of the book is a series of definitions, cultural explanations, and lists of rules of behavior spanning from A to Z.  There are some small personal stories included throughout from the point of view of Amy Mah, Vampire – the narrator/author of this “journal.”

Amy May's Fangs Rule

Pros (the good) in no particular order:

1.  There are many cute and/or funny things within this book.  The character/author’s voice can be quite funny at times, especially when discussing the side characters – Amy’s boyfriend Max, and his sister Ice, who also happens to be her best friend.  I would have liked to see more about this.  While I don’t really like the following expectations, they’re funny:  Female vampires are expected to wear semi-transparent nighties while out hunting while guys are supposed to wear like the more stereotyped vampire outfits of suits and cloaks.  This does induce some laughs because Amy rebels against the spirit of the rule while still following it.  She MAY wear her filmy nightgown, but she’s going to wear other clothes underneath it.

2.  The vampires in this book are not the usual undead monster.  The “alpha” and “beta” vampires are an entirely different species from humans and are not undead at all.  Alpha vampires are supposedly the top tier vampires in terms of power, while the betas are basically all the rest of the species.  The vampires people tend to think of are still present they are just not the only type.  The undead vampires are actually ones that were created by the alpha and beta vampires from humans.  I like it when authors reinterpret traditional fairy tales, folklore, or urban myths.  The vampires of the highest castes in this work are more like animals than humans in many ways – very strong sense of smell, ability to detect pheromones and actually realize it, excellent night vision, a type of hive mentality, fertility cycles in the form of going into heat, etc.  I’m not fond of the whole going into heat idea, but there are some pluses:  it’s not usually used with vampires so it’s creative in that way and girls don’t have to worry about pregnancy except while in heat (so sexuality is not as punished in females as it is in many cultures all over the world in reality).

3.  The illustrations in this are mostly wonderful manga-style* pieces.  Several are even printed in color, which is not something I see in most illustrated works of prose.  The print quality of the illustrations is very nice, and most of it is pretty well-detailed.  Amy Mah is the author of the book, but is not the illustrator; Heby Sim is.

*Manga = Japanese comics.  I have noticed that there are several art styles among Japanese comics that I have not seen in Western comics, so I and others have considered the use of these art styles in non-Japanese comics to be “manga-style.”  Many of these styles are characterized by oversized eyes, small noses and small mouths, as well as hair that is drawn as curved spikes (for males usually).

Cons (the bad) in no particular order:

1.  Even though Vampires are monsters, in many young adult works they are given redeeming characteristics or are portrayed as sympathetic characters.  That is only slightly so in this work.  Amy Mah is a vampire who is rebellious against patriarchal society and overly controlling parents, similar to other (normal) teenagers.  At the same time, she is seemingly ok with and/or even approving of at least two methods of genocide, murder, slavery, and perhaps rape.  “Inferior” vampires are not allowed to have children or are even killed off to prevent their “inferior” genetic material for re-entering the gene pool.  That’s genocide, considering inferiority is in the eye of the beholder, and not something truly concrete and this kind of behavior is not acceptable in any way.  Vampires in this culture that Amy Mah describes do not have to kill to get enough blood to sustain themselves, but many choose to.  Amy includes herself in that number.  In many young adult vampire stories, the main character is at least trying not to kill people.  Slavery – the made vampires are considered inferior and are used as slaves.  The females are turned into eternal maids and are seemingly used as sexual outlets for the male vampires – which is where the rape concern comes in.  At one point in the book, Amy says something to the effect that unwanted sexual advances should be aimed not at the alpha and beta females but at the maids.  She says the male might lose some body parts if he made unwanted sexual advances to females of her type of vampire, but that’s what the maids were for.   This either is saying that the maids are always open to sexual advances or that their preferences do not matter.  Even though at times Amy states things that sound like she loves her own personal undead maid, there are times when it’s entirely too apparent that she feels she is above her and superior to her in every way.

2.  There really needs to be more personal stories and situations included.  The most interesting part of this work were the stories about Amy’s family, her boyfriend Max, and her best friend Ice – only problem with that is that there were very, very, few of them.  There were strikingly few stories about Max and Ice (who happen to be siblings).  No stories of Amy getting into trouble with them or how she met them, etc.

3.  Also, Amy was not always part of this vampire “nest.”   She was raised in a human family, and that is never really explained.  She seems entirely uninfluenced by her time with her human family (which is what she calls them, yet she does not seem to care about them or about humans in general).  She says she was “rescued” from her human family, yet never explains why she was with humans in the first place, or how the vampires found her.  My problem here is the lack of information and development in this aspect of the story, which considering this is almost directly responsible for her need to write the guide, is extremely overlooked.  She also states that she started writing the guide in her journal when she was still living with her human family, but how did she know enough about other vampires to write about them if she wasn’t in a nest?

Manga-style Author Portrait

For the first 3/4ths or so of the book I did enjoy reading it, although I had to force myself to overlook certain things that I have mentioned before – until I just couldn’t and had to take a break in reading it.  There are some other details that are heavily covered in the book that some teenagers may be uncomfortable with but which are sometimes funny (I wouldn’t have been uncomfortable with them, but that’s because I started reading romance books when I was 13 and so I quickly stopped blushing while reading about sex).  The artwork was the best part of the book for me, and I looked forward to seeing the next illustration.

You can find more information about Amy Mah and Fangs Rule at this Facebook Page, the book website, and at Amy Mah’s Blog.

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Responses

  1. Thank you for the great blog post. Glad to have you at Mystical Book Blog Tours.


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