Review by D.A Lascelles
Bites is well named because the title not only ties in with the topic of the first story – Vampires – and the name of the publisher but it also represents what this book actually is – a couple of bite sized chunks of story that let you sample the author and decide if you like her or not. There are two distinct ‘bites’ in this book – two short novellas that could not be more different.
The first, ‘Last of the Blood’, is a typical vampire story. A rich historiologue (a name I just made up, like a travelogue but through history) takes us from the embrace of our hero, Damon, during the First World War right through his existence as a Vampire. Along the way he comes into conflict with his own kind, specifically in the form of an ambitious Russian Countess, and tries to come to terms with his own immortality. As mentioned, the history is rich and well described and there is an interesting story in Damon’s conflict with his own kind. However, I fear the story suffers due to its short nature. Each chapter jumps ahead in time to key points in Damon’s life and gives us a brief précis of what has lead to this point before leaping into the action. This makes the whole book read like an overture rather than a completed symphony and you cannot help but want to see some of the action that is described in more detail. Of course, any book which attempted to fully describe all the events which take place over the 100 or so years this story covers could spread to several volumes, much like Ann Rice’s Vampire novels, so maybe we can forgive Hayes for being concise on this occasion in order to whet our appetite for more. It’s possible she intends to expand on this in future novels in order to fill in those missing years and that would not be a bad thing at all.
The second offering, ‘Demonica’, is a completely different collection of supernatural entities. Here we are taken to a mythical Eden, which perches precariously between the two realms of Heaven (Isola dell’Angelo) and Hell (Palazzo Inferno), and is inhabited by the mortal descendents of Adam and Eve who were not exiled with their parents. The story follows Irina, an Edenite who lives with her mother and who is brought up with the tales of Lylith, mother of the demons, and the other mythology of their world. When she comes of age, she knows there is a chance that either a demon or an angel will come to claim her to work for them and, while her mother has hopes that an angel will come Irina is secretly wishing for a demon. When a demon comes to select her, Irina thinks that her fate is sealed to be one of them but the presence of an unusual birthmark throws everything into confusion…
The world of Eden is well described, especially the intrigues of the Palazzo Inferno, and the names used for places reveal Hayes’ Italian heritage. There are some good ideas for the origins of creatures like werewolves and vampires in this and there are also some novel thoughts on the fall of Lucifer covered. ‘Demonica’ is more of a complete story than ‘First of the Blood’ in that all the action that occurs is shown rather than told and it is a very easy and entertaining read. There is a slight problem which might cause some readers to have issues. Throughout the story, Hayes refers to ‘gods’ rather than ‘god’. I personally like this as a neat little twist in the theology but I can see some being uncomfortable with the idea of taking god out of the Eden story.
In all, both stories show great promise for a writer who is only just beginning to dip her toes in the big, shark infested waters of publishing. What we need to see now from Hayes is for her to put her whole foot in and get a full length novel out.