Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Vampire's Promise by Caroline B. Cooney

3 books in one consisting of Deadly Offers (originally The Cheerleader), Evil Returns (originally The Return of the Vampire) and Fatal Bargain (originally The Vampire's Promise) - Published in 1991, 1992 and 1993, respectively

There's a vampire living in the creepy old tower at the bottom of the hill, but he's not your usual creature of the night. This vampire makes promises and grants wishes . . . for a price.

When he offers Althea, Devnee, and Lacey the things they want most, the girls must decide how much they are willing to pay.

Simple arrangements, evil consequences. The girls will learn to be careful what they wish for . . . but they'll learn it the hard way.
(book back blurb)

That blurb is a bit of a misnomer because Lacey doesn't fit into that. Her situation's entirely different and is actually the polar opposite of the other two girls. But I'll get back to that in a moment.

Normally I review these compilation books separately because they are separate books but it just would have been redundant, even for a series so a 3 books in 1 review is what you're going to get.

The first two, Deadly Offer and Evil Returns are pretty much the same story, just with different names. Both girls are considered plain, boring and invisible. I think under any other circumstances they would have been considered just normal girls but these books are about severe stereotypes. You get one mould and that's what you fit into. So you have the plain Janes that want nothing more than to be pretty and popular and loved and not dull.

They both live in this old Victorian mansion and a vampire lives in between these inside and outside shutters in the tower room of the house (I'll come back to the vampire in a moment). He bleeds into their lives, offers them wishes, or really answers wishes, in return for a life. In order to get you have to give. They wish for popularity and smarts and friends and boyfriends and in return the people that were once popular get tapped by the vampire and, essentially, trade places with the Janes.

In the end the Janes feel guilty, rescind their wishes and feel that it's better to be plain and normal and boring and win people over the old fashion way instead of sucking the life from those that have what you want in order to achieve it. Nice, happy, resolved endings.

Seriously, those two books were the exact same thing. So much so that I thought it was a waste of my time to read the second one but I kept reading thinking that maybe something different would happen, you know? No. The exact same storyline with the exact same characters, just with different names.

The third book, Fatal Bargain, was the redemption. It was completely different than the other two. Whereas the first two had the extreme stereotypes (the jocks, the pretty girls, the plain girls, the popular people), this one had more balance. People weren't shunned but at the same time you were able to get into their heads and see what they were thinking about everyone else around them. They all fit their own moulds but the walls weren't so high that they couldn't climb out of them. The characters actually had depth. They had dimensions and at the end of the story they were something more than paper dolls.

What I didn't get was the insistence that Lacey was an airhead. It was said a fair amount of times but her actions didn't reflect those words. She ended up being the strongest out of the entire group and when I said she didn't fit the mould of the other two, Althea and Devnee, she never made any wishes. That was never the situation in this story.

The other two girls lived in that house with their families but in the last book, the house was abandoned and the kids were partying in it. They had woken up the vampire and he wasn't in a wishing mood. He gave them the option of sacrificing one for him to feed on so the rest could leave. That was it. No pretty looks or popularity to be given. Lacey didn't make any wishes. None of them did.

The writing was very stagnant from one book to the next. I preferred the third on all levels only because of the variety from the last one. It was more multidimensional and fulfilled the horror motif better than the other two.

There were some gaps in the plot, like Althea and living in the house. Her parents never made an appearance. In fact, it kept sounding like she lived in that house by herself. That really bothered me.

In all three books, the vampire had the same descriptions. Considering these were limited points of view, it read to me like all these kids saw this vampire with the same eyes. In every single book, the vampire's skin was the color of mushrooms. Would they really all make that same observation?

And in the last book, the vampire declares that if someone sacrifices themselves for the group, he cannot take them as a victim. It appeared that that applied to one character but when another did the same exact thing, it didn't obviously to serve the plot. Hole much?

And the writing was updated, which irked me. It's as if the new generation wouldn't understand the terms used in the early 90s. It really hit me that it'd been updated was when I caught the mention of the word DVDs. Not in 1991 they weren't. I mean, was that necessary? Is a VHS tape that much of an anomaly to teens today?

And for the vampire, I went both ways with him. First, I honestly don't think this was a standard blood-drinking vampire. His victims, when he was done with them, were all exceptionally tired which led me believe that he was a more psychical vampire that drained energies as opposed to blood. A very different take that I really liked.

There was nothing sexy about him, which is also a nice twist. He's decay and rot and swamp and everything you'd think death would be. His cape is woven of the souls of the people he's killed. He's intangible and tangible all at the same time depending on the strength of his power and he can seep into you if you allow your wishes to be brought to fruition. He's a disease that penetrates the mind and seeps into your soul. Very creepy and very different. I liked it.

What I didn't get, though, was that he occupied the shutters in the tower. I had a hard time picturing that. The idea was that if the shutters were ever opened, it would unleash the vampire so to prevent that, there were shutters both inside and outside the windows. I just didn't get it. In the last book we see just where the vampire resides and by that book it's clear that he is confined to the tower until someone releases him. I don't think it centers around the shutters as much as the first book intoned.

So, the bottom line is that the last book, Fatal Bargain, is the best out of all of them. It has the most depth, it's the creepiest, the least superficial and the most well-rounded. The other two, pick one, read it and move on. The writing, to me anyway, culminates in that final book. The first two were just way too similar and stocked with cardboard characters for my liking.

But all three of them get bonus points for the creep of a vampire. It's not something I see often, a vampire in this form, and it makes me like it even more. He's portrayed as the evil, disgusting piece of rot he actually is and it makes the character that much more spine-chilling.


Misty said...

Caroline B. Cooney...that takes me back.

Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Mary D

That was a very good review! You made some excellent points, there are some of these YA horror reads that show little imagination/or diversity ... almost 'formulaic' story lines where, as you pointed out, only the names are different.

But, I AM curious about the creepy, piece of rot vampire hehehe Loved how you described him.

I've gotta brag about my TODAY for just a little bit off topic ... went to a rummage sale and there were two teachers who had FOUR larges boxes of FREE BOOKS!!! I brought home almost 60 books that were all horror. Talk about makin' my day! Most of them were vintage Scholastic horror/some were adult though. Anyway, I was thrilled and now my living room floor is covered in (guess what>) ... MORE BOOKS ;)

Donna said...

I want to get the originals only because I want to read them as they were. I think the update didn't do it much good.

Maria D'Isidoro said...

Awesome review. It does make me curious about what makes a really good vampire. I'm working on a story which I don't consider strictly vampire lit, but one of the MC's is a vampire. Does anybody know some websites where I can ask/poll people about what they consider necessary vampire traits and find some cool, little known vampire lore?

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