Sunday, August 5, 2012
Novelist . . . gentlewoman . . . Damned, Fanged, and Dangerous to know.
Aspiring writer Jane Austen knows that respectable young ladies like herself are supposed to shun the Damned--the beautiful, fashionable, exquisitely seductive vampires who are all the rage in Georgian England in 1797. So when an innocent (she believes) flirtation results in her being turned--by an absolute cad of a bloodsucker--she acquiesces to her family's wishes and departs for Bath to take the waters, the only known cure.
But what she encounters there is completely unexpected: perilous jealousies and further betrayals, a new friendship and a possible love. Yet all that must be put aside when the warring French invade unsuspecting Bath--and the streets run red with good English blood. Suddenly only the staunchly British Damned can defend the nation they love . . . with Jane Austen leading the charge at the battle's forefront. (goodreads.com)
I was a little apprehensive to read JANE AND THE DAMNED after my failed attempt at EMMA AND THE VAMPIRES. One, I hadn't read the blurb in a while so I was under the impression that it was a JANE EYRE remake and two, I haven't been thrilled with the writing style of books set in this era so it was setting itself up to fail for me. It ultimately didn't and I enjoyed the plot but it had its faults and a lot of that hinged on the writing itself.
I didn't know why this story was about Jane Austen. You'd think there'd be some kind of relevance to it but it rightly could have been some made-up character created strictly for the book and it wouldn't have made a bit of different. So I was haunted by the question, "Why the hell is this Jane Austen?" throughout, making it a touch distracting.
That's not to say I didn't like Jane. I did. She was a very strong woman that, although reluctantly, embraced her vampirism and used it to fight the French when they invaded (a point to be dealt with in a moment). She stood her own as a fighter and even as her fellow Damned looked down upon her as not only a fledgling but an orphaned one (her maker having abandoned her and she was adopted by another) she stood tall, pulling off feats that eventually made them proud.
The writing didn't really lend itself to telling the story well, though. I felt the progression was jerky and I often found myself shoved out of the story due to a ragged transition from one scene to the next. The language was trying a bit too hard and while I never found it stilted it lent to the crappy transitions that kept pulling me out of the story.
That's not to mention that as I was reading I had a niggling feeling that Napoleon's army invading Britain just didn't sound right. Did it make for some good drama? Of course. Jane wouldn't have been able to become the fighter she did without someone to fight so steadfastly against. But it didn't seem right. Love the interwebs as it verified my unsettled thoughts: Napoleon was never actually able to get past the Royal Navy to fight on British land. Talk about taking gross liberties with history to serve the plot. It only puffs up the question as to why it had to be Jane Austen as the lead in this story. I have a big problem with that. Adding vampires to Jane Austen's life is one thing. I was entertained by all of that. But why bastardize history so much? I don't get it. Wait, I do get it: it served the plot. And yes, this book is a work of fiction. But holy crap Napoleon's army never invaded Bath nor took London. It's a contrivance of epic proportions that I still just don't understand. Too many questions and not enough answers.
I did finish JANE AND THE DAMNED, much to my surprise. I enjoyed it and I ultimately came to like Jane and Luke together but Jane is a little too bi-polar for me. She changed her mind about accepting her vampirism as often as she changed dresses and it was rough going trying to keep track of where her brain was in terms of not only her vampirism but her love of Luke. It wavered too much for my liking. She turned out to be a really strong heroine in terms of fighting capabilities and standing on her own but she ultimately had too much negative about her that, for the most part, cancelled it out.
I was entertained so the book served its purpose in that regard but it's incredibly historically inaccurate, I still have no idea why Jane Austen was the focusing character and the writing leaves a bit to be desired. If you're looking for a light, entertaining read reminiscent of Austenian works with a bit more fangs and blood and don't have much else to read JANE AND THE DAMNED will probably whet your appetite. Just don't expect it to do much else.
Ban Factor: High - Vampires and they're shown as hedonistically as possible to make it all the worse. But our dear Jane has arguments with conscience that might appease the banners, however slightly.