As another addition into the over saturated vampire genre market any debut novelist would have to create something uniquely special to keep this reader reading. In the Last keeper Michelle Birbeck has done exactly that. The last keeper is a brilliant introduction into what promises to be a gripping series, setting up a fictional but yet believable world that got me hooked from the first page. as a debut novel it could have spent a lot of time establishing exactly the world that Birbeck has created and just how everything works. This book does not suffer this problem, instead the reader is brought straight into the action. Little clues and hints means the reader has to work out what is going on and how things work themselves. It is not until partway through the book that an explanation for anything is provided, and even then it is explained through the characters dialogue and actions rather than as one big information dump.
The main character, and indeed narrator, is one of the two remaining keepers. Her name is Serenity Cardea. Super strong, super fast and a quick healer Serenity can seriously put the vampires in their place. And were creatures, humans and witches. That is a keepers role in life, to keep the balance between the creatures and make sure they stick to the rules. As a keeper the only way to be killed is for someone to kill the love of his or her life. This is an event that Serenity does not believe will happen to her until she meets Roy Synclair, a history professor that gets drawn into her world. This is with spectacular and sometimes heart wrenching results for all those connected to Serenity and Ray. Results that set in motion a chain of events that can be shocking, unexpected and at times painful to read. The way Michelle uses language provides just enough details for the reader to understand what is happening whilst allowing them to fill in their own details. The reader is put through the same emotions as Serenity and the way the novel is written allows the reader to relate to events using their own emotions and experiences. This at times makes it a hard book to read but if you keep going then you are rewarded with a very satisfying plot. Given the premise it could be very easy to write this off as a typical romantic tragedy story. You would be wrong to do so, whilst the main plot does come down to Serenity and Rays relationship it is not always romantic, it is not always tragic and it is not in anyway typical. If any cliche was more appropriate here then it would be this one, love changes everything. In this book nothing could be more apt. However this is not a Mills and boon novel as it is clear from the start. There is more than Serenity and Rays relationships explored in this book, the other characters have relationships that are just as important for the events in this book. Birbeck, perhaps unintentionally uses the characters, all of them, to explore how friendships, relationships and family ties can not only change a person but set events in motion that will have a significant impact on the rest of the series. Every ones actions and decisions have consequences for everyone else, even the most minor of decisions and conversations give clues to a huge, emotional reveal that has the biggest and most powerful consequences of all. Do not dismiss any of the back story provided as irrelevant or any of the characters as minor as that would be a big mistake. As a reader you really do have to pay attention to keep up. This book does not assume its reader is stupid and as such does not go for a dumbing down route. This is one thing I really appreciated, at times things may seem slightly muddled or confusing but literally every word choice in the book was crafted perfectly for a specific plot driven purpose.
if Serenity and Ray are the good guys that implies there is a villain. In fact this novel features several, mainly connected to the character of Elinor, a vampire who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. She is ruthless, devious and calculating and responsible for one of the most nightmarish scenes in this novel. To give details would spoil it but its fair to say not everyone who encounters Elinor survives. In Elinor and company Michelle has created a vampire society with an interesting dynamic and not at all traditional. However even with this in mind not every vampire, indeed character is who they seem to be. It would be too simplistic to say that every character can be seen as been on the side of good or evil as established in the keepers universe, almost every main character has motives that make you question which side, if any, they are on.Indeed It would be too easy to assume that every vampire is like Eleanor, however this is not the case. By Choosing to set the bulk of this book within the background setting of war , birbeck draws strong comparisons of the war the human society is having and the conflict within the vampire community. No other character makes this more clear than that of Poppy, a vampire with a reputation of doing unspeakable things but yet seems to have switched allegiances. If Eleanor is using her ruthless side for domination then Poppy is now her opposite, again changed by the love of her partner but not afraid to do things to get the job done. Poppy may have been one of the least seen characters in this book but she is the one that I found wanting to know more about.
Every character in this novel, seen or otherwise, does things that can be seen as morally wrong. Birbeck is not afraid to take the plot into areas that can be gory and uncomfortable and the novel benefits for it. To take a safe path would have been more reader friendly in some regards but just would not have worked. Whilst events are gory , the gore is stylishly portrayed. Birbeck does not go down the established blood and guts route, what she does is something almost clinical which has a more psycological impact. Even after reading the book in its entirety and knowing why the characters did what they did it still shocked me the solution Birbeck has created.
This is not a typical vampire romantic tragedy story, not even close. Not even a keeper can change the past and every event that happens must happen for an as yet unexplained reason. Every event in the book answered one question but asked another keeping the reader hanging on to find out more. Birbeck has took the basic elements of a paranormal story and has turned them into something unique. With a story that spans several decades and locations this is a story with serious bite. With strong memorable characters that keep you guessing, several interesting plots being established with almost none being neatly tied up, and enough twists to keep the reader engaged this is a book that I will happily recommend.Go, Read and Enjoy!