Vampires have a large hold on our collective imagination. The teeth, the haunted eyes, the seeming melancholy, the erudition, the charisma, the sophistication (Vampires all went to a university somewhere). Vampires all seem to belong to an archaic upper class- the formal language, the formal courtesy. No vampire worth his salt would talk like a slangy American so our vampire hero, the wealthy Valery from Philadelphia, dresses suavely, speaks in cadences, and long, long ago he was an aristocrat who lived in a castle. We like our vampires in the Balkans somewhere. Our hero comes from provincial France, good enough. He's beautiful, too, but is a vampire little more than a serial killer and can a vampire have a soul?
There are two principal players among many others on this stage: Valery, the Vampire, and Angelina, the clairvoyant girl who somehow sensed the presence of Valery from the day of her birth, are the protagonists. And they share the same birthday. She's a total enigma, but perhaps she could be said to be Valery's alter ego and represents all that is good in humanity. She represents goodness and light, light wrapped around darkness. Does Valery, then represent evil? He represents, rather, human fraility, darkness wrapped around light. Even though he is no longer human, but immortal, he has retained very human doubts and emotions. For 800 years he has been struggling to discover his raison d'etre but until he meets Angelina and together they journey into his past, he is as clueless as any human as to why he exists at all.
At the beginning of her book, author Keley quotes from G.K. Chesterton, and to understand the complicated vampire personalities in this novel this quotation has to be kept in mind because we are dealing here with creatures who are killers. Can we love them? Or perhaps even more importantly, can we forgive them?
Love means to love that which is unlovable
Or it is no virtue at all
Forgiving means to pardon that which is unpardonable
Or it is no virtue at all
This is the difficulty of this charming book. Can we look on Valery as a sort of Byronic hero, narcissistic, introspective, wounded by fate, extremely self-absorbed? Or is he simply a not very appealing anti-hero who kills without repentance? I think we have to favor the Byronic hero similarity otherwise Valery comes across rather like a serial killer. He has a certain nobility, a certain specialness, a certain flair but he is the darkness wrapped around light. He is rather like the introspective Heathcliff, perhaps, but Heathcliff was seldom charming,and Valery often is. But let us get back to the story.
"On the soul of a vampire" isn't really a story of redemption because Valery continues to kill without provocation. You could say once a vampire always a vampire and that vampire is going to act like a villain because he is programmed that way, programmed to kill. And it may be because he is programmed to kill that Valery can't help himself.
I asked author Keley for her take on the subject of Valery's murders and she made this reply:
"I thought the flashbacks and how many times he says and shows he's disgusted by being a killer would make it apparent that he is sorry for what he does, but he keeps doing it anyway, the same way many human beings keep doing something they know is wrong because they are getting something out of it too pleasurable or too addictive or too something to give it up. And of course, in Valery's case, his choice is to continue with this ultimate in experiences or basically commit a long and slow suicide by starvation of sorts..."
All of the characters in the book are extremely deep thinkers and philosophical and theological discussions will wrench you in one direction then another. Flashbacks into the past (Valery was the only child to survive the Children's Crusade of 1212) are interesting and well done but always, whether in the present or in the past, passions run very deep. You can almost say the characters are mowed down by them, and you the reader are mowed down, too.
Can a vampire have a soul? You bet!
Love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable... this novel has the distinct and original voice of a fine new writer. Keep your eye on Krisi Keley as you will be hearing from her again- her first novel is the first of a trilogy and paves the way for some great writing in the future.