Book Two of the Second Species series
by Tony-Paul de Vissage
Marek Strigoi is back from Hell and he's out for revenge!
In Part two of a nine-part series, Marek has certainly escaped from a kind of vampire hell. In this Hell, furies would bite off his dick, then let it grow back, only to bite it off again. OK, that's amusing.
But in this book, just like the last book in this series, Marek is complacent about his revenge. After finding himself in Paris in 1968, Marek spends a full half of the book just getting familiarized with the 20th Century. Only then does he meet his family again.
There are several humorous bits with Marek experiencing technology shock after waking up after 157 years in the Inferno. He has to learn all about cars, planes, electric razors, showers, toilets, and the New Morality. But the heart of the story is his conflict with the evil Mircea Ravagiu who has wronged him and his family.
Or it would be if de Vissage was writing a horror story. In fact, this is a soap opera.
That could be good or bad, depending if you like your soaps. It's good because we get to follow continuing characters and wonder what will happen to them next. Of course, in a soap opera, characters must keep secrets from one another, even for the best of reasons. So what will happen when those secrets are finally revealed?
And in which book will the truth eventually come out?
Vampires—the aventurieri—experience something equivalent to Vulcan pon farr. Periodically, they gotta have it, and don't get in their way. Marek's travails with this condition lead to much of the erotic material in the book.
But this domestic tranquility comes to an abrupt end when Mircea spots Marek at a London pub... at about 90% into the book.
There are some things I really like in this book. The character Celine, Marek's vampire wife from the first book, finds herself feeling anger, frustration, and even hatred at Marek for leaving her alone for so many years. It's a hatred born of intense love. It's a very human scene and a very female response. Tony-Paul de Vissage shows considerable insight in writing her character.
There's also some nice attention to historical details in this book, which takes place mostly in 1968 (or, four months later in 1970). However, there are a few bits that seem out of place, like automatic doors (doubtful), electronic monitors for pulse & blood pressure (maybe), latex gloves (maybe), and the phrase “designer drugs” (no). And consider this line about the Beatles: “Some day, they’re going to be famous...” Yeah, sorry, but the Beatles were already the most famous Rock n' Roll group in the world by 1964. And I'm curious why x-rays taken of Marek fail to show his hidden, bat-like wings.
Surprisingly accurate, however, was this line: “That call’s costing me a fortune.” People tend to forget that long distance calls were expensive in the old days. And yes, homosexuality was indeed illegal in Britain until just a few years before.
In one amazing coincidence, the doctor assigned to Marek's case just happens to be the current lover of Celine.
“Shadow Players” is a well-written book in which not a lot happens. These non-undead vampires are given humanity lacking in most fictional vampires. Unfortunately, that tends to make them mundane. They're really just mortal humans that have evolved wings. Blood's nice but they just need a sip every few weeks.
If you are comfortable with that, then this is definitely a four-star book. If you prefer tales of supernaturalhorror over soap operas, then I might give it three stars.