Written by Jemiah Jefferson
Published by Leisure Books
I’m not going to go through the usual amount of explanation it takes me to say the same thing when it comes to vampire novels; plain and simple when it comes to this sub-genre, it takes a lot to impress me.
Fiend impressed me.
It’s essentially the story of a boy living in the early 19th century, Orfeo Ricari, who was raised to take over the farm for his father despite the complete and utter uninterest Orfeo shows in doing so. A tutor is brought in to make sure Orfeo is well-educated for all of life’s hardships, and the tutor ends up opening Orfeo’s mind to the pleasures of the flesh, though in completely subservient way.
When Orfeo’s tutor runs off for Paris, he invites the young farmer with him. Upon his arrival there, Orfeo is given an opportunity to work as a translator for a very, very wealthy woman, whom he soon discovers is, along with her younger female companion, a vampire. At first he is their plaything, but eventually they let him into their circle and make him an equal, granting him all their power and curse of forever desiring the blood of the living to survive.
Some traditional vampire conventions are done away with in Jefferson’s writing, but that’s almost par for the course nowadays. Orfeo is a devote Catholic, for instance, and goes to Mass every Sunday, wearing his crucifix proudly. Wooden stakes do nothing; in fact the only thing that really kills them after a time is fire and sunlight. That is important, but it’s certainly not the focal point of the book. Indeed, it seems most of Paris at the time probably knew of the existence of vampires and just accepted it. They certainly don’t do a lot to hide themselves at times.
Despite its title, the main character of Fiend is anything but. After his initial bloodlust is quelled, he soon learns to control his thirst and only take small amounts of hemoglobin at a time. Above all he is a man that loves, which is pretty much the core of the book; despite the horrors he commits, Orfeo is still capable of loving another, and in his lifetime goes through a man and a woman, both hurting him in different but equally painful ways.
What’s most impressive about this story is how incredibly well written it is. There’s a quote on the back cover that says “Comparisons to Anne Rice are inevitable” and I would hate to live up to that, but really it’s the most complimentary thing I can say for Jemiah Jefferson’s writing style; it reminds of old Anne Rice, back when she was rightfully considered a master storyteller. I was quite literally hooked to this thing after the first few pages, and took every opportunity I had to squeeze in a few more throughout the day.
Though it does have some slower parts towards the middle, Jefferson’s writing never gets dull. Her ability to convey the emotions her character is experiencing (for it’s all from Orfeo’s perspective) gives the reader an incredible almost kinship with him as the story unfolds.
Here’s the great thing; this book is actually her third in a series of vampire stories, the first of which (Voice of the Blood) focused on Ricari in modern times, and the second (Wounds) following the path of Daniel Blum, a creature who Ricari transforms in the second half of Fiend. What’s so great about that? I had no idea it was even part of a series until I did some research on it. Which means anyone should be able to pick this up and give it a go without any history. Though I do admit I’m curious to hear the rest of the story now.
Fiend is a book by an author that is in her element, and I only hope her style improves from here. For me it was a great story, a great timeframe, and a great relief to read a vampire novel that didn’t bore the hell out of me.
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