A Different Breed
By Mary Rowell
Genre: Sci-fi, Historical Fiction
VAMPIRES ARE SCIENCE FICTION! Imagine for a moment that vampires are not creatures of horror, but true beings that could inhabit the world we live in. They are not supernatural creatures, they are not the undead. They have been changed from human to vampire by genetic mutation; nature’s response to the devastating plagues that killed millions through the centuries.
A New Beginning : the book follows Kate from her early life in Savannah before the Civil War, to Europe, where she meets the real Dracula. Trying to create a new strain of people, Dracula experiments on Kate. Changed by the encounter, Kate is held captive before finally escaping. We follow her to England and then to New York just before the new century as she tries to create her own world, a world that provides safe haven for vampires in need.
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This book completely surprised me with its fresh take on a rather overdone and saturated genre. I expected your normal paranormal tale, but what I received instead was a scientific, historical narrative of the whys and hows behind vampirism which left this book feeling less unbelievable in nature and more historically accurate, as if it is only natural to assume that a vampire isn’t necessarily a supernatural being, but an unfortunate side effect of the plague. The specific attention to the historical details surrounding the plot and settings added to the credibility and authenticity of the story. It was absolutely compelling in every way, from the characters, to the dialogue and also the backstories of everyone involved.
The author’s ability to create interesting backgrounds for her characters and then weave them into the plot worked really well. Normally with mounds of backstory in one sitting you either feel like you’ve just been subjected to one big info dump or the plot begins to drag because nothing is necessarily happening as we pause to take in the entirety of a specific characters life history. The histories are necessary for the plot to continue, and much of it is shared from either that particular character’s point of view or in dialogue between the character and Kate.
For example, the Baroness had a history that was rather extensive, and to drop all of that in there probably would have bogged down the plot in any other book, but it works for this book due to the content, the authors voice and the execution, though I would suggest that the author break some of that dialogue up with more orchestration so we get an idea of how the information is personally affecting Kate, (Is she leaning closer with baited breath? Is she nervously fidgeting? Does she cross the room or make physical contact with the Baroness to encourage her to continue?) and also so that we remember she is even in the room.
This was one aspect of the story that I found to be weak in the beginning. There is a lot of telling rather than showing when it comes to Kate’s emotional reactions and thoughts to her current predicament. I would have expected someone who so fiercely defended a small slave, and then insisted he become her brother, to do more than just quietly accept her incarceration in the very beginning. I recognize that Kate has a rather clinical and matter-of-fact way of looking at things and isn’t necessarily one to complain, but she has passion and fire and encourages others to fight against injustice. I would have expected her to do that for herself right from the beginning. Possibly some early escape plan that goes awry and she soon realizes that there really isn’t any hope of escape and so she has to bide her time.
There needs to be more internal dialogue for this. I want to get inside Kate’s head and understand her anguish at her situation with Vlad rather than hear a play-by-play of the first ten years as a different breed. Added personal interactions with Vlad probably would have made the entire sequence more chillingly compelling due to his possible interest in her and the doctor’s insistence that she be untouched. There could have been some intense close calls between Kate and Vlad towards the end to up the stakes, creating even more urgency for her to escape Vlad and the palace once and for all. Compound those obstacles one on top of the other, and you have even more conflict for your character and your reader to overcome. More reader engagement.
Once she starts keeping jewelry on her as a way to fund her escape, I sat there and thought to myself, “Finally! It’s about time she snaps out of this strange acceptance mode she’s in and takes back her life.” It’s something her personality would have been attempting all along, but we need to see that throughout her incarceration and not towards the end of it. After that, her character development truly soars in the most intriguing and satisfying way.
She’s faced with situations that force her to grow in ways she may not wish to. Killing anyone, even in self-defense, isn’t something she ever believed she would have to do, but she doesn’t cringe away at the inevitable. She helps those who cannot help themselves until they are finally capable, and she thirsts for knowledge and a place to call her own. She’s a character you want to see succeed in whatever she endeavors to perform, and the secondary characters in the novel are people you want to be on board with as well.
The ending was rather abrupt. It didn’t seem like an ending at all or even a cliff hanger. It just felt like the author stopped writing. I think there needs to be some internal review at this point covering what she has accomplished and learned and then hint at what more there is to do and discover so that we sense the wind-down of this installment and still ready ourselves for the next book. There’s obviously plenty left to be resolved, especially where Vlad is concerned.
One side note here: The author’s book cover doesn’t really pop or even represent the story to its greatest advantage. From a marketing standpoint it isn’t going to sell books. I wouldn’t look at this cover and think to myself, “That looks interesting.” It took me a while to even realize that there was a vial of blood clasped in Kate’s hand because the picture is so grainy and simply not what you would expect. I thought it was some kind of wand that she held in her hand. A high quality cover, maybe with a young woman who looks otherworldly holding a vial of blood up to the light and studying it…or something like that-just throwing out ideas here-would probably be more eye-catching and compelling.
I can’t wait for the second book in the series. I will miss Kate until I have the chance to delve into her story again. Mary Rowell has weaved an intriguing paranormal adventure that reads like a historical novel, but captures the essence of what Bram Stoker’s Dracula successfully conveyed. I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a gripping read.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Georgia native Mary Rowell has been writing stories since she was in elementary school. Currently a resident of Florida, Mary has been a Girl Scout volunteer and a volunteer with several local history groups. Her love of history and science fiction led to her book “A Different Breed: Book 1-The Beginning” and “A Different Breed: Book 2-Colony”. She is currently working on “A Different Breed: Book 3”. Check out A Different Breed’s Facebook page!
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