REVIEW: Mark of the Vampire Queen by Joey Hill
Dear Ms. Hill:
I am primarily a comfort reader meaning that I ordinarily like to read the same sorts of books but occasionally a very good writer can move me outside of my box and enjoy a story that does not fit into any neat categories. You are one of those writers. You take me places I ordinarily would not go.
Lady Lyssa is in the end stages of a vampire disease called Delilah virus. It is a virus that will eventually turn her mad and kill her. A Vampire Council meeting is upon her and she, through the force of her own will, is holding back the disease so that she can get an agreement from the other vampire rulers that would provide asylum to vampires fleeing from one territory to another. It is to protect her own people; her last act before she becomes dust. Jacob, her servant has taken the third mark and his life is now tied to Lady Lyssa’s, in all ways.
There are alot of threads running through this story, almost too many. There is Jacob’s relationship with his brother Gideon, a vampire hunter and hater. There is the struggle for dominance between Lyssa and Jacob for while Jacob professes to serve Lyssa in all things, his view of servitude is much different than hers. There is the struggle for dominance between Lyssa’s faction, the old vampires who see limitations on feeding and turning, as a way of protection versus the new faction which is desirous of more power. There is Lyssa’s own waning interest in anything but Jacob which puts her position with the Council at risk.
To some extent, I think if the power play themes mirrored each other, there would have been a more cohesive feel to the story. Instead, some of the passages read like set scenes that didn’t necessarily intertwine with one another or the overall movement of the book. For example, early on it is introduced that Jacob might have lived several lives and had intersected Lyssa’s life at various points. While this was an appealing theme, it had little to do with the power play between the two making me question the purpose and use.
Having said that, this is still a powerfully moving story that deftly weaves sex and blood, desire and need throughout the characters, the world building, and the narrative. Lyssa’s fellow vampires are a nasty bunch: power hungry, disdainful of humans; distrustful of each other. Because humans are no more than vessels of food and sex, many of the vampires treat humans poorly. This can be off putting for some readers, but for me, I appreciated the inhumanity of the vampires. The monster-ish quality to some of the vampires throws the relationship of Lyssa and Jacob in sharp relief. Adding in the seemingly inevitability of the death of Lyssa, the story builds to a crescendo.
One of the aspects that I found different in this book was the focus on the emotional and mental aspects of the bond between Lyssa and Jacob. Much of the first book, I felt was more physical. This one was more introspective, particularly during parts in which Lyssa would contemplate her own mortality and the passage of her days. She turned curiously vulnerable at times which lent itself to the power struggle.
The vampires in Mark of the Vampire Queen have lost that plasticity that so many books of the vampire oevre now show. It harkens back to the old days of Anne Rice rather than many modern emasculated versions, the men with fangs versions. MofVQ explores more than the sexual nature of dominance and submission and rather explores the mental one; it asks the question of where servitude starts and dominance begins; who is the master and who is the slave; particularly when the slave is willing. I always felt that the story, when focused on Jacob and Lyssa and their personal struggle, the book was at its strongest. There was a hiccup at the ending. I felt, despite the rather unconventional nature of the HEA, it was almost a bit too pat. B