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The cover art for Damian Serbu’s novel The Vampire’s Quest [ Book II in The Vampire’s Angel series] depicts a shirtless hunk in the foreground, an expanse of water, and an glowing gothic castle in the background. We know immediately that we are in for a ride. Using a ten part framework, Serbu continues the adventures of Xavier and Thomas, his handsome vampire lovers from Book I. Set in 1822, in the first half of the book, Xavier is visited three times by a saint and commanded to go to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. When he finally heeds this command, he eventually makes a promise which means he must leave behind the most important things in his world, and take risks that could cost him his immortal life.
The action of this novel is primarily fixed in the American South, which introduces that “peculiar institution” of slavery into the mix. Xavier, his sister Catherine, and those whom they enlist to help them, encounter an array of human and vampire foes in their quest. Magic, sorcery, racism, all play a role in the fates of our heroes. Looming over all is the ire and punishment of the mysterious and powerful Vampire Council, which has set out edicts governing the behavior of all vampires, and also issues harsh punishments for running afoul of the rules. What is Xavier about to do? He’s about to defy the Council, and in his race from Europe to the Southern United States, incur the kind of censure that has his lover Thomas’ head spinning. Luckily, the two men are close friends with Anthony, who sits on the Council and does his best to intercede.
As Thomas and Xavier struggle to understand the trials that they face as a couple, as well as the rules of the Vampire Council under which they exist, the pair begins to reconcile their vastly different styles and temperaments. As the novel builds to a crescendo, facts come to light that alter the course of Xavier and Thomas’ lives, as well as those of Anthony and Catherine, perhaps forever.
Vampires are sexy, am I right? The things I love about vampire stories are classic to the genre: the lair where they sleep, the code—or lack thereof—under which they feed or kill, and their human history are part and parcel of the genre. But sexiness—that is what it’s all about. Damian Serbu’s tale has wonderful story-telling elements and a few surprises, such the character of Catherine, Xavier’s sister. I wanted even more of her. I have several boys in my life who would find Thomas’ brooding fury irresistible, although I hoped his anger would be treated with more depth. Why, for example, is he so lost without Xavier? Help me see the bond between them, and show me some sizzle—their sex scenes are woefully brief. Bummer, I like the sexiness! What is it about Xavier that inspires Thomas’ devotion? The author has achieved his goal if he hoped to pen a trilogy along the lines of Jourdan Lane’s Soul Mates series.
With a good deal less sex and blood than other gay vampire tales, Serbu uses his academic background in history to spotlight slavery in the American South. The result leaves both paranormal and historical areas missing the mark, but just barely. In my opinion, Serbu is already a terrific storyteller, now these novels must be able to stand alone. For example, the few references to Xavier and Thomas’ previous life together might drive some reader to seek out the first book, but adding a bit more backdrop could have strengthened this volume. Anthony, as a character, needed much more fleshing out for me to remain engaged with his role in the story, especially considering how pivotal his involvement with the Vampire Council was to the final outcome. Catherine was an amazing character, deserving of her own book! Finally, slavery is a huge and loaded topic, historically, and while it is possible to blend the historical and the paranormal in a way that celebrates both, more attention to both elements would be needed here.
The Vampire’s Quest will not disappoint those who enjoyed Book I, and future attention to depth of character, and the mainstays of the vampire genre, such as lair, seduction, or the vampire vs. human dilemma will only improve future works from this author.
The Vampire’s Quest
By Damian Serbu
Paperback, 9781619290136, 206 pp.