Vampires are under siege; the Catholic church has been trying to fight them for centuries. But they don’t have to be the evil villains as which they’re so often portrayed. Peter Octavian, a centuries-old vampire, has trained himself to be impervious to the things which kill other vampires; daylight no longer worries him, and holy water carries no stigma. He gets sustenance from a doctor friend who gives him HIV positive blood from a morgue since it has no effect on him and is purposeless for medical reasons. In the process, he’s lost all of his vampire coven, who still kill for blood. When the church steps up its attack and search for a book to eliminate all vampires, led by a vicious man called Liam Mulkerrin, Peter leaves his comfortable position as detective and begins to try to fight back.
From what I understand, this series by Christopher Golden isn’t new, but has been rereleased thanks to the huge popularity of urban fantasy lately. It fits right in to that genre, and though the protagonist is a male here, there are still plenty of interesting and kickass women around him virtually at all times. It’s set across the entire modern world, with the epic battle for vampire survival – and understanding – stretching across continents and covens.
I liked this book. It perhaps isn’t going to be one of my favorite series, but it was a solid enjoyable book that had an interesting take on vampire mythology. It’s revealed fairly early on, so I won’t spoil anything by telling you that many of the traditional vampire fears are based on intimidation by the church. The book itself is a bit anti-Catholic, but since the book is fictional and the true evil is confined to Mulkerrin, I don’t think it would be considered offensive even for those who are more religious than me.
The beginning of the book felt a bit hard to get hold of, as a lot is happening and a number of characters are introduced right away. After a few chapters, it swiftly settles down and I got much more into the story.
I think my least favorite part was probably how uncomfortably graphic the book was. There’s a lot of violence, some of it sexual, which I don’t like to read about. I’m not a big fan of vampire sex anyway – I don’t like paranormal romance very much, for example, unless it’s got something else going on. The whole thing fit in with the darker theme of the book, but these parts were not exactly pleasurable reading experiences. For me, it felt different from what I’d find in another urban fantasy series; for some reason I react differently to such scenes when they’re written by women or men. I don’t know if they’re actually written differently or if it’s a mental thing on my part; so if this doesn’t bother you much, please don’t let this stop you from reading the book.
Overall, I liked Of Saints and Shadows and am quite happy to continue reading the series. I’d recommend it to those who appreciate urban fantasy, however I do think it’s aimed more at a male audience and it might be worth keeping in mind if you’re accustomed solely to the paranormal romance type of urban fantasy (like Sookie) that is currently most popular.
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