By Janice Harrell.
Part 1: Blood Curse
In part one of this two-part mini-series we are introduced to James, a handsome high school student, who catches the eye of a two hundred year-old Transylvanian émigrée vampire, Rina. Besotted, and determined to bind James to her with the end goal of making him a vampire, Rina enrols in his school, jeopardising her anonymity and her safety. On the evening before her enrolment, she is almost caught by the police when she kills and feeds off two burglars who are trying to steal computers from the school. The next day she encounters Chelsea, James’s girlfriend, who is immediately suspicious of the new girl. James soon falls under Rina’s spell, but when he tries to resist, the vampire decides that in order to make him fall in love with her, she must eradicate Chelsea from his life, permanently.
Although we are introduced to James first, we spend more time with Rina and therefore it is difficult not to take her side. Because she is likeable, we empathise with her, and prefer her to the obnoxious and annoying Chelsea. However, we cannot ignore Rina’s violent actions during the first half of the book: the computer lab murders; almost killing the janitor; the discovery that she inherited her house from an old lady whose life she slowly drained. Rina is animalistic and brutal, but also sweet and vulnerable. She creates a quandary for the reader – we want her to end up with James, but we know this result would be contrary to our traditional moral conventions. Blood Curse takes a more adult approach than most Point Horrors: the intense, consuming grief James is experiencing due to the death of his sister; the sexual suggestiveness when Rina breaks into his room to bite him… we begin to wonder whether the ‘villain’ might come out on top, for a change.
***Major spoilers from this point onward***
But then comes the twist, and the tale takes an unexpected turn. Rina no longer has all the power, her secret is revealed. Now she is in danger. Chelsea is scary, a force to be reckoned with. There is humour in Chelsea’s reaction to becoming a vampire, but her enthusiastic embracement of her new power is rapid and alarming. Whilst Rina has been trying to bring James under her influence by gradually making him love her, Chelsea takes control of James’s best friend, Trip, without a second thought. She is dangerous and ruthless and suddenly we fear for Rina. Is this because Chelsea is already more powerful, or because Rina has become more ‘human’ since we first met her, and so we empathise with her more? The cliffhanger is exciting but there is a strong sense of foreboding. We, the reader, know something the characters do not. We know there is another player moving towards them, a dangerous element from Rina’s past, who will change the game completely, and we have to read on.
Part 2: Blood Spell
The action picks up where Blood Curse left us, but the promise of an exciting confrontation between Rina/James and Chelsea/Trip is unfulfilled, due to a bland escape and an early bath for one of the characters. Still, the plot moves along at a fair pace and the first half of the book sees Chelsea tormenting James by returning to school; the constant threat that she will make him a vampire looming over him and Rina as they try to reconcile their feelings for each other. Deciding that their only option is to get out of town, James and Rina head for his grandmother’s stables. With Chelsea and Vlad (the aforementioned ‘dangerous element’) in close pursuit, the change of location might not make things any safer for the couple, but it does bring them closer to someone else from Rina’s past, who could hold the key to fulfilling her dream of becoming mortal again.
We are by now familiar with the characters and their back stories, and there are only a couple of new introductions, so the focus of Blood Spell should be on the action, but this never really gets off the ground. It is unclear who the villain of the piece is. Chelsea is horrible but in a bratty, selfish way rather than scary. Her goal of making her boyfriend a vampire seems designed to make us side further with Rina, rather than causing us to see her as a true threat. We also never feel Rina is in much danger from Vlad. In Blood Curse, he is described to us in Rina’s flashbacks as a sinister, cruel, Dracula-like figure, but it is difficult to reconcile this with the Vlad we are presented with in Blood Spell. He is just a good looking young man (despite the ponytail and old lady’s earring) who is strung along by Chelsea, made a fool of by her, and then whines (a lot) when she ditches him.
There is some excitement when Vlad and Chelsea turn up at the stables, with the attack on the grandmother and Rina’s accident meaning either one of them could be dead. But the finale is a disappointment, with very little action. Vlad and Chelsea die too easily and everything else is too neatly tied up. Rina may be human again, but given how many hundreds of people she must have killed as a vampire, can her crimes really be whitewashed by a few weeks of abstinence?
Part one is interesting and engaging; part two sadly wears the patience. Our ‘hero’ James is more concerned about his reputation than anyone else’s safety. He jeopardises his own grandmother and shows little concern when she is in serious danger. He is cruel to Rina, but inconsistently so, leaving her confused and hurt. Then as soon as she changes into a human he is all over her, which is a worry, because her personality is defined by her being a vampire, making us wonder what lies ahead for the couple. Even Rina loses our sympathy – the more ‘human’ she becomes, the blander she gets! What is more, the piece desperately lacks a proper baddie. Vlad is a loser (the references to his grandfather who may/may not be Dracula only make us wish Vlad Senior were present, instead of his insipid grandson) and Chelsea never fulfils the villainous potential she has in Blood Curse.
This two-parter could easily be a fun vampire romp, or it could be a dark and scary tragic-romance but it strives for neither and therefore fails to satisfy on either count. Such a shame.
Vampire’s Love takes an uncommon approach to the Point Horror franchise, with its supernatural plotlines and exploration of the vampires’ own perspectives. There is no ‘whodunit’ element and very little mystery. The interest lies in getting to know the characters, but in getting to know them, we do not fear them. The only real moment of horror is the cliffhanger at the end of Blood Curse. This is when Chelsea is at her scariest; James and Rina at their most vulnerable. But from the beginning of Blood Spell, once this situation is resolved (with unsatisfactory haste) we are taken on a journey with the main characters which focuses more on the relationships between them, and creates dull exposition whilst we wait for Rina to find the cure to her vampirism. It is occasionally interesting, sometimes fun, but never scary. Part two therefore sadly drags the combined fear factor rating down to…