Pearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire… fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil… until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops.
If you like your vampires dark, Goth, not quite soulless and with just the tiniest hint of My Little Pony, then Drink, Slay, Love could be for you. It’s the third work from author Sarah Beth Durst and reads like the opening of a series (although I could find no news of a sequel).
What I liked and didn’t like
Pearl was the best part of the book, confident, arrogant, viewed humans as cattle yet remained vulnerable under all her bluster. It was almost a shame that she grew a conscience because it dulled her superior attitude, which was a lot of fun.
The development of her character was a strong yet subtle thread that ran through the book with none of the long, blah, blah, blah blocks of inner monologue that can pass for character development.
While the first two-thirds of the book were good, maybe even great, the final third did its best to fall in a heap.
As the story moves towards its end, Pearl sets out to convince her human classmates that vampires are real, all in an effort to thwart a pending massacre (also known as a vampiric feast). You’d think it would take awhile to convince even one human that vampires are real, at least a week, maybe a month, but all Pearl needs to do is flash her fangs and twenty-four hours later she has a bevy of humans ready to take on the undead.
Just imagine what she could do with Tuperware.
The violence and bloodshed at the end seemed trivial, eliciting very little emotion. None of the characters I cared for were in any danger of dying or being horribly injured and the description of the violence itself was brief and relatively bloodless. While Graphic violence on it’s own wouldn’t have improved the ending, a little more work developing Pearl’s relationship with her family, fostering sympathy for them, would have done wonders. There was no such development though and I couldn’t have cared less when Uncle Stefan died.
The best part of the final battle is the dialogue between Pearl and her father.
Across the flames, Daddy approached the ring of fire. “Pearl. Stop this. Come home.”
“I can’t,” Pearl said. “I’m sorry,”
He studied her. “You really are. How interesting.”
Behind him, only two or three vampires remained. Any minute now the night could be crawling with very pissed-off vamps. Out of words she stared at Daddy. “I’ll see you again,” she said.
“I hope you won’t,” he said sadly.
Oooh. Well you know what’s going to happen in book two don’t you (if there is a book two).
I read the ebook version and one of the very noticeable and confusing things was the lack of definition between ellipses. Due to the strength of the writing, which identified the change of time and place in the first paragraph, and my familiarity with ebooks, this wasn’t a huge issue, but one that should be addressed.
My overall opinion
It was fun. I laughed. I might even buy the sequel.
As I wrote this review, I felt that there was quite a bit that I missed, from the combination of unicorns (every little girl’s dream) and vampires (of which most teenage girls fantasise) to the way the title plays with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. It didn’t read like a book with a big message though, more like a fluffy book that was having a poke at popular culture, so maybe I didn’t miss anything.
The highlight of the novel was Pearl’s attitude. As the story begins she’s a confident, arrogant and unapologetic predator and as it continues you see her use that attitude to hide her vulnerabilities.
As a writer the lesson I’m taking is the strong yet subtle character development. It doesn’t happen in carefully planned stages or come as an earth-shattering epiphany, but progresses gradually, one step at time, on every single page, or at least in every single chapter. I am also taking the idea that you can have a potentially unlikeable character (soulless, arrogant) and make them likable with the introduction of a few vulnerabilities.
As a reader I want to know – What is it with YA urban fantasy? Why is it so necessary for the heroine (because the protagonist is invariably female) to begin with teeth only to have them pulled at the end? Where are the young Anita Blakes (pre-Obsidian Butterfly, one nymphomaniac is enough thank you), modern Alannas (Song of the Lioness) and literary Elektras (no, not that one, this one)? Hell, I’d even take an Erin Brockovich, Stepahnie Plum or Miss Fisher.
I miss the girls with blood, guts and guns (or swords, shurikens, anit-aircraft missiles, demonic hounds and galaxy ending wormhole weapons), the ones who saw their friends/lovers/family die horribly, maybe even stepped over their bodies, but kept on going to skewer the bad guy in some delightfully vengeful manner.
Pearl almost had that, but the end of the story lacked teeth/angst/emotional heartache. **SPOILER** We could have felt more for Uncle Stephan’s death if we’d known him better, it could have been more horrifying, more visceral instead it was just another line of text on the page. **END SPOILER**
As a potential ebook publisher – ellipses need to be defined by more than just a paragraph break, even if it’s a centred asterisk or hash, lest they are lost in the file conversion.
Note: An ellipsis, as marked by the red line in the example above, is a break between two sections of a chapter that signifies the passing of time, a shift in location or a change in point of view.