Awakening the Critic

Paris Immortal: Awakenings by S. Roit; a review.

This is the second in a series, but for a little bit of context let me refer you to my short review for the first book, which I read around April this year.

“Recommended to me by my niece, knowing full well I’d love it. She was right. At first the prose style took a bit of getting used to, as well as the rather random-at-times scene breaks, but once beyond that… A lovely and sensual story of love, and vampires. There’s much going on in this book that is not immediately obvious, loads of undercurrents which become more and more clear as the book nears its end. The leads are all incredibly well written; sensual and sexual without being in your face. Michel and Gabriel’s relationship is always fascinating, as we are shown a piece at a time the complexity of their relationship. PK is almost as much of a mystery by story’s end as she is right at the start. And Geoff. Bless him, he has got to be simply the cutest character I’ve read about in a long long time. Roit does such a wonderful job with her choice descriptions that you honestly feel as if you’re watching everything along with Trey, the narrator. Curiously, I found Trey the least interesting of the leads, although along the way there are plenty of moments where you’re left tantalised by his past. There is still plenty more to uncover in these new tales of vampires, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the second book.”

So enamoured by the first book was I, and having become cyber-buddies with the author since reading that first book, I not only bought the second but also the third. It took me a little longer to read Awakenings than I would have liked, mostly because there is much in this book that frustrates me. But first, let me set the good stuff on the table.

The book starts off well, straight into the hornet’s nest with Michel confronting Vicont – he who sent the vampires after Trey in the first book. There’s a nice bit of tension, and we are flung straight into Michel’s complex point of view, and thrown plenty of hints of the deeper mystery surrounding his relationship to Vicont. From there we return to Trey, and are soon into tiresome territory – but more on that shortly. The story surrounding Vicont is a very interesting one, and well layered throughout the book. It nicely plays into the other main plot thread, that of Trey’s uncovering of his past, a past that is intricately linked with that of Gabriel. Both have fantastic resolutions, and although the truth behind Vicont was not unexpected at all, Gabriel’s solution to his interest in Trey and Michel was such a clever thing that I honestly did not see it coming. Wonderfully twisted, and it will no doubt have some serious ramifications in next few books. Alas, I also saw Gabriel’s connection to Trey’s past a mile off, too, but still it’s a good a one and will definitely add further depth to the already deeply layered characters.

It’s a curious thing, but the greatest strengths of this book are also its biggest weaknesses. And that’s the characters. They are, as I’ve already said, deeply layered and always interesting. Each follow their own logic, and have their own motivations for what they do. But the downside is they’re all so in love with each other, always understanding of the next person’s foibles, and constantly forgiving. As a reader it becomes extremely cloying to read after about fifty pages. The result? A very slow read indeed. How can you develop real conflict among your core characters if they’re constantly expressing their love and forgiveness? Even when Trey, who’s possibly the most emotional and weakest characters I’ve ever encountered, finally gets a back bone and strikes out on his own, the consequences carry so little weight both on the emotional and physical level. The former doesn’t really matter since we all know he’s going to be full of self recriminations, and will be forgiven everything anyway. No conflict there. In the latter case, it doesn’t matter the physical danger he puts himself in because Gabriel and Michel have been set up as such powerful vampires that we know without doubt that Vicont and his rabble have no chance at all. It’s very hard to get involved in this kind of ‘drama’; even the ‘how’ becomes a watered down experience as a result. While on the subject of the characters, I’ve noticed two things; one, Geoff, who I loved in the first book, has become the most ineffectual character of the entire ensemble. He does nothing useful at all, merely trails around like some weak puppy (I’m secretly hoping he’ll be the first real casualty – god knows we need one soon – because that will at least cause some tangible emotional fallout for Trey that I, as a reader, can relate to properly); two, it’s very clear that a woman is writing this book since the male characters are far too sensitive to each other, and way too emotional, to be truly believable. Not to say such men do not exist in the world, but the majority of men are not so… well, girly. 😉

Nonetheless, all that said, I did mostly enjoy the book. The final two chapters did boar me, though, with their focus on more of Trey’s self recriminations (like we haven’t had enough of that), and more expressions of love. And the epilogue… Sorry, as much as I’ve come to respect Sherry as a person, I completely hated the coincidental nature of the epilogue. It was just one too many. You can surround it in as much talk of destiny as you like, but the fact that a certain character just so happened to turn up in Paris at exactly the time Trey finally decided to look for them smacked of lazy writing. It would have been a bigger strength had we followed Trey’s search in more detail in the next book.

So, I shall get to book three in the Paris Immortal series soon, but I’m not rushing to it just yet. In terms of story, when it became the focus of the book, it’s an improvement on book one, but in terms of character… although still very interesting, there’s only so much love and understanding a drama can take before it suffers.

Text © 2010 Andy Frankham-Allen,
Cover © 2008 Snow Books, All Rights Reserved
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