Top positive review
from Salzburg to Milwaukee - mixing the humdrum with the supernatural
Reviewed in the United States on July 5, 2019
A teenage vampire ain't so fresh a concept. Fact is, one of my favorite series currently going is Matthew S. Cox's Vampire Innocent series in which Sarah Wright is a teen vampire who attends night courses at college and whose family are in the know. With The Last Vampire series, "Judith Berens" - pen name for Martha Carr and Michael Anderle - presents Victoria, a 14-year-old vampire in Salzburg, Austria whose four hundred years of slumber ended when a visiting American father and daughter broke into her sealed room and pried open her coffin.
And, really, this series is about as much about that father and daughter as it is about Vickie. Alexis Watson - who is also a 14-year-old - and her dad, Craig, are on vacay in Salzburg, hoping the change in scenery will help get them past the loss of Alexis' mom who passed away only two months back. Me, I haven't booked ever from an Airbnb service, but I imagine you can't score much better than landing an ancient castle to stay in for a few weeks, even if it turns out to be a vampire's castle.
I also liken Victoria to another supernatural teen, Buffy Summers, ironically a vampire slayer. Victoria could've gone it alone once she woke up and learned that her parents were gone and so much time had passed. But, like Buffy, she opted to surround herself with family and friends. You should know before you dive into this series that it's rarely action-packed, and that it rebuffs much of the vampire tropes you're used to. This series posits that vampires aren't allergic to sunlight or garlic or the cross, that vampires don't drink blood and would prefer to peacefully co-exist with humanity.
The series builds up lore that worked up my curiosity. I wanted to know even more about what differentiates the vampires from the Sanguinarians. The latter, by the way, are similar enough to vampires that humans often mistake them for the same - kind of like how folks often confuse the Mercury Topaz with the Ford Tempo (sorry, I owned a Topaz, and you don't know how many times...). The Sangs - Victoria calls them "biters" - are the predators who require human blood to survive. Vampires and Sangs tend to be mortal enemies, not that humanity gives an ef.
Anyway, Victoria comes clean with all that stuff to the Watsons. By the way, the huge draw for me in this series is easily the relationships that Victoria develops with Alexis and her dad. In their stay in Salzburg, Alexis grows close with Victoria. It's a no-brainer that when it's time to leave, she and her dad would invite Victoria to go home to Milwaukee with them. I appreciate that, on her part, Victoria is torn between staying in the place she'd known all her life, and where she could still feel close to her parents, versus making a fresh start. I had to remind myself that for her, the loss of her parents is even more fresh and abrupt.
If you enjoy fish-out-of-water stories, this suffices as that, too. Much of the fun lies in Victoria - now "Vickie" - acclimating to her new normal. She's the perfect distraction for a grieving Alexis and her dad. And, yes, I like that the dad himself snags his own "camera time." Craig Watson's got his own share of troubles. Losing his wife, this messing him up so much it cost him his job as investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Today, he's trying to eke out a living as a full-time podcaster, trying to scrape up as many sponsors as he could. You can argue, maybe he shouldn't have taken on another mouth to feed, then. Except look at Alexis now. She's more alive these days, more back to her old self, with Vickie around.
I dunno much about Milwaukee, so all credit for the authors for doing a swell job of selling the city to the readers. To quote someone in the book: "Milwaukee has all the fun of a big city, but you still have the small-town feel." And I didn't know Milwaukee was the birth place of the typewriter.
I have to five star this book, full marks. I've read all three volumes that so far comprise the series, and it's not until later in the books that I became bothered at the egregious mistakes Vickie kept making. For now, I enjoyed her for what she was: a teenaged stranger in a strange land. Much of the book - and the rest of the series, actually - comes off like a high school drama with a supernatural flair. See Vickie try to take it all in, settling in with her home situation with her adoptive "father" and "sister," and trying to figure out the social dynamics within Clear Lake High School.
If you're into skullduggery and secret societies, you get a taste - but only a taste - of what the Slayer Circle had been up to. We do learn their history, courtesy of Google search... and that the Circle had tried their durndest to eradicate vampires from the face of the earth, using the Thirty Years' War, one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, to cloak their actions. Imagine their shock when news reaches them that there's one vampire left...
The Slayer Circle will get to Vickie soon enough. For now, observe the girl as she navigates the tricky path of a young 17th century creature of the undead posing as a modern-day adolescent who's just trying to fit in - and not quite being able to. It's a fun read.
Also, is it me or did she just pull "Okay" out of the air and start using it in her early conversations with Alexis like it's a word commonly used in 1619 Austria? I know she didn't pick it up from Alexis.