01/10/2009. Contributed by Vikki Green
pub: Simon & Schuster. 544 page paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-2-01201-193-9).
check out website: www.simonsays.co.uk and www.vampirates.co.uk
I was looking for something a bit different this month and decided to try 'Vampirates'. It was the cover that caught my attention first off and I decided to try it. I was richly rewarded, Justin Somper's 'Vampirates - Demons Of The Ocean' is the first volume in an on-going series of books featuring Connor Tempest and his twin sister, Grace. The story is set five hundred years from now, when the seas have risen and the world has been flooded.
The book opens in a lighthouse in a prologue set seven years before the story starts in earnest. It introduces the twins and the main theme of the books, The Vampirates, via a sea shanty. The main story begins with the twins being orphaned at the age of fourteen and facing the option of being forcibly adopted or going to Crescent Moon Bay Orphanage. Neither option appeals and they take their father's yacht and leave. However, they don't get far before they're overtaken by a storm and are shipwrecked.
Each twin is rescued by a different ship and their lives are deeply affected by their different rescuers. Connor is rescued by Cheng Li from the pirate ship The Diablo. There he is taken under Bart, Cutlass Cate, Cheng Li and Captain Molucco Wrathe's wings. He soon makes a mark as a pirate and becomes proficient in using a rapier during The Diablo's raids. His over-riding concern, though, is to find his sister. The others are convinced she died in the storm, but he feels sure she hasn't.
In the meantime, Grace has been taken aboard The Nocturne by an Irish lad by the name of Lorcan. Gradually, she begins to realise there is something very odd about the ship and its crew. They only come out at night and she is ordered to keep the curtains to her cabin window tightly drawn. Slowly, she pieces together the true situation, that she is aboard the Vampirate ship and they are not quite what she thought they were. She forges a strong friendship with the Captain, Lorcan and Darcy, the ship's figurehead, as she uncovers the fact there are divisions among the Vampirate crew. Tensions that will eventually lead to a lot of trouble.
It is a Young Adult book aimed mainly at the mid-teens market. However, its appeal is over a wider range as I was drawn into this subtle and surprising world. I was fascinated by how the story would play out. It may be aimed at teen-agers but the subtlety of the storytelling appeals to a much greater age range.
It took me a little time to get into the story as it does unwind at a leisurely pace, but it is quite mesmerising. The characters are vividly drawn, the twins in particular. Grace and Connor are both compelling and sympathetic characters. Molucco Wrathe is colourful and seems to be the typical pirate captain at his first appearance but as the story unfolds he becomes more subtle and interesting. Lorcan, Darcy and the Captain of the Vampirate ship have a touching streak of kindness and melancholy about them. Sidorio, who is the real villain of the piece, comes over as absolutely terrifying.
There is violence in the story but when it comes, it is over quickly and is moderate in tone. There are real consequences to actions on the pirate ship and on the Vampirate ship. All of which lead to a neat conclusion to this volume and set up the scene for the next story. The feeling of divisions among the pirates and the Vampirates leading to consequences in the outside world comes over strongly. I look forward to reading the next volume to see just how those tensions are taken up a notch or two.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA