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Friday, October 9, 2015

Book Review: Nocturne Infernum (Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance) by Elizabeth Donald

Nocturne Infernum (Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance)
by Elizabeth Donald
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Seventh Star Press

Nocturne Infernum includes the original three chapters in the Nocturnal Urges series, an alternate version of present-day Memphis in which vampires walk among us, but are not treated as our equals. They work the night shift, the jobs no one else wants, and they’re not too happy about it. Meanwhile, humans take advantage of the pleasures vampires can provide, but call them friends? Lovers? The gap between human and vampire stretches wide as death rises in the streets of Memphis.

Nocturnal Urges. It’s the most popular club in the Memphis nightlife. Part legal bordello, part feeding ground for the city’s vampires, Nocturnal Urges offers pleasure and pain in one sweet kiss. It’s the ultimate addiction: both drug and sex at once. For the vampires, it’s the only way to survive in a world where the creatures of the night are a dark underclass, ignored until the humans need another fix.

Into this world comes Isabel Nelson, a young woman seeking only a night’s pleasure. But after Isabel’s lover takes her to try the bite, she cannot stop thinking about Ryan, the dark vampire with whom she shared her lifeblood – and who is now suspected of murder. Isabel falls into a world where passion and love are miles apart, where life and unlike have little meaning… and someone is hunting in the shadows.

A More Perfect Union. Samantha Crews has lived a long time in the shadows of Memphis, working at Nocturnal Urges and hiding from the vampires that darken her past.

Det. Anne Freitas is stuck with a new partner, a young woman with a chip on her shoulder. Now they’re assigned to investigate a series of threats against congressional candidate Robert Carton, for whom Samantha volunteers.

But Samantha is falling for Danny Carton, the candidate’s son – an idealist who wants to make life better for humans and vampires alike. But there’s a lot Danny doesn’t know about Samantha.

He doesn’t know she’s a vampire.

He doesn’t know she works at Nocturnal Urges.

He doesn’t know his own father is one of her clients.

And he doesn’t know what’s stalking her…

Abaddon. The Lady Zorathenne requests the honor of your presence at a celebration. A toast, if you will. Followed by a feast.

Beneath the dark Memphis streets, something is stirring. Filled with ancient fury. Seeking revenge on the ones who live above. A revenge born in fire.

The fires are ranging in Memphis and no one is safe. Ryan and Samantha must descend into darkness beyond their imagining to find answers to the mysteries of the past, as Detectives Freitas and Parker seek the truth about the present.

And the return of an old foe could make the future a dark place indeed… save for the flames of Abaddon.

Even after complete media saturation, I still adore vampires; especially enjoy the strong, sexy, rich, powerful variety. Elizabeth Donald’s Nocturnal Urges vamps are a different type altogether. These vampires perpetually suffer under human oppression as true second-class citizens in a modern age. When I read the publisher’s blurb for this collection, I was intrigued by the concept of a night club where humans enjoy (exploit) vampires. It put me in mind of Charlaine Harris’s Fangtasia and, as an Eric Northman devotee, I couldn’t resist. And so, I was plunged into this gritty world of alternate Mephis and its highly dysfunctional social construct.

Donald’s take on vampires is original and interesting with many parallels to real-life disenfranchised groups. However, I felt I was being beaten over the head with the message of social inequality. Perhaps this is an attempt to rise above the typical vampire fare; and I get that, however, these stories simply did not stimulate my imagination. Each story has a murder-mystery within, however, I found each path to discovery lacking real suspense; each conclusion fairly predictable.

I find the social message interrupts authentic or interesting character development and interaction. The love stories contained within are flat. Characters profess their love quickly and seemingly out of nowhere. Perhaps I’m a skeptic, but I found myself muttering “whaaaaat?” on more than one occasion. Contributing to the social message within the text is the inclusion of several high-powered female characters including two detectives, and Fiona, the proprietor of bar/bordello Nocturnal Urges. It’s nice to encounter strong female characters, but aside from their burgeoning relationships, I didn’t feel these characters developed past types. And why do they all have red hair?

The collection has an excellent cover design. I enjoyed reading the historical note included at the end of the book as well as the Afterword, however, for me Nocturne Infernum was a fairly linear reading experience lacking bite.

2 ½ Sheep

Bianca Greenwood

About the Author:
About Elizabeth Donald: Elizabeth Donald is a writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturnal Urges vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. In her spare time, she… has no spare time.

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