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Embraced by the Shadows

ISBN: 1-933353-89-9

by Mayra Calvani
Reviewer: Nicolette Westfall

January 2009

When I first started reading this book, I thought, “Oh no, here we go again...” I assumed that it was going to be yet another piece about the wonderfully seductive nature of abusive men—vampires—who suck their prey dry. As I continued on, I realized that there was more to it than that basic outline. Sure, the central vampire, Sadash, slithers his way into Alana’s conscience from an early age, but she has her strong points.

One of the most important elements that highlights Alana’s strengths as a character is her relationship with Valeria, her best friend and extremely close confidante. There is question of whether their friendship can stand the challenges of men who enter their lives. They also face a muddled history that involves the death (murder?) of Alana’s mother (Laura) years before. It is their friendship that rounds off the story and reaffirms the argument that the book is not just about charming men who chronically suck women dry.

Women, like the men, have fangs, and they do choose to utilize them (even if it is out of necessity most of the time). Oddly, they treat drug dealers and street people as inferior, and therefore, open targets for kills. There is no consideration made when questioning the quality of blood coming from a drug addict or a person who has not had sufficient nutrition, but perhaps the only requirement is whether the blood is warm. Younger vampires have trouble differentiating between untouchable and disposable humans. It is the mature vampire (Sadash) that patiently guides the impatient disciple through the mishaps that occur as a result.

Vampires, like humans, are not immune to such failings as materialism, evidence of which is strewn throughout the story. Sadash and his vampy gal pal have all the latest in stereo equipment, televisions, and the like. It is a sad acknowledgement—you’d think a few centuries of roaming the earth in an un-dead state would lead to something more spiritual all round, but oh well, even the walking dead are caught up in flashy clothes, cars, and so on. I chose those moments of reading to yawn.

Yawns aside, the story does provide an interestingly simple answer to the mystery of Laura’s death. Other bits, like nods to the constant pressure of leering males and Alana’s decision to remain a virgin even into her 20s present an awareness through the female experience that present the female characters as individuals who make active choices regardless of or in spite of male influences.

 

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