Next month I will be shutting down my old blog and its various branches, so I’ve decided to start transferring some of my previously written articles here. I reviewed this book some time ago, but here it is again for the sake of making it available on this current blog. As I move reviews, most of them will also be shared on various publishing sites (Amazon, Smashwords, and Goodreads … if the books are available there).
I’m a huge fan of vampires in literature. …Notice I said “vampires IN literature” and not “vampire literature” or “vampire genre”. There’s a reason. There is a difference. I’ll transfer my vampire lore pages later, though. For now, enjoy this little recommendation. 🙂
Book: The Ouroboros Cycle
Author: G.D. Falksen
Genres: Gothic horror, steampunk
This is an engaging novel I heard about in a steampunk community, but I’m going to classify it as primarily Gothic horror with a steampunk flavor. It doesn’t have iron robots, fantastic flying machines, or clockwork anything other than clocks. But it does have a rich sense of 19th century culture and politics that often gives steampunk settings and plots a certain “texture” that even Gothic horror often lacks. It does, however, have ghosts, vampires, and werewolves.
The story begins in 1861, Normandy, France, and follows the life of the main protagonist, Babette Veranus. An up-and-coming socialite, Babette lives with her father and grandfather, but is more inclined toward books than debutante balls. Unknown to Babette and her father, the grandfather of the family, William, is a werewolf. The gene skipped Babette’s father, who is a rather meek individual, but shows promise of showing up in her. Therefore, arrangements are in the planning to wed her off to the most prominent werewolf clan in the community.
Babette, however, loathes the boorish young man to whom she is being assigned. Furthermore, she eventually meets someone she likes better. Family feud, social indignation, and murder follow. Scandalized, William secrets his precious granddaughter away from France for a time … where she meets a vampire. And it is the vampire who enlightens her to the existence of werewolves and, unintentionally, enables her to exact her revenge.
The setting in this book is vivid and rich, easily transporting the reader into a sense of time and place. There are sword fights and gun battles. There are philosophical discussions and clan intrigue. I appreciated the variety of the pace between the family squabbles, the romance, the intellectual debates, and adventure. It keeps the story moving forward so there is never a dull moment.
The characters in this book are probably what truly sold it to me, particularly Babette. Congratulations to Falksen for writing such a well-developed female lead! Just today I was grousing elsewhere about the sorry state of female characters in literature, and this is a shining example of how to write female characters right. Babette has dimension. She is intelligent, driven, uncompromising, and knows what she wants out of life. She’s romantic, but not ditzy. She’s cunning, but not scheming. She’s a fighter, but not a male character in a female body. She is relatably human, even after she becomes a “monster”.
The other characters were distinct and memorable. I have to admit my second favourite character in the bunch was Iosef … her vampire mentor. He and his clan are modeled on the classic European style vampire, but with a more noble air than the likes of Dracula. The Shashavani vampires are aristocrats of the old world who value knowledge above all else. They don’t accept new members lightly, and their standards to remain in the family are high.
In this book, it is the werewolves that struck me as unusual. They’re never actually called “werewolves”. Instead, they’re referred to as “scion”. (If you’re not familiar with that term it means “notable lineage”.) But they are definitely strong, clawed, hairy beasts that stick together and hunt in packs. They can run on all fours or on two legs, and they when they reach a certain age, they begin to lose their human appearance. Stuck in lycanthropic form, they must live underground in deep, ancient chambers.
Falksen’s style is clear and entertaining. I think I noticed one grammatical error, but I don’t even remember what it is now. The distraction was minor enough that I went right back into the story.
Overall, there is little room for improvement, in my opinion. Will I be getting the other books in the series? They’re definitely going on my TBR list. There were a lot of unanswered questions that are obviously stories to be told within themselves. There is a second book in the series, and I believe a third one is on the way. I consider it a wonderful addition to my vampire library.