(2017) Lynsay Sands, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, 369pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22153-6
This is the latest in Lindsay Sands long running series of Argeneau Vampire novels. However, you do not need to have read the previous novels to enjoy this one as they feature in the same world but often feature different central characters and locations.
Sands has a very accessible writing style, the plot moves quickly, this makes for an easy read. The characters are relatively uncomplicated and easy to relate to, even if occasionally their emotional reactions are a little clichéd at times.
The books are set in the modern world, but one that has hidden families and group of immortal vampires, ones with a code not to feed on mortals. The explanation for the immortals is one of science and nanotechnology, wrapped in the myths of Atlantis and vampires. In this novel, unlike others, we only get brief glimpses of how the immortals interact with the human world more generally.
The primary protagonist is Sarita, a female police officer who finds herself trapped on an island with Domitian, the immortal who is supposed to be her life mate. The villain of the piece is the scientist Dr Dressler, who kidnaps and tortures immortals in the quest to find his own immortality.
Despite the use of a technological origin for the immortals, the novel uses tropes of the supernatural romance although it could be classed as urban fantasy or, perhaps less likely, erotic horror. The vampire looking for their one true love is a familiar tale, although some of the plot twists keep the reader interested in the story, even if the outcome is not difficult to predict.
In Immortal Unchained, the lines of good and evil are very clear, there are a few shades of grey, but not many. It would perhaps be surprising to traditional horror followers that the apparent vampires are firmly on the side of good, but perhaps less surprising if you follow other books of this type. The only grey area are the creations of Dr Dressler, children born to his genetic manipulation, arguably innocent of their father’s crimes and given little choice but to follow his commands.
There are themes of love romance and sex, the sexual a content is reasonably detailed without being graphic. The 'life mate' concept is a little grating as it essentially over rides the sensibility of explicit consent and individual independence to give a 'love at first sight' fairy-tale aesthetic, which jars a little in the modern context. The idea that Domitian has been sending people to follow Sarita since a single chance meeting when she was thirteen is a little creepy, that Sarita, a police officer, gets over this issue so quickly feel a little unreal. Sarita is determined that she is not going along with the life mate expectation, but within hours of meeting they are having sex.
If you are looking for a cerebral, difficult novel then this is definitely not it, but if you enjoy the genre and would like some light escapism, then this is a decidedly good read.
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