Alyxandra Harvey

Drake Chronicles, Book 1

Bloomsbury Children (2010)

ISBN: 9781408803400

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack, March 2010

I’m beginning to wish that publishers would stop labelling books “for fans of Twilight” or “for fans of Stephenie Meyer”.  I know why they do it, but in a number of cases recently that’s actually sold the novel in question short, as it’s much better than any in the Twilight series.  That’s true of My Love Lies Bleeding.  Although it features vampires and teenagers, it doesn’t have a lot else in common with Twilight, and it’s a very good novel.  I was pleased to find it’s the first in a series.

Solange and Lucy are fifteen, nearly sixteen, and they’ve been best friends for their whole lives despite their differences.  Solange comes from a large family, with seven older brothers, while Lucy is an only child. Solange is quiet and reserved, while Lucy is outspoken and bordering on obnoxious.  And around the time Solange turns sixteen, she must become a vampire or die.  Lucy is an ordinary human.

Harvey has created an interesting addition to the vampire mythology here. While most of her vampires are created in the “usual” fashion – by being turned by another vampire – there are a few very old families which carry a genetic condition which makes their children vampire born. Apparently normal humans until their mid-teens, at that time the condition kicks in and the children must either become vampires (by drinking blood) or die.  Solange and her brothers belong to such a family. Her father was vampire born; her mother human, although she became a vampire after Solange’s birth.  Apart from the small number of “vampires born”, Harvey sticks pretty close to the traditional mythology around vampires.

This difference between vampires creates some interesting problems. The born vampires tend to be less feral than the created, and avoid feeding on humans.  They certainly don’t kill them.  Most importantly, an ancient prophecy suggests that a girl who is born a vampire will rule all the vampires. Solange is the first vampire female born in nearly 900 years.  As her change approaches, she is besieged; the current Queen wants to kill her, and virtually every male vampire wants to wed and bed her as a way of gaining power.  Solange doesn’t want power, doesn’t want a mate, and she’s not too sure she wants to be a vampire, despite growing up in a family of them.  Besides, the change carries huge risks – Solange could conceivably die during it.

This is a young adult novel, and as such the plot is relatively straight forward – will Solange survive the attacks and the
change?  Will her family and friends?  There isn’t a lot of room for subplots. However, by creating some strong and complex characters, Harvey has introduced some subtle subplots through their relationships.  Lucy has always regarded Solange’s brothers as, essentially, her brothers too.  But now she finds herself attracted to Nicholas, who has always particularly annoyed her.  This is unsettling as she’s always seen him as an irritating brother; but worse, he’s already been through the change and is a vampire.  There are a lot of conflicts here for Lucy to resolve.  Solange herself is attracted to someone even less appropriate – a vampire hunter eager to kill her and all her family.

The strength and vividness of the characters and their relationships are a critical strength in this novel. They add believability, and keep the reader thoroughly caught up in the action and caring about what will happen.  Lucy and Solange are undoubtedly the most rounded characters – this novel will appeal most to teenage girls – but others such as Solange’s family gradually emerge as realistic characters in their own right. We just don’t see as much of what is happening in their heads as we do with the two girls.

However, the novel doesn’t rest solely on the characters. There’s a zesty humor about much of the novel that appealed to me, and will probably ring true with a lot of younger readers.  The writing is smooth and to the point. The plot is well worked out and convincing, as is the background to the novel and the characters. And there are some important action sequences which are well written and bring to mind Buffy the Vampire Slayer – they’re not derivative, but they’re easy to visualise and credible.

I really enjoyed this novel. The characters engaged my sympathies quickly, and the plot managed to be quite original while still using familiar themes and tropes.  The action was rapid fire and generally convincing. The novel ends on quite a satisfying note, with a lot resolved … but it’s also easy to see plenty of openings for the sequel(s). And given how enjoyable this novel was, I’m looking forward to seeing the next book in the series.