Jasper introduces tattoo artist Riley Poe in this shallow launch of a Southern-fried vampire romance trilogy. Once a wild child, Riley is now a surrogate parent to her younger brother, Seth. Riley’s adopted Gullah relatives provide a living blood bank for the Dupré family of “good” vampires, who kept deadly undead “strigoi” bloodsuckers encrypted in Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery until Seth’s teenage prank freed them. Now evil strigoi Victorian and Valerian are bent on recruiting Seth and slaking their thirst on Riley’s rare blood. Mysterious and magnetic Eli Dupré, entrusted with Riley’s protection, both thrills her and freaks her out with vampiric cravings and sensual caresses. This superficial addition to today’s vampire craze, couched in superheated first-person tough-girl lingo, adds only a few meager drops of insight into the current popularity of Dracula’s literary descendants.
And as harsh as that last line is, it isn’t too far off the mark. But let me explain. There’s a lot to like about the Afterlight world created by Elle Jasper: a history-laden Savannah, a tattooed protagonist with the need to kick ass and more ridiculously attractive vampires than our main character Riley can handle. But the execution of all of these elements leaves one sadly wanting more.
When you have such a rich, unique culture and history, it’s sad to see it held back by stiff conversation and description that mostly “tells” and only “shows” as an after thought. The settings (25/25) was definitely the element that shined in this novel; I feel that if Jasper had spent as much time crafting the characters and plot as she did on the rich settings, the book would have been better for it. Because I could smell the brine in the air when she wrote about it. I could see the old brick buildings, sense the cloying push of the incense from the gullah household. But an excellent setting was not enough to carry everything else along. It did create a pretty package, however.
The characters (15/25) are all vaguely familiar with little to differentiate them from other characters seen in the genre: sexually frustrated main lead male who can’t get enough of main female lead who is decidedly bad-ass and hard as nails (despite her tendency to swoon in male lead’s hot presence); hard-headed brother; evil, sexually devious vampire baddie, etc. There’s nothing particularly bad about these characters. There’s just nothing striking, either.
The plot (18/25) is something different with a familiar element: that one girl whose blood is better than any other blood out there, irresistable and more than likely addictive. It’s a fantastic tale involving what is basically a harvesting of the young men in Savannah. They’ve all been attacked by two evil, vampire brothers who have been sleep (due to a curse) for hundreds of years. Riley Poe (a choice in name which very well fits her just-short-of-believable character) goes into Buffy the Vampire Slayer training and eventually confront the brothers who are attempting to steal herbrother along with the other young men they’ve bespelled. It’s certainly an interesting plot, but the characters fall a little flat ina genre where character is a large portion of the draw. I personally am drawn in by the larger than life personalities that come with supernatural abilities. My opinion could very well be swayed by this, but the fact of the matter is I’m sorely disappointed by the 2-D foldouts that I ended up spending the duration of the book with.
Jasper has what is often an enjoyable, gritty style (20/25) but it gets lost among the cliche trappings that make up the large majority of the book’s description. It is certainly the case of having big plans with little to back it up. All things considered, I’ll give it a C. A 78 to be exact.