Tuesday, January 19, 2016
“A More than Satisfying Sequel”: A Review of The Journal of Vincent du Maurier II, by K. P. Ambroziak
(Published by the author, 2015). ISBN: 9781514788370
Sequels, as ubiquitous as they have become in novels, film, and in television (through spin-offs and multiple seasons), are difficult to do well. As evidenced by the critically panned second season of True Detective and the multitude of sophomore albums by bands who come out of the gates with a strong first album, much of the difficulty with a follow-up project has to do with the long gestation period that a first work undergoes. In some cases, it is the culmination of decades of thought and trial and error, which elicits a deep passion and commitment from the artist that translates to the audience. Another reason is the simple fact that sequels are often about the economics of a follow-up rather than the truth about whether or not the main character has sufficient untold story left for a sequel. Often times, the initial Act 3 change in the Hero’s Journey is so profound that further examination of the main character’s life is bound to be a letdown; to feel forced, leading to logic holes and absurd situations.
I do not know the specifics of Ambroziak’s journey with the character of Vincent du Maurier—how long he gestated before being born into the first novel, or if the first and second books were developed concurrently—but it is no matter, because Ambroziak has made some very smart choices in her approach to the sequel. Although these choices bring to mind Anne Rice’s far-ranging vampire series, there is also a great deal that is unique.
First and foremost, Ambroziak splits the narrative between Du Maurier and his most recent vampiric conversion, Evelina, whom he professes to love. Creating two such distinct voices is an impressive feat, and makes the sequel a very new experience. The narrative also begins near the end of the story, which adds mystery to the plot as it unfolds. Switching between the two narrators also gives us clues and insights from both perspectives, further richening the mix.
This book is also different from its predecessor through its locales: while the first book took place as they traveled to different locations, book II takes place primarily on a ship. The use of a single, confined space creates an enhanced tension as Vincent and Evelina fight for survival and to unravel the mysteries before them.
What remains amid all of the differences is a tight, well-paced narrative, an interesting array of characters (from a millennium-old Aztec warrior to a foul-talking human sea captain), and rich tapestries of history, language, and cultural reference. It is in this area that Ambroziak reminds me most of Anne Rice, although her characters are far less melancholy, while still being complex and emotional, struggling with their lost human form (and in many cases, humanity) and learning to make the most of the physiological and other improvements of their vampiric body.
Another area where Ambroziak expands upon the tropes of the vampire genre is the characterization of the willing human donors who provide the blood supply for the vampires. Their motivations are examined to a greater degree than usual and I hope that in future installments of this series we get to hear the point of view of one of them.
Ambroziak also has a writing style that produces rich images such as these: “pull the frequencies into one lone buzz, like the synchronized hum of hornets in a hive, until the vampires’ growls and jeers, egging on the two warriors in the ring, faded, and all I heard was the drone of the sizzling air” (40).
At the very end of the book there is a reveal that opens new mysteries and cues for the reader the probability of another book in this engaging series. I for one was pleased to see that the adventures may very well continue.