Tuesday, November 1, 2016

“Saving the Best for Last”: A Review of The Journal of Vincent du Maurier III, by K. P. Ambroziak

(Published by the author, 2016). ISBN: 9781535511193
by Joey Madia
Why are we so satisfied with trilogies? I think of books like the Lord of the Rings cycle, the Blake Crouch Pines series, and the Oedipus cycle of Sophocles, and film series like The Matrix and the original Star Wars and I can think of little more satisfying than a triadic installment of a well-told tale.  In my book on storytelling I talk about trilogies and triads; about 3-Act structure and the Rule of 3s; and about Aristotle being the first to point out to us not only that good stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but what each of them should accomplish, a launching point I have built on for years in my “Three 3s of Good Storytelling” worksheets and workshops.
There is no doubt that there is something fundamental in our DNA as storytellers and story absorbers that makes a trilogy one of the perfect delivery mechanisms for a tale worth sharing—sharing being a two-way feedback loop of writer–reader on a journey that takes the writer’s IOUs and spreads them out over not just a chapter or book, but over a series of them.
K. P. Ambroziak has accomplished a great deal in the Vincent du Maurier trilogy, as I’ve examined in my reviews of the first two books. All that succeeded in the prior two books is strengthened here, with much added in the way of mystery and elegance in how the meta-mystery origin stories unfold.
Before I get into the structure and tone of the book, I’d like to make a more general comment on where vampire novels such as this and monster-based horror stories in general tend to be going in the twenty-first century. By the late 1800s, when the world was getting acquainted with such characters as Dracula, Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau, the operative metaphors were the suppression of sex, the fear of Western European blood being polluted by Eastern Europeans, and Eugenics. Underlying it all was the struggle to come to terms with rapidly advancing fields in the sciences. In the twenty-first century, as those scientific fields have grown into the many-headed hydra of genes and their mapping, isolation, and manipulation, the vampire/monster genre’s metaphors have become ever-more concrete: The Strain, Tru Blood, and Prince Lestat all take aim at the blood–gene bulls-eye and their vampires are fascinated with the potential for power and control it promises (making them more like politicians and the military than ever before). Even men-as-monsters use genetics, as evidenced in Dan Brown’s Inferno. In this new world, as in the old one, scientist is synonymous with either God or God-maker.
Ambroziak embraces this evolving trope, making it the driving force of the final book of the trilogy. She takes complicated science and makes it understandable and plausible, while twisting and turning the plot like the double helix. On a parallel track, with all the complications of a strand of DNA, the plot moves back and forth in time, in and out of reality, folding over and back upon itself numerous times. Not wanting to give anything away, I will talk only broadly about the narrative “how” of it all.
Intertwining with what I’ve just described (as if that weren’t enough of a feast) is a strong rooting in mythology (once again making me think of Dan Brown. Honestly though, Ambroziak is an equal storyteller and superior writer).
As many trilogies do, this one goes from small in scope—centering on Du Maurier and the pregnant woman he protects in book I—to quite large, spanning countries and timelines as back stories are illuminated and mysteries are solved. Du Maurier is right in line with the twenty-first-century male anti-hero—the deeply flawed man who tries to keep his family together while making mistake after mistake. And what constitutes “family” in this third book is expansive and complex, which is an apt parallel with present times, where family is ever-more nontraditional and broadly defined.
Vampirism as addiction is further developed in this final book of the trilogy, interlocking thematically with humans and hybrids who willingly give their blood to the most dominant of the vampires. If we consider that vampirism in the sense of psychic vampirism is a very real thing in most people’s lives, this device gives us plenty to think about in our own familial and social networks.
Coming full circle, the brilliance in this trilogy is that the story unfolds through numerous perspectives, akin to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, which celebrate 40 years with its twelfth book arriving in November of this year. Du Maurier, in the third book of this trilogy, chooses a young Norse monk-like figure to set down his tale, reminding me of the opening of Rice’s Blood and Gold.

Without giving away the end, I hold out hope that one or more of the facets of the diamond that is the newly defined family of this trilogy goes on to continue the tale.