Note - The Author Visits received a copy of The Vitandi by Denver Batiste in exchange for a honest review.
Reviewer: Kristin Lundgren for The Author Visits
Two millennia ago, when Christ had his Last Supper, things actually went a bit differently than the bible says. He believed he had been betrayed by all his Disciples, not just Judas, and had them drink his blood from the Holy Grail, which transmuted the blood to cause them to transform into vampires, the Twelve Tribes. These Disciples can change humans, by their own choice, into vampires, the Vitandi, a name taken by the Disciples from it's original meaning of excommunicated by the Church for evil. Others they bite and take a small drink from, and they become bonded to them, their Protectors, for 1000 years until they die. One of the Disciples, Simon, the most-beloved of all, had a son Kellan, by a woman who was a descendant of Adam. A prophecy foretells that he must have a son by the Daughter, a woman descended straight from the line of Jesus's mother Mary. Without this, the vampires will cease to exist. For years they were forced into hiding, and lost the line, but modern DNA technology, and their own blood bank, soon brings the Daughter into sight, but time is running out, and Lucifer also wants her, for his own designs.
Pros: This is a captivating, complete reimagining of both the biblical Last Supper, Jesus, and the whole vampiric lore. She weaves in new meaning to biblical events, and creates vampires that are, for the most part, modern, urbane businessmen in bespoke suits that travel in personal jets, and live in penthouses. The one deviation is Kellan, who prefers Emo, saying that the young women love it. His electric blue or fire-engine red hair, his lips rings, and his black clothing, along with his modern attitudes are a persona he puts on. The traditional elements of vampires - no sun, coffins, no food or drink, no crosses, mirrors, etc., aren't here. They are basically immortal beings, with extra strength, an ability to creep climb walls, and to read minds sometimes, and force thoughts or erase them.
Her writing is enjoyable, and the story flows smoothly, and is well-paced. The characters are interesting, so much so that you really want to get to know some of the other Disciples better. Her young heroine, Nicole, is feisty and determined, and the humor is brought in to provide levity in what might be a dark time. There were very few typos/errors. And as for me, I loved the ending. To me it was a knockout.
Cons: The story ebbs and flows - sometimes time was dilated, and sometimes compressed. The last day in the book encompasses at least 1/4 to 1/3 of the book, while almost a year happens in the preceding pages. There is a lot of tell v. show, which can be explained in part by the elaborate plot and backstory. But there was also a lot of unnecessary explanations for plot devices that weren't needed to move the narrative forward.
The dialogue and inner thought were anachronistic at times, esp. for Kellan, the youngest of the vampires, and the one emulating Emos, using words like "highfalutin', riff-raff, marlarky, little fop, and cocksure little bantam." Those felt very Victorian. But other times, the majority, he used the normal vernacular of our time, interspersed with cursing. In fact all the Disciples seemed to curse, something that spoke more of their beginnings as men, rather than religious icons. Some of the plot issues were taken care of too easily, and were almost miraculous - the Hell Scout Arius, who didn't even know what a computer was, in a short time turns it on, finds the files he needs, and prints them out. Hard for many adults to do on someone else's computer.
I had some trouble connecting to Kellan, as the Emo stuff didn't strike me as something that post-college women swoon over, at least those I know, and he talked about liking prostitutes (for blood) as they were "easy targets." Although he was a vampire, there wasn't much discussion about their feeding, so some of these comments early on made it hard to warm up to him. And Nicole and her best friend Mia, both teachers, acted like they were in high school at times, Nicole even reading gossip rags while her students worked. And I could do without the discussions of women's cycles and periods, and all the details. This would be a NA to adult novel with one descriptive sex scene.
End result: I really liked the story, the imaginative and innovative way she turned the vampire genre on it's ear, and also rewrote biblical history. I am eagerly awaiting what I hope is Book Two.
Rating: 4 blood-tinged stars
Purchase Denver Batiste's The Vitandi