Recommended by: Naomi Burt - Regional Manager
IN DARKNESS WE SHINE
Welcome to VAMPS, an elite academy in the Swiss Alps for the children of the wealthiest and powerful vampire families.
Dillon is an outsider, a dhampir – half vampire, half human – sent to VAMPS to learn to nurture his vampire side. Thrown in at the deep end, he must embrace his fangs if he is to survive. But blood never lies and there is something special in Dillon’s veins that the others do not have. And as his power grows, so does the target on his back . . .
Now, let me start by saying that I’m of the right age for Twilight to have been a massive defining feature of my teenage years. I devoured those books, thought they were excellent, was firmly Team Cullen, set a Google Alert for updates about the film (forgive me, I was like…15, I didn’t know any better)
Subsequently I have seen the error of my ways – like for most people, those films really brought to light the fact that actually maybe there were a lot of incredibly concerning things about the relationship between Bella and Edward (and generally the whole series) and I have been wary of books about vampires ever since.
The vampire trend that Twilight sparked was wild and I feel was only really starting to die out when I entered the publishing industry, when it became clear that books about vampires were finally struggling to find an audience. But given that books about fantastical creatures have never really gone away (Sarah J Maas has been dining out on books about Fae for like a decade now [not a slight, she’s very nice and I’ve read almost all of them]), I think that generation of Twilight die-hards have really just been waiting for the right book to draw them back into vampires. And Vamps might well be it.
Vamps doesn’t rewrite the lore of vampires. They still possess an otherworldly beauty; immense speed and strength; and in some, the power of flight, and mind reading/control. And of course a near overpowering lust for human blood. Dhampir (half human, half vampire) Dillon is not welcomed by his vampire peers when he arrives at VAMPS, they find him alluring and offensive to tradition in equal measure. He on the other hand finds the whole thing wildly confusing. He has only recently found out he is not, as he always assumed, entirely human. Before arriving at VAMPS he has never tasted nor lusted after blood or displayed any other vampiric tendencies. The identity of his mother, who left very young, has always been a mystery to him and unsurprisingly he never stopped to think that she might be a vampire (the identity of his mother is a fun little whodunnit game until the last chapter). The intricacies and histories of the vampire world are as much a mystery to him as to us as the reader. We learn as Dillon does about the world he has been thrust into, and as he fumbles his way through his first year at the academy he learns he may never fully fit in. There’s something special about him that could be a threat, and the most powerful vampires will do what it takes to get him out.
The world the author Nicole has created shows a vampire world that runs parallel to ours – they may occasionally interfere in global affairs if humans come close to discovering their secret but, in the main, they keep themselves to themselves where they can. A large reason the VAMPS academy exists is to mould elite vampires in a way that will allow them to integrate seamlessly with us when needed. It’s diverse, the school attracts the wealthiest vampires from all over the world, so not all of them are ghostly pale with alabaster skin. They also seem to operate with a notion that if you’re going to live forever and surrounded by incredibly beautiful vampires in peak physical condition why limit yourself to one gender? (wink, wink), (but important to note that Nicole does not use this to propel the book into erotica). Giving us a central character who is also only just being introduced to this world is great as it means he tends to have the same “what?” “are you for real?” response as we do which I think keeps it light and allows for natural world building. He, rightly, questions everything and feels suitably terrified by everything he’s confronted with.
I accept that this book isn’t for everyone but I had a lot of fun reading it and I think will certainly appeal to those Twilight fans of yesteryear ready to launch themselves back into the bloody world of the vampire elite. It’s not as sexy as a lot of the other books in this field and is also not super violent so can easily be considered a crossover YA/adult novel (16+). And without a single glittery vampire in sight I really think this will easily find its people.