Book Review: Water Vamps, by GL Giles

artwork via Victor Sweatt

artwork via Victor Sweatt

Fiction - Young Adult, Fantasy
published June, 2013

A New Take on an Old Legend

“My blood is your blood, and your blood is my blood...we’re one without sun...counterparts, though apart...” – Water Vamps

Do you remember the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It ran on the WB and then UPN from 1997 to 2003. Buffy confronted all things supernatural and just plain weird. From werewolves to witches to Hell dimensions and back again. It was wayyy ahead of its time. We are talking before the hit show Supernatural or Twilight movie caused all the teenagers (and some adults too) to go gaga. This is the arena Water Vamps belongs in. It’s a book that contains exactly the kind of otherworldly beings that the Scooby Gang aka Buffy and friends would encounter. Yes, I know nicknames. I was a fan - don’t judge me.

The author, GL Giles (the G.L. stands for Good Luck!), describes herself as a novelist, lyricist, blogger, “feline and canine dependent’’ and a hippie-goth. Previously known as a children’s writer, she dives into fresh waters with Water Vamps. As a native Charlestonian, she brings her own personal experiences to this book. Giles is a seasoned author as this is her 2nd edition of Water Vamps. Previously, she’s published the short story "Puss in Boots" in an anthology titled "Imagination Reimagined, Not Your Children's Fairy Tales" and recently had a piece on magnificent "Maleficent" published in "The Movie That Changed My Life" (edited by Staci Layne Wilson).

Lyricist is right. The first thing that struck me when I started the book was Giles’ descriptions of…well everything. It sounded almost musical. One moment she is describing fashion (“a jaunty chartreuse-colored hat with a faux feather attached under a thick band which ran around the circumference…”) and the next describing vivid imagery of 1980s South Carolina’s beautiful landscape along with detailing golden silk spiders and banana spiders (eek). Descriptions are rich and you can almost place yourself in the story even if you don’t want anything to do with vampires.

Our characters’ journey takes place in this lushly described landscape. Picture a 1980s Charleston, South Carolina meets True Blood meets Buffy with some water mixed in. A young, interracial love story starts to grow in an otherworldly environment. Robyn is a young Gullah/Romani girl and, unbeknownst to herself at first, is a psychic vampire. This means she is largely human with a little bit of vampire in her who has special physical and mental ‘talents.’ She meets a young boy, Marion, a shapeshifter, through a chance encounter. They fall in love. Sound familiar? Yes, Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

Except in this love tale, no one is fully human. Also, in a twist that is fresh and original, Robyn the girl is Robin Hood and Marion the boy is Maid Marian. Robyn even describes her appearance in her dreams. Her dream-self looks “like a female version of Robin Hood” and that “she identifies more with Robin Hood than Maid Marian.” Her dream-self even has a “Lincoln green outfit with a jaunty hat atop her head.” Giles is great at characterization and letting the reader visualize the character through her words. The characters come to life and that helps push the story forward in the readers’ minds.

Giles reminds us of the origins of their names numerous times, but not enough that it seems like overkill. Before they ever even meet in real life, Robyn and Marion keep having separate dreams of their dream selves meeting another pair of supernatural beings, Setiana and Vasario. These four are counterparts to each other and that plays out over the span of the story. In fact, it is Robyn and Marion’s destiny to help these two. Water Vamps breathes new life into an old cliché vampire story. Giles takes the time to explain all the different kinds of vampires and other beings that encompass her imaginary world to you, but if you aren’t interested and just want to get to the action you might find it a hard read. And if you don’t like jumping back and forth between time or locations, then this probably isn’t your cup of tea.

Along the way Giles introduces us to a whole host of characters that drive the story. There’s the Spirit Train of Dead Souls stuck in a mausoleum and ran by resident bully, Wilhelm (well that’s his human name anyway). He forces other peoples’ souls to stay attached to him by attaching their ectoplasmic energy to his own. Also, there are the antagonists Jonas Lucas, Robyn’s uncle and his wife Vanna Dittmar…psychic vampires gone rogue. The angel to those demons is Leticia, Robyn’s wise mother who is hiding a secret of her own. Giles provides interesting backstory to all these characters. These people and more provide a fun, colorful backdrop for our main characters to interact.

You Should Read If You Like: Robin Hood, vampires, blood (this would be weird but eh), young adult novels, short reads (it’s 96 pages!)

You Shouldn’t Read If You Don’t Like: Fantasy, any references to the 1980s, South Carolina, water (the title people…the title), short reads (again 96 pages…)

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