Jan 062013

Did I title this rip-offs? I meant fanfic. No wait … there’s probably some correct publishing term for them. Maybe they’re just “Pride & Prejudice sequels.”

I had a sample of Death Comes to Pemberley* sitting on my nook for many months, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I was halfway through Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. I sped through DCtP over Christmas, and then waded through the rest of MDV on trains in the days after New Year’s (fittingly, since Austen had a fetish for modes of transport and MDV involves near-constant travel).

I had high expectations for MDV, both because I love paranormal romance like Cheryl loves being choked and because Amanda Grange wrote Mr. Darcy’s Diary and Colonel Brandon’s Diary, both excellent books. So when I started it, and many chapters in there were still only ominous hints of vampires — sorry, vampyres, and the writing style seemed entirely modern, I was irritated. I complained loudly about the steady stream of clunky references to P&P, seemingly stuck in to prove the relationship to the source material, since the characters and setting seemed unconnected to it.** Elizabeth and Darcy both read like a straight-to-dvd movie sequel where the leads are replaced by C-list actors and the production company kneecaps the director on the first day of shooting to motivate her to get “great performances” from them.***

DCtP, on the other hand, is a murder mystery and I rarely read mysteries. I had never heard of P. D. James (who turns out to be kinda badass) and didn’t trust this to entertain me, but I had it right there and the cover art was nice so I gave it a go. From the beginning, the narrative style pleased me. The book’s prologue summarizes P&P and the six years between the books, and those six years were a relief to me: any discrepancies I perceived between canon Elizabeth/Darcy and sequel Elizabeth/Darcy would be explainable in my mind by six years of unseen character growth. (MDV didn’t get that benefit because it starts on the day of the wedding.)

By the end of DCtP, though, I was dissatisfied. As the murder mystery progressed, Elizabeth took more and more of a hand-wringing background role to the action. Wickham became a more prominent character. Wickham! Taking up more space in my brain than Elizabeth! Insupportable! Mrs. Wickham, one of the most irritating Austen ladies ever, also disappears, which is both pleasant and out of character. The vanishing females was my biggest complaint, and felt like a betrayal of Austen’s consistent, faithful portrayals. I wondered if they disappeared because the only canonical motivation the author found for them was marriage, but the best part of Austen is how she used that overarching fact of their lives to show how they had so much more humanity than just “potential wife”.

The dreamily be-ribboned existence of marriage-minded ladies in grecian dresses is actually replaced by some enjoyable Downton-Abbey-esque manor home machinations and fine details of period English legal process, so there are still tasty cookies to be had. Overall, it was a good book, and I wouldn’t tell anyone not to read it, but a P&P sequel with a dull Elizabeth could never fully capture my heart.

Returning to MDV, I was ready to forgive the many sins if the book would just get around to some sort of repentance, preferably in the form of sumptuous continental balls or even, I don’t know, maybe some tormented-vampyre-Darcy action? Well, it delivered, and then delivered some more. Transylvanian**** castles complete with pitchfork-wielding mobs, Venetian masquerades, and ancient unspeakable evil. I was finally happy, even with the twee-as-fuck magic ending***** and the lame hand-waving over the immortality problem.

So now what? Is the purpose of blogging a review to recommend books? Very well. If you like Austen stuff, you may or may not like these. I don’t know mystery well enough to call DCtP a good example of the genre, but it is a good read. If you dig Twilight or historical romance at all, then yes, MDV is totes for you. If you don’t like any of those things, I don’t know why you read this at all, but maybe go with Old Man’s War or something.



* While harvesting these links I learned that she also wrote Pride and Pyramids. Yes, there are mummies.

** Such vociferous complaints are why certain innocent bystanders encouraged me to blog about it rather than continuing to drone on and on in person.

*** This probably happens all the time in Hollywood.

**** Actually, the geography of this was super-sketchy, and there was a food description that indicated maybe Hungary, so I don’t think it was meant to be Transylvania. But that’s where they were in my head, so that’s what I’m going with.

***** SPOILER: I mean, I would have been happier with a Vampyre Elizabeth than Darcy turning back into a human, but whatever. At least they finally got to fuck each other.

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