Friday, March 15, 2013

The Dark Heroine by Abigail Gibbs

Title: The Dark Heroine
Author: Abigail Gibbs

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / London / UK / Vampires / Paranormal/Supernatural / Romance / Teenaged Heroine)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (3/5/2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Meh.
Did I finish?: I did not.
One-sentence summary: A teenaged human learns that vampires live and rule in Britain.

Do I like the cover?: Not particularly.

First line: Trafalgar Square is probably not the best place to stand at one o'clock in the morning.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Avoid unless you're a huge vampire fan or familiar with/fond of Gibbs' online work.

Why did I get this book?: The title, probably -- I've forgotten now!

Review: This book was inspired by the Twilight series and originally penned as a sprawling online story by a 14-year old girl. Said story eventually garnered 17 million views...and with the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey, no one should be surprised that Gibbs' novel was given the same online-to-offline treatment. This is the end result.

First, I have to give mad props to Gibbs, now 18 and off to Oxford, who made a chunk of change from what was a late night hobby. In this article (and in the book's Acknowledgements), she gloats a little about how her parents hated that she stayed up all night to write, but who cares now? Oxford and publishing deal!

Now that the congrats are out of the way, on to the critiques. Honestly, my biggest critique is that this feels like a world articulated by a teenager, which isn't surprising since that's who the author is.  My second critique is that I think this book needed a lot more editing, but I suspect there was a rush to publish it before her online fans moved on to something else.

This was another DNF for me -- I think I only made it to 90 pages -- as the writing style and characterizations just didn't work and this beast clocks in at 550+ pages.  

Essentially, this is an ordinary-girl-meets-an-extraordinary-boy romance, but our extraordinary boy is a vampire prince.  Violet -- named for her purple eyes! -- witnesses Kaspar leading an attack that kills 30 men.  She thinks to herself that Kaspar is a jerk (really?  That's your response?  I guess I'll chalk that up to shock...), he hears her thoughts, kidnaps her to his vampire estate where she can choose to live there until she dies or get changed into a vampire.

Although the jacket tells me this is the 'sexiest romance' I'll read all year, I call shenanigans. While I don't think authors need to write from personal experience to create evocative, resonant fiction, I do think it takes a skilled youngster to articulate well grand themes like immortality as well as convincingly convey the frisson of sexual interest.

Gibbs is fond of the quippy heroine -- her vampire men repeatedly call her 'feisty' with a mix of irritation and admiration -- so she inserts the glib aside at the randomest of moments, which detract from the tension she's trying to build and frankly, made it impossible for me to really suspend disbelief.

In this scene early on, Violet has fled her captors and trips into a deep lake.  Kaspar has menaced her, bitten her neck to make her bleed, and she's just witnessed a bloody massacre 12 hours earlier.  We'll learn in a throwaway sentence after this bit that she's petrified of drowning.
As the water erupted around me, it poured into my still shrieking mouth. ... My legs flailed and I searched for the bottom, more resembling an octopus than a human being.  Nevertheless, I broke the surface long enough to snatch a breath.  But it wasn't long enough to scream as something that felt like seaweed wrapped around my ankle.  With one yank, it pulled me back below the surface.  Looking down, I realized it was a tentacle wrapped around my leg, and I was face-to-face with what looked like a giant squid.

I groaned in my mind.  Why can't my life be normal? (p29)

Again I say: really?  Really? Gibbs has the nicer vampire carry her back to the mansion where he answers her questions about the source of the giant squid -- a query Violet manages while wobbling, half fainting, and looking fetching in her wet clothes (Gibbs alternates Violet's POV with Kaspar's now and then so we can have someone admire Violet).

I'm still in search of the vampire novel that'll make me like vampires. For me, Gibbs didn't manage to hit all the notes, but millions of others disagree, so you can start reading online to see how it strikes your fancy. If you like this one, you'll be happy to know there's a sequel coming!

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Dark Heroine to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 3/29.


  1. I was concerned for you when I saw this book in your haul...and I was right. I don't think I've heard one single good thing about it, other than your props to the author for managing to make money with it.

  2. I understand how business works - that the publishing world is operating on the process of:
    Step 1: Book
    Step 2: ????
    Step 3: Fame
    Step 4: Profit

    But knowing all that does not mean I appreciate it. While I laud young authors and the dedication it requires to complete the monumental task of writing a novel, I worry that early "successes" such as these will only encourage them to stagnate. If your, admittedly popular, green novel is picked up and published, is there any incentive to further your craft?

    1. Steena -- honestly, I feel that way about many authors, teenaged or older -- some folks really develop their craft, others don't -- and I'm encouraged that Gibbs going to study English at Oxford -- hopefully she'll hone her skill there!

  3. This definitely wouldn't be my cup of tea, but agreed on how it's nice to see an unknown, young writer all of a sudden make enough money to go to university--and what a university, at that!

    1. I know! I envy her that more than her publishing deal!

  4. Bravo for giving it 90 pages!

    I too am skeptical when it comes to the vampire in fiction, but a couple of vampire-oriented books I've enjoyed in recent months are Tim Powers' The Stress of Her Regard (the Romantic poets were so brilliant because they were HAUNTED BY VAMPIRES!) and Anno Dracula (Jonathan, Mina, and Co. didn't defeat Dracula after all! Yikes! Victorian England is in a tizzy!) by Kim Newman. They aren't, like, lovable cuddly vampires...but then I don't think vampires should be. :)

    1. I've heard of Anno Dracula and want to read it, but I must admit The Stress of Her Regard sounds uh-mah-zing. WANTWANT.

  5. It was one of those books riddled with problems but I really quite enjoyed. Having been written and originally published as a serial, you can see the improvement as the novel goes on and I did think I was going to DNF it untill I got sucked in. I like a bit of trashy vampire fiction now and then though.

    1. Ellie -- I told a friend that if I had less review books to work through, this might not have been a DNF. It had enough of that trashy quality (in a good way!) that intrigued me. But with a crunch, it didn't move me enough to want to stay up and linger with it. And I think Gibbs has made a good start -- I'm hopeful about her future endeavors.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one for the tour.

  7. I skipped this one and now am glad I did :) I would have had to slog through it :( I haven't been able to give up on one lately for some reason.

    1. It's a muscle that needs exercising, I think -- I could do so last year but am trying more and more to DNF and move on...

  8. As a start, maybe, but without later editing and more maturity in said editing, it would surely be pretty difficult to have a 14 year old write the sexiest book of the year. And a bit worrying, too. Your summary said it all.

    1. Yes and yes! Honestly, that might be the creepiest part of the whole book. Gibbs has some sex shame -- sexually active women are all 'whores' -- but that I forgive, in some ways, but I can't get behind a 14 year old writing a genuinely sexy novel. It makes me shudder!

  9. I have a copy of this and now I'm thinking that I will not be reading it because it sounds lacking in many ways.

    Thanks for the great review, sorry this didn't work for you.