I really enjoyed Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s previous novel, Signal To Noise, so I had high expectations of this one. Once again, it is set in contemporary(ish) Mexico, but the previous book’s empathetic descriptions of adolescent first love and attendant heartbreak have been replaced by something far darker. This is a world where vampires are real. In Mexico they run the drug cartels, and are violent, lawless criminals, much feared across the country. Mexico City itself is protected by walls and checkpoints. It is supposedly a vampire-free zone, but practice is far slipperier than theory….
The main viewpoint character is Domingo, a teenage street kid who supports himself by picking litter. He encounters the glamourous Atl, a vampire on the run but bent on revenge, and falls under her spell. The book charts their relationship as they struggle to escape the city and avoid the frankly nasty Nick Godoy, a vampire of a different subspecies who is obsessed with catching Atl.
There’s a lot to like in this book. The sense of place is outstanding, and the atmosphere of Mexico City is very well rendered. The vampire taxonomy is interesting, with plenty of opportunity to explore further should Ms Garcia-Moreno write any more books in this milieu.
Domingo is a very sympathetic character, naive and likeable, and pleasingly upbeat despite the crappy hand life has dealt him. I did think that sometimes the reality of exactly what Atl really is was glossed over. She is by no means an out and out good guy (not least because she’s not a guy at all, but you know what I mean), but looking at her through Domingo’s starstruck eyes we have to put that together ourselves. That said, her transgressions are hugely overshadowed by the psychopathic sadism of Nick, the real villain. Make no mistake, this is a very violent book, but it’s also a gripping noir thriller with an exciting climax in a location I don’t think I’ve ever seen used this way before. It’s a fresh and original take on the vampire genre, and well worth a read.
[reviewed from an advance copy provided by NetGalley]