I’ve yet again changed a book on my intended reading list. In August, I was scheduled to read Crackpot by Adele Wiseman. It was an interesting novel — I read 50 pages — but the meandering storytelling didn’t suit my brain at that time. The family are Jewish immigrants, and I plan on giving the book to Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku in the hopes that she enjoys it. Because I spent so much time trying to get into Crackpot, I replaced it with a novella so I could stay on track with my monthly reading goals.
Bring Out Your Dead by Katie MacAlister is part of the Dark Ones series. It’s an extra novella that falls between two books. Apparently, readers wanted to know more about the French vampire Sebastian, who appears in two earlier books, but is always a side character. He meets his Beloved, Belle, rather quickly, and the book clips along at a rapid pace as they attempt to keep a demon from taking one of Belle’s two souls (she has two thanks to a glitch).
While I often feel like the Dark Ones novels drag on too long, Bring Out Your Dead was too short. MacAlister made an interesting heroine (a first in her Dark Ones series), but then leaves much unexplained about Belle. Readers learn she has been married five times . . . and that’s because she’s died before and was resurrected. Belle has a sidekick, Sally, who is unexplained. She’s a spirit guide, but what does that mean? Sally doesn’t know French, but she likes to throw it in awkwardly. I wouldn’t even compare this to the beauty of Spanglish:
Sebastian’s eyes narrowed at her for a moment. “You are aware, are you not, that you are not speaking actual French?”
“Le gasp! Sally said, following word by deed and gasping in a thoroughly shocked manner. “Je suis too!”
“No, you are not. You are mangling a perfectly nice language.”
It’s also unclear why another character thinks Sebastian is her Beloved. A Beloved is a woman who is “meant” for the Dark One — sort of like soul mates, if you believe that sort of thing — except the Beloved returns the Dark One’s soul once they go through a series of steps that lead them to joining. Some of these steps are the vampire admitting who he is, kissing, sex, a blood exchange, and the woman risking her life to help the vampire. Typically, a Dark One very clearly has one Beloved, but in Bring Out Your Dead, another character is mad at Sebastian and Belle because she thought she was Sebastian’s Beloved. Why would this misunderstanding happen? MacAlister doesn’t explain.
Typically, the heroines of the Dark Ones novels are naive, stubborn for terrible reasons, and stupid despite their education. Belle is older, like the vampires, so she isn’t as irritating. In fact, she has a useful job: she’s a counselor helping zombies cope with existence. She encourages them to be vegan so they don’t get a taste for flesh, and she helps them with daily microaggressions:
“You were telling me about the taunting you experienced recently?”
“Yes, brains. Or rather, braiiiiiiins. Spoken in a slurred, repugnant voice that was accompanied by a fine spray of spittle. That’s all they said, over and over again, as if I were supposed to stagger toward them with a fork and knife, and start hacking away at their heads.”
I enjoyed the presence of the zombies, articulate creatures trying to be helpful in Belle and Sebastian’s quest to save her souls. They were unexpected in this culture of The Walking Dead and the huge number of cheaply made zombie movies on Netflix. We sure have come a long way from the 1st Dark Ones novel, in which the heroine didn’t even acknowledge vampires were real. Now everyone is a mythical creature.
As with all the Dark Ones novels, I’m not sure that I recommend them. Except they are compulsive reads, and I’m 4.5 books into the series (yes, Bring Out Your Dead was a 0.5 book). I enjoy reviewing them because they often give me a chance to be snarky!