Set in and around Las Vegas, Nevada, in the year 2034, Drawing Dead by S.M. Reine presents an alternate world. The novel references “Genesis” several times, an event that happened around 2015 after old and new gods brought their fight to Earth, causing a void that destroyed everyone’s soul. After a “reboot,” everyone was reborn, but different. Now there are witches, shape shifters, vampires, fairies, and humans. Not everyone came back, and not everyone came back how they had been before, but preternaturals are American citizens now.
In 2034 is when we meet Nissa, a vampire who hasn’t completely transformed. After being injected with vampire venom through a bite, a human will die and transform, but nothing is complete until he/she drinks blood. Nissa’s never had blood, not in four years. She can’t: she feels everything humans feel, and her extreme empathy is crippling.
The only human who is so devoted to a single mission — kill all vampires — that she barely feels emotes is Dana McIntyre. Dana is a tank of a woman. Fat, strong, abrasive, rude, distant. She’s wanted all vampires dead since one captured and tortured her wife, an orc named Penny. But after Dana is bitten by a vampire who releases its venom, she’s on a suicide mission. Better dead than vampire. And she might as well take down as many vampires as she can before she buries herself for good.
Drawing Dead had that same strong female feeling that Fat Assassins had. Kicking in doors, shooting guns, hand-to-hand fighting — it’s all there. I’ll say this book is not for anyone who wants a civilized story. Dana explains how after she was bitten by the vampire, “she’d taken a big dump in the toilet” and quit needing food, air, or a heartbeat. Now, some readers are going to claim such descriptions are juvenile or demonstrate a lack of the writer’s imagination. But let me reassure you there are people for whom only the phrase “big dump” will do, even if it’s not you. I’ve also never laughed so suddenly as when I read, “She could see his half-deflated dong flopping like a windsock.”
Now that I’ve scared some of you off, let me get to the positives that aren’t crass.
R.M. Reine represents a variety of people. Sometimes it’s in the name, such as a Hispanic or Japanse surname. Other times, it’s in a sentence that suggests a character is asexual: “Even before she’d died, she’d found it difficult to see people with sexual interest.” Then there’s Dana and Penny, lesbians who are so different (orc and human, sweetheart and cold heart, blacksmith and vampire hunter) but pair perfectly together. You never wonder why Dana and Penny love each other, but it’s not mindless love, either. The couple make some tough decisions based on what happens in each scene, and they felt realistic.
Given the cover and premise, I wasn’t sure I’d like the plot of Drawing Dead, but I found it interesting, challenging, and coherent. Although urban paranormal fantasies have tropes, I couldn’t guess what the characters were going to do, and I was surprised to learn that while the novel had an ending point, there are three more books that follow directly, meaning you can enjoy more Dana and Nissa if you want to!
I did learn that S.M. Reine has been writing Dana’s character for a long time, but never in her own series. Thanks to a PDF the author created, I now see that if I wanted to go nuts, I could read more about this world, which Reine has dubbed Descentverse. Dana McIntyre’s four-book series is actually the 9th installation of this world. OMG. To delve deep into this crazy world or to leave it alone and just read the Dana section? Given that these books all have nearly 5 stars on Amazon, I think you know the answer.
The Sunday Lowdown is going to be a doozy but honestly, while reading Drawing Dead I felt happy, energetic, and completely emerged. A highly recommended fat-positive read!