Review: Blood Curse by Tamara A. Lowery

CB - Firstly let me say a massive welcome to my guest reviewer, SCD Goff. If you've sent me something and are still waiting for a response, please be patient with me! SCD is helping with the backlog of review requests so we can sample your stories with a bit more time and dedication.

SCD specialises in reviewing self-published books, in fact she thrives on it, preferring it to more traditionally published novels. Her reviews are thorough, with good tips for debut authors on what worked well and what didn't, and overall I can guarantee your novels are in good hands.
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Guest Reviewed by SCD Goff

Known as Bloody Vik Brandee, Viktor Brandewyne had a reputation as a bloodthirsty pirate. The world would soon learn just how bloodthirsty he had become. Thanks to the vengeful curse of a powerful witch, he had become a vampire. However, since he was cursed, rather than bitten, he was not vulnerable to daylight or holy items. As curses went, he didn't think it was all that bad, until Mother Celie, his foster mother and a witch in her own right, informed him that the curse would eventually destroy him. Now he finds himself in a race against time to find the seven Sisters of Power and gain some of their magic in order to survive the curse. He is aided in his quest by Hezekiah Grimm, his first mate; Belladonna, a siren and sea witch; and Lazarus, a creature that is sometimes a cat and sometimes a raven.
Tamara Lowery is a debut author and as such, there’s a lot to recommend her novel Blood Curse. The pace is non-stop, and the author throws together a huge variety of plot points (it’s a period piece, and involves a pirate-vampire, witches, sirens, the odd hint of a mermaid, there’s a quest to be undertaken, and various proclamations that our hero is ‘the One’). It’s debatable whether any of these ideas are truly original – do they really need to be? – but the gusto with which the author combines these points is enviable.

The manuscript is complete at 85000+ words, making the price-tag fairly good value. If you’re looking for a basically light-hearted romp you could do far worse in the burgeoning eBook world than Ms Lowery’s Blood Curse. Besides all this, the author has allowed the first chunk to be freely available – so the reader will largely know what to expect, having read the first pages and encountered our anti-hero, named Viktor Brandewyne.

Now for the drawbacks, and I’m afraid there are a few.

The author’s writing style is sometimes stilted, and the dialogue is often wooden. The character’s voices are only distinguishable from one another by the most superficial means – for example, Carmella, the ‘mulatto’ girl (whether or not it is acceptable to say ‘mulatto’, even in a period piece is a question for a longer article) says ‘oui’ constantly to establish her provenance, but otherwise is happy to render long sentences with the correct terminology for a variety of ships.  Later, a Spanish character is called Paella.

The author has given such prominence to action over character that she runs the risk of alienating her readers entirely from her characters – action isn’t terribly exciting, of course, if we haven’t built up relationships with the likes of Viktor, Belladonna and the gang.

The hero himself, I hasten to add, runs the risk of being compelling. He’s dastardly and self-absorbed, but smart, enterprising and of course, smoking hot. One annoying thing habit is that the narrator refers to him as Vik, Viktor and Brandee interchangeably. However, there are inconsistencies of character. Viktor, for example, is amongst other things trying to revenge the death of a friend, though early on in the book he shows little reluctance to murder one of his closest friends. Several secondary characters think longingly of how they’d give their own life for this megalomaniac, but the reader is for the large part shown only the grotesque side of Viktor, so it’s unclear why everyone is so keen to fawn over him.

The author also has some irritating habits, such as saying something with action and then again in words (for example,  ‘‘Names aren’t really important right now,’ Brandee dodged the question.’’) She is clearly well-read and with a large vocabulary but this could be put to better use; sometimes the writing gets in the way of the story and words aren’t always mean what the author thinks they do though (‘goading’ is an example of this).

The language doesn’t allow for the proper build-up to important incidences; they’re just upon you suddenly, which can unfortunately make them sound ridiculous:
‘Carmella screamed, as she realized Mamaan Juma had sent her zombies to fetch the pirate who had dared to kill one of her favourites.’

The author has allowed some totally unrealistic interactions largely in the name of progressing the story.
‘Viktor looked at his first mat, and Jim could have sworn his captain’s eyes were glowing faintly. He got a sense of overwhelming hunger, and it unnerved him a bit.’

And, of course, there are some awkward word repetitions and some ugly typesetting. Like most indie eBooks could do with a strong copy-edit ‘ ‘She was a bit jumpy, but not too.’ But – and this is a big but – these are the sorts of faults and oversights to be found in almost every Indie eBook.

One larger complaint is that the novel is determined to be as lighthearted as it is bloody which is a strange and very uncomfortable mix. It’s thoughtlessly dismissive of women, as the presumably author imagines all men must have been at the time – ‘That Carmella still drew breath spoke of how talented a lover she was. Ordinarily, in a similar situation, Brandee would have killed the whore, as well, for inconveniencing him. ‘
Even the magical women are mistreated and overrun by the men. The bloodthirstiness in this novel borders upon the repellant – casual mention of pedophilia, brutal gang rapes, torture and our hero’s nonchalance at it, feels strange in such an obviously lighthearted romp. This effort at darkness and seriousness is seriously misjudged.

Having outlined all the weaknesses of the novel, it’s hard to keep in mind my first encouraging remarks, but they’re still true. Blood Curse has a few large defects and several smaller ones, but all in all it’s readable, fun and good value. The author has clearly worked hard at making her story engaging and enjoyable, and the structure of the work is very good. For a debut novel, this is relatively strong, and again, fairly good value.
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  1. Wow. You write the sort of review that makes me learn even as I'm reading. Thank you.

    1. That's why they pay me the big bucks, Sheila! Glad you found it useful. SCD


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