My Halloween read this year is this collection of new vampire tales edited by the team of Zoraida Cordova and Natalie Parker. I enjoy vampire stores because they offer so many different views onto the human condition, if you go looking for them. In Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite Cordova and Parker, along with the assembled authors, take the time to dig in and explore these angles – with postscripts by Cordova and Parker after each story.
Let’s handle individual stories in groups, first up: the very good (4 stars).
Seven Night for Dying by Tessa Gratton is a great opener, exploring the choice to become the vampire and exploring a world where you need to drink a vampire’s blood for seven consecutive nights in order to turn, and what that time will afford to ponder as they contemplate eternal life. The Boys from Blood River by Rebecca Roanhorse pulled at my heartstrings, its lead character is an outcast, and following the death of his mother alone in the world. His heart cries out to not be alone, but at what cost, and with what creatures? The Boy and the Bell by Heidi Heilig is the one I wish was a longer work. Heilig is poking at so much in this 13-page story, gender identity, class warfare, power dynamics, resurrectionists, the panic surrounding being buried alive in the middle of the 19th century… I want very much to spend more time with Will and find out what his life will be. In Kind by Kayla Whaley is a deliciously dark story of revenge that has important things to say about personhood and disability rights.
The quite good (3 stars):
A Guidebook for the Newly Sired Desi Vampire by Samira Ahmed is the funniest of the group, taking a unique angle into a vampire introduction plan. Eat the colonizers is perhaps the best plan when it comes for finding a food source. Bestiary by Laura Ruby had great atmosphere, Ruby easily plants the reader into a perhaps not to distant future where we’ve truly broken the planet, and the mega rich are the only ones living well. We are with Jude as she navigates her new world, and we are introduced to a unique version of being turned, and what gifts and curses come with it. The House of the Black Sapphires by Dhonielle Clayton is my second Clayton short story in two books. This one focuses on a family of Eternals, descendants of enslaved Africans who were turned by white vampires and then sent firebirds by their ancestors to give them their own path. Bea has lived her immortal life tied intrinsically to her family, but must decide if independence, and the possibility of love with the Eternals sworn enemies, is worth the risk.
The they’re good but could be better for me group (2 stars):
Senior Year Sucks by Julie Murphy is a light, but pointed, take on the teenage female slayer motif and while I found it a bit thin in development, I was very glad to see the kind of lead Murphy is known to write be the focus of a family of slayers defending a town from a reform home for vampires. First Kill by Victoria Schwab explores the romantic implications of the mismatched pairing of a slayer and a vampire, but works to make the power dynamic equal. Mirrors, Windows, & Selfies by Mark Oshiro was one that I wasn’t sure I liked until I was well into it, and even then, I think I’ve landed more on appreciating it. Oshiro uses blog posts to tell the story of a child of vampires who has lived is life isolated from the world, so isolated in fact that he has never seen his own image – told that he will die if he does. But his cries out into the internet void find the right audience and the calvary comes, but can he trust it? Vampires Never Say Die by Zoraida Cordova & Natalie Parker explores a queen vampire type who befriends a human on social media, and how it all goes wrong (or right?) when that human tries to throw her friend a birthday party without realizing that she’s managed to invite an entire New York coven and politics are not civil.