Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book Review: Perpetual Light, by Jordan K. Rose

Perpetual Light, by Jordan K. Rose
Cresent Moon Press, February 26, 2012

Fate is cruel. Especially when the one you've sworn to love for all eternity, the very soul who changed your destiny, is the last person you should trust. After more than three hundred years of running, Lucia DiComano must make a choice. Forced to take her place as a Pharo of Redemption, the divine slayer needs to master her forgotten powers. Lucia turns to Vittorio, the one vampire she's failed to deliver from eternal damnation. But overcoming smoldering remnants of love, lust and anger aren't their only obstacles. Samuel, who may know Lucia better than she knows herself, hunts her with a fervor stoked by a thousand years of vengeful hatred. His plan-capture and enslave the weakened Pharo then take control of her elusive power. Can Lucia trust Vittorio long enough to reclaim her powers? Or will she have no choice but to kill him and battle Samuel alone?

Something strange is happening to 37-year-old fashion buyer, Lucia DiComano. The episode begins as an ache, followed by a cadence that she hears and feels. Her heart tries to keep pace with it, but fails. Darkness looms heavily around her. Her skin crawls. Then the ambient light around her becomes blinding bright, banishing darkness, panic, and all the other strange sensations with it. The episode, as well as her recent sensitivity to light, concerns her shopkeeper parents. As her mother hounds her, Lucia denies having any more nightmares. In truth, Vittorio, her dream husband, and the wicked blonde man who hunts her relentlessly, are frequent visitors. Inside, she questions her sanity as an alternative to possible demon possession, before mostly dismissing both.

She’s saved from the motherly interrogation by Peter, the last man on earth she wants to see. She’s been promoted at work; she has to train someone to take her place, and the cocky "junior" gets under her skin without saying a word. They are due to leave for Boston, where they are meeting Elizabeth, a jeweler, at a fashion event, and he’s come to pick her up. He takes her insults and abuse well until they are out on street, when his entire demeanor changes like a flipped switch. He orders her into the car. When she bristles at his rudeness, he picks her up, throws her bodily into the back seat, and drives like a maniac from Providence all the way to Boston.

At the event, everything goes sideways. A co-worker named Marie insists that she meet a Chilean designer, alone, outside of the hotel, and she’s not kind about it. In a separate incident, Peter, Elizabeth, and her nephew must intervene when a trio of foul smelling men with European accents confronts Lucia. They all seem to know each other. With the situation defused, Elizabeth introduces Lucia to her brother-in-law...Vittorio. He stuns her by knowing about her dreams. He knows what's up with her eyes. He explains that he, Peter, and the others are vampires, and they have been protecting her for him. She doesn’t believe him, reacts poorly, and bolts into a restroom. Marie corners her there, determined to drag her out to meet the Chilean designer. Lucia gets away, but spotting Vittorio across the room, she looks for a back door out of the building. On her way out, she is confronted by the second man from her nightmares.

The evil blonde, Samuel, attacks her. She escapes, runs out of the building, and right in front of a moving truck. When she wakes up in the hospital, she doesn’t know her parents or her boyfriend. She cries out for Vittorio.

A caged-ball.
I am a huge fan of slow reveals, and in Perpetual Light, Jordan K. Rose pulls off the equivalent of a caged-ball. She starts with a heroine that knows nothing about herself, and surrounds her by people who know what she is, what’s happening to her, and the role she plays in the grand scheme of things. Add in the fact that they’re vampires, she’s a Pharo (slayer), and one of them is was her husband 10 past lives ago, and Ms. Rose has a recipe for undead armageddon. Which keeps things moving, but it’s the ball in the box that I found interesting. The author removes the layers of Lucia’s memory block, in the same manner as a whittler would the wood around the block. Bits here, pieces there, when details are necessary.

If her role, and the power that she needs to play it, is the ball in my metaphor, then the cage is a book. Vittorio and his vampire family have been keeping a journal about her past lives. She has holes to fill if she is to destroy Samuel before he captures and enslaves her, and the book has those answers. But Vittorio only allows her to see bits and pieces at a time. He fears that his and Elizabeth’s observations would be out of context, that they would hold Lucia back and take her down a wrong road. To be of use to her, he believes, her past must be remembered on her own.

Unlike Joss Whedon's characters, Ms. Rose's slayers don't wield wood stakes and her vampires aren't damned creatures that simply dust when impaled. Her vampires walk in sunlight. They go to church. They decorate Christmas trees and watch television. They have souls. Vittorio is a proper gentleman who cares for two younger vampires he sired as if they were flesh and blood sons. He’s gentle with Lucia. He is reasonable and fair with those around him. He exhibits tremendous control of his desires, his thirst, even his temper. One might be tempted to liken him to Twilight’s Carlisle Cullen, which would be a mistake. The vampires of this story, every single one of them, are vicious when provoked. Vittorio’s not the most savage in the story, but the degree of his control makes his mean snaps far more striking that Samuel’s vile actions.

Like Buffy, though, Lucia is a flawed heroine. As she regains her memory and power, the revelations range from lovely to horrible. While Vittorio loves her deeply, her actions enrage him at times and her power terrifies him at others. In similar manners, the author rounds out all of her principle characters but Samuel, who she leaves intentionally flat. There are hints there is more to him than bloodlust. Jordan K. Rose leaves a dozen plot threads dangling at the end of Perpetual Light. I have confirmed with her that there is a sequel. I think I know where Lucia and Vittorio’s long road ends, but I’m anxious to see how they get there.

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