Vampirates Book 4 Black HeartI picked up a copy of Vampirates: Black Heart and only realized when I was about to start reading that it’s not the first volume in a series, as I had thought, but the fourth. Oh well! I read it anyway. I’m really not sure I was missing much, though my synopsis might be a bit vague.

Twins Grace and Connor have found themselves in some strange circumstances since their father died, their mother having died – more or less – when they were infants. I gather there was a shipwreck, and they were rescued by pirates – Connor – and Vampirates – Grace. Each was immediately attracted to the lives of their rescuers, Connor joining a pirate crew and Grace befriending the Vampirates. At the beginning of this volume, they’ve been briefly reunited and are in position to learn about their mother and her history. Also to get embroiled in internal Vampirate politics and a possible clash building between the mortal Pirates and the Vampirates and deal with first romance, them being fourteen and this being a vampire book.

I was not expecting either great writing or a great plot. I was rather hoping for a trashily fun book, with swashbuckling.

I am sad to report that there is decidedly little swashbuckling.

There are, however, rather a lot of exclamation points, often at rather inappropriate times. For instance, a character who is supposed to “come across as an old curmudgeon”¹ should not use exclamation points. Ever, really, much less often. On a similar vein is, “‘No!’ Cheng Li said very calmly.”² On cannot, by definition, exclaim calmly.

The pirates are overly civilized, the good Vampirates are boring, and the evil Vampirates are unconvincing in their evil. The strange lapses of sense³ could be somewhat forgiven by fun and swashbuckling, but alas, both are lacking.

¹p. 412
²p. 491
³Why is a character who’s supposed to be kept out of combat being trained for a deadly combat mission? What is up with the “pregnancy spell”? How is the idiot character better at negotiation than the intelligent captain?

Vampirates: Black Heart


Maya is sick and tired of life on a boat with her marine biologist parents, her brother, and her baby sister. She’s sick of not having any privacy, of not having any friends, even of listening to her dad’s story of a fantastical island and the giants, mermaids, and the like who live there. She doesn’t care anymore about the Red Coral Project her parents are working for, or the strange bioluminescent sea creatures they keep finding. She wants to go live with her grandmother on land and go to school like a normal person.

Instead, she and her family get caught in a nasty storm, in which her parents – and the rowboat – go missing and the GPS, radio, and even the compass, get broken. The nearest land is a mysterious island on which vines grow like snakes and fish actually fly… you see where this is going.

It gets there. Its outright flaws – for instance, the level of technology available on Tamarind¹ – can be dealt with. Unfortunately, even ignoring the flaws, it just fails to be particularly memorable.

¹Generally cut off from the outside world, modern navigation and communication technology doesn’t work there, the ships are all sail-driven (I think), and the naval battles revolve around cannons. We have pirates and the women are all in dresses. Baths involve large metal tubs and water heated over a stove (how the stove is heated is not specified). We seem pretty firmly in a Peter Pan-esque technology set.

And then there are cars. Modern ones. They are few and mostly in the possession of the very rich, and gas does seem to be a problem. Now, I will grant, and happily, that in much of the world the very rich have cars and everyone else lives in dirt-floored shacks with no running water. There are two three reasons that I am not content to consider Tamarind in the same situation:

1. In most places, if the rulers have access to modern technology, some of that will be investigated in their armed forces. Cannons and sailboats.

2. Where did they come from? Aside from a few people who manage to cross between Tamarind and the Outside, there’s no contact. There is certainly no trade. On the island, we hear of one factory, processing sugarcane. The towns are small, and even the one or two cities aren’t very large. There just doesn’t seem to be either the technology or the economy of scale needed to make vehicle manufacturing productive.

3. It just doesn’t feel right.