Written by: Bridget Morrow
Published by: Publish America
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
A widely known fact amongst my close knit circle of friends—but probably unbeknownst to you, my loyal fans—is that I love vampire books, vampire comic books and vampire movies. If it’s in some media-friendly form and it’s about vampires, chances are, I’ll read, watch, or whatever it. I’m not always happy with what I’m exposed to, but I keep looking for it anyway. So when I saw Master, by Bridget Morrow, on Publish America’s web page, I went for it and crossed my fingers.
Master is essentially a romance book with vampires on the side. It follows Lila, a young, attractive slave in 1860’s America, through her life and adventures with a five-hundred year old vampire named Alex, who rescued her from a lynching and turned her into a creature of the night like himself. Alex has been in love with Lila since birth, watching her from a far, and she falls in love with him almost immediately, as is generally the case with this type of genre.
Entrusted with new abilities and a new partner, Lila slowly learns to shed her old life and her old image of herself, adopting a confidence and thirst for knowledge she’d never been allowed to have before. But she can’t leave everything behind. So with Alex’s help, she brings her only friend Sally—a mulatto slave that can pass for white—into her new life, to help keep Alex and her safe during the day while they rest in their coffins.
Throughout the story, you get glimpses of Alex’s past through a series of flashbacks that sometimes interrupts the flow of the story, but were otherwise intriguing and left me wanting to read more. You learn of his life as a wealthy bachelor in Spain, hundreds of year ago, of his callous nature, of the friendship with a young priest that began to change him, and of his encounter with an ancient vampire named Maxwell whom Alex ultimately betrayed. You also learn of how he first met Lila, and how in her he saw something pure and worth living for.
Alex and Lila love, fight and explore the world together, but when Alex’s past comes back to haunt him, they must face a challenge neither may be strong enough to overcome.
My initial reaction to the book was that it was well written—despite some questionable grammatical choices by the author—but ultimately, nothing special. Maybe I’d just read too many vampire novels, but for a piece set in the late 1800’s with a slave girl/vampire as the protagonist, I expected more than just the run-of-the-mill vampire love story; and that’s what it was going to be at first. Am I ever glad I didn’t let my first impression mar the rest of the book.
The more I read the more I discovered that the book was anything but ordinary. Only, it wasn’t the setting or the period or the ethnicity of Lila that made it unique—it was the secondary human characters: Sally, Tobias, Sweeney, Mason, Lillie and Tannie. They added life, texture and warmth to the tale, infusing a supernatural romance with heart and providing something for us to gage the vampires’ personality against, something for us to relate to. Through Lila and Alex’s treatment of these characters we get a true sense of who they are, beyond the physical—and all too common—vampire needs.
My only gripe with the novel was the author’s penchant for putting subordinate clauses by themselves. Annoying though it may be. And of course, there was the very minor, but obviously ripped off of Interview With The Vampire, scene when a character drugs a human body with laudanum to incapacitate the feeding vampire. Couldn’t she have at least picked a different drug or maybe found another way to incapacitate a vampire; I’m sure there has to be other ways.
Aside from that bit of nitpicking, I loved Master and would recommend it to anyone who, like myself, just can’t get enough of the vampire genre.