Amber Fang 3: Revenge, by Arthur Slade (0:53)

Today we see that an uneven tone can be disorienting, especially on the first page.

What I gleaned about the story: Our heroine, a vampire, is on a sunny beach. She’s got murder on her mind, and a Russian hitman is looking mighty tasty (wink wink chomp chomp say no more).

Find this book on Amazon.

Note From Jeff: Since this has happened a couple of times, I’m now making it policy. If/when a series is reviewed, the first two instalments can be reviewed by the same person, but #3 will get passed to somebody new, to see how it holds up under a new set of eyeballs. So over to you, Bryce.

Note From Bryce: I’ve been a little sparse on the field reports these last few months. Okay, I basically fell off the edge of the Earth. You just keep falling and falling. There’s no bottom. The wind is cold and loud, and your lips get all chapped. I don’t recommend it. Point is, I’m back… but I came back… changed. Different. Wrong.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about Amber Fang 3: Revenge.

WTF #1: Repetitive opening line.

Analysis: The name of the first chapter strikes an ominous note: “Blood in the Sand.” Whose blood? How will it get out of their body and onto the…? Sand? Why sand? The phrase practically hums with mysteriousful ominousness. I can’t wait to dive into the chapter and piece together what—

My first goal was to not spill any blood in the sand.

Ah. That explains it.

The mystery isn’t entirely dispelled. Questions like “whose blood?” and “wait, but why?” are still in play. But the range of possibilities shrinks dramatically. Strike the first sentence, and the reader could spend the first few pages eager to puzzle out the meaning of the phrase.

WTF #2: Uneven tone.

Analysis: Here are the next three paragraphs. Study them carefully; there’ll be a pop quiz at the end.

Placencia is a small fishing village in Belize with an odd mix of tired, quaint buildings and fancy new tourist digs made of faux palm trees and glass. The beach is not much more than a strip, yet it’s beautiful, and there’s a lovely view of the Caribbean Sea. The tourists were generally happy, the locals had genuine smiles, and the weather was calm.

It was a shame I was hunting a murderer here.

A shame but totally necessary. A girl has got to eat.

In the first paragraph, the narrator is selling us on this idyllic Caribbean paradise, building up to paragraph two, where it takes a sharp turn towards the grotesque and bloody. The third paragraph seems to be trying to lighten the mood back up.

I like the motivation behind the first tone shift, though the execution falls a little flat. Revealing that the narrator was stalking “a murderer” robs the main revelation of much of its horror. Holding that exculpatory bit of information back (even for just a few sentences) would have made the shift from light to dark more abrupt.

The final paragraph contains a third tone shift, this time toward being glib and lighthearted. The ‘totally’ sounds too valley-speak, and “a girl has got to eat” is an amusing way to dismiss what ought to be an important ethical quandary. The gloom of the second paragraph wasn’t deep enough, and the third dispelled it before it could deliver much emotional impact.

I’m still unsure what sort of book this is (supernatural thriller? dark comedy?), and the tone shifts aren’t helping me find my bearings. Readers coming from the previous books in the series probably won’t have this trouble.

WTF #3: The obvious gets stated.

Analysis: Our heroine and narrator is a vampire (though a vampire who can chill on the beach if she’s properly slathered in sunscreen). She’s hunting some chiselled, tattooed dude, who’s on the beach to soak up some sun.

He was Grigoriy Belyakov and, as you could guess by his name, he was Russian. Not ballet-loving Russian. But more the Kalashnikov-firing, vodka-loving type.

The phrase “as you could guess by his name” gives off a very “as you know, Bob” vibe. Except in this case, I’m Bob, being told something I’d just have assumed in any case. “Grigoriy Belyakov was Russian” is enough to carry the reader into the next bit (which, I’ll admit, made me laugh).

By now, the tone is coming together. The narrator has a sense of humor and a breezy, informal style (which the “as you could guess” phrase does help convey). 0:56 is a pretty grim score, one which I don’t think reflects the overall quality of the writing.

If you want to spend some time in Amber Fang’s world, the first book sounds promising (sort of a supernatural Dexter-turned-pro-assassin), and I thought it opened pretty well. If that sounds like your mug of blood, you can find it on Amazon.

Update: I just googled up Jeff’s reviews for the first two Amber Fang books. Books 1 and 2 both received the coveted 40:00, racking up a single WTF in eighty full minutes of reading. By my quick-and-dirty math, I’m handing poor Amber demerits 250x as fast as Jeff is. W-T-F? It’s time to seriously consider the possibility that I may be a replicant.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

Time Code: The Best Collection of 52 Stories You Should Be Reading This Year, by Charles Eugene Anderson (0:36)