Black Gate review of Dancing Bones

Mr. Donald Crankshaw of Blackgate.com has given Mistress of the Dancing Bones its first professional review:

I am generally not a fan of vampire novels. I prefer my vampires as antagonists rather than as love interests. And for the love of God, sunlight better burn, or at least weaken, them, not cause them to sparkle. So I was taking a chance on this novel, but I’m glad I did.

It would be a mistake to consider the vampires the good guys. Mr. Alexander has created a dark world, where humanity’s only defense against annihilation by the Deathlords is submission to the nephilim. Admittedly, you can take a positive view of the Code Sanguine, and Marcel Boucher is something of an idealist when it comes to vampire-human relations. But the fact remains that humans are subservient in this world, their blood is demanded by their betters, and their only chance of rising is to be embraced by the nephilim themselves. As Ashia soon discovers when she travels out into the world, many of the nephilim are less concerned with their duties under the Code Sanguine than their privileges, and they are more than willing to take advantage of their position. Of course, this sort of thing is common in fiction that attempts to deal with class distinctions, though usually the upper class living off of the blood of the lower class is a little less literal.

In this world, even the best of people are morally ambiguous. Marcel Boucher may believe that the nephilim have a duty to protect the mortals, but he still takes advantage of them. And even Ashia believes that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Dusang is so focused on his mission that he ignores other injustices. And Tama can be cruel and indifferent to mortal morality. What is right and wrong in such a world isn’t always clear, and Ashia’s struggles to do what is right by her family and their subjects is part of what makes this story interesting. I appreciate that Mr. Alexander made the questions difficult, and that while Ashia tries to do the right thing, she often lacks the wisdom to make a real difference. It gives her character a chance to grow through failure, which helps bring her to life.

Read the whole thing.