There are few authors I would trust to write a truly original and good vampire story. Kirsty Eagar is one of them, and she delivers beautifully with SALTWATER VAMPIRES, her sophomore novel. Quirky, fast-paced, and sprawling, SALTWATER VAMPIRES should be your next read if you’re looking for a book that’s, well, pretty much like no other.
Usually the adjectives “quirky,” “fast-paced,” and “sprawling” aren’t used together to describe one book, but hey, this is Kirsty Eagar we’re talking about here, and she defies norms. SALTWATER VAMPIRES is quirky because, as others have said, it is a purely Australian vampire thriller. It combines elements of the paranormal, thriller, horror, and YA contemporary, presented in a distinctly Australian writing style, by which I mean, in addition to some Australian slang, a deep respect for readers’ intelligences: the book is not going to pause for you to get with it, so you had better not have a lazy reading mind and expect everything to be laid out clearly for you.
SALTWATER VAMPIRES’ fast pace comes from its thriller aspect. The book channels some Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson for its exciting premise. Don’t expect a melodramatic romance here: these 15-year-olds are trying to save their town, and their actions and reactions befit that of one of their age and predicament—that is, they (especially the boys) are going to occasionally say some really stupid things that make you want to clip them upside the head the way you would a younger brother. I truly enjoyed how realistic yet personable the characters were, and would not trade their occasional awkwardness and dramatically heroic decisions for the much more boring and unbelievable antics of a pair (or trio) of luv-struck-dumb teenagers.
Finally, this book is sprawling because of the way it successfully handles its convergence of multiple genres, time periods, and perspectives. In between setting up the Batavia backstory to following the thoughts of some vampire-connected adults on their journey to Australia, the book remains true to its YA genre by treating its teenaged characters the way they should be treated: sympathetically, but with attention paid to their idiosyncracies and (occasional) idiocies.
SALTWATER VAMPIRES doesn’t make vampires out to be anything other than single-minded monsters. It also doesn’t delve too much into the subtle mindsets of adolescents, so if you’re looking for something akin to Raw Blue, you won’t find it here. On the other hand, if you want an exciting read unhampered by teenager melodrama, you’ll want to basically date this book.
Cover discussion: Erm, I'm not the biggest fan of it--books with staring eyes on them creep me out--but I can see why it fits the horror/thriller-esque mood of this book.
Penguin Books Australia / Aug. 30, 2010 / Paperback / 384pp. / $23.99