Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

My Five Word TL:DR Review : The forgotten females fight back


From the outset I will say that I really enjoyed this in more ways than one. On the one hand this is a cinematic style story, fast paced and, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the horror, fun, entertaining and easy to get on with.  On the other it’s like an ode to women. Kiste has taken a look at two forgotten females and rewritten their endings bringing a freshness to their stories effectively giving them a second chance whilst delivering a strong feminist message.

A quick overview of what’s taking place here.  Lucy Westenra and Bertha Mason are the two main characters and the story is narrated by Lucy.  We meet them as they houseshare in Los Angeles during the 60s, the Summer of Love – I must say that this is an inspired era to write this story, firstly, it feeds into the, well, for want of a better word, plausibility.  All these young people, desperately experimenting and in search of new experiences – they would certainly make easy pickings for the true villain of this narrative who would undoubtedly find it much easier to go unnoticed during all the partying.  And, then of course – could you be more ironic? Setting this particular tale of horror during the Summer of Love. Anway, I digress.  Lucy and Bertha (Bee) are characters from Dracula and Jane Eyre.  They’re the females who have been forgotten.  Lucy was yet one more victim of Dracula in his pursuit of Mina and Bee was the wife that Rochester hid in the attic as he pursued Jane.  Now, if you’re familiar with either of these two stories you may be aware that (slight spoiler alert) both characters died during the course of the original works. However, both have been cursed with immortality and the ability to return again and again.  Both, during the course of the years discovered each other and became friends and both now spend their existence trying to keep Dracula and Rochester at bay.

So, what did I like about this book.  Firstly, I was unaware that I needed a little feminist horror in my life but apparently I do – who knew. Secondly, I enjoyed both the characters Lucy and Bee, they both struggle with their own demons but they are consistent in their friendship to each other and adamant about their dislike for the controlling men from their lives.  Thirdly, the writing is really good.  Kiste is one of those authors who makes everything seem simple somehow. Her writing is smooth, her dialogue is completely relatable, she doesn’t overegg the pudding, there are no long winded descriptions or purple prose and just the right amount of backstory to give you a real flavour and she manages to bring some new elements to both stories, but in particular to the vampire myth.  I would say that I don’t think it’s necessary to have read both the classics used to recreate this story, although it’s easy for me to say I suppose being familiar with both.  And I enjoyed all the little nods here – but, seriously I think it’s not necessary to have read those novels (I do recommend them of course).

Reimaginings, retellings or taking a well established story and continuing it in a new light are very popular at the moment and I can totally understand why.  Not only does this give an author a chance to revisit already established places and characters but it gives them the opportunity to look at the other side of the coin.  Of course this does come with the risk of already well established fans getting huffy but in this case I think the author succeeds in not only giving two lesser known characters a new chance in the spotlight but also making them into the heroes of this story.

Now, in terms of criticisms. I’m not totally sure what I was expecting when I picked this up and I must admit that at one point I wondered where the story was going, but Kiste has a plan.  She steadily ramps up the tension and the blood letting.  She throws in well known characters and some very surreal ‘afterlife waiting room’ scenes and she manages to bring in some real life issues particularly in relation to women not only in terms of standing up for themselves but also standing up for others – so regardless of my sight early reservation I found myself becoming totally immersed.

Come for the characters and the promise of some vampire horror.  Stay for the crazy scenarios, the races, the scrapes with death and the forming (and keeping) of friendships along the way.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars


4 Responses to “Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Feminist horror AND vampires? In L.A. in the sixties?
    Count me in!! 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. pagesandtea

    I had no idea what this was about before reading your review but a tale about these two characters sounds intriguing. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Tammy

    I’m pretty sure I’ll love this. I regret not requesting it, but hopefully I can read it at some point😁

  4. Rebecca

    This sounds so cool and I really love the cover!

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