The Veil: Otherworld
The dedication page to The Veil: Otherworld reads: “To my fellow vampire lovers – may we continue to pooh-pooh the ubiquitous predictions of our genre’s demise.” If some of her “fellow vampire lovers” can also approximate H.A. Fowler’s story-telling skill, the security of the vampire in romance is secure. Despite coming in at a short 175 pages, the book has amazing world-building, nuanced characters, and a whole lot of originality in a genre that currently stagnates in a glut of cliché.
For those accustomed to paranormals featuring defanged vampires, friendly faeries, and stories that take place topside, many of the story’s elements will make for uneasy reading. Unsurprisingly, given the title, Fowler carries us across The Veil which separates calm from chaos and down into the Otherworld (aka Hell). We go there because Helene, the novel’s heroine and an important spiritual leader of her time, is captured by a power-hungry wizard who had once been her protector. Devon, Helene’s husband – and vampire cop – follows her into the darkness on a mission to save her. The Otherworld and Devon’s preparation for and travels through it take up the lion’s share of the novella. It really held my interest because Fowler successfully created two things: a Hell that is molded by the individual nightmares of its victims; and a victim who remembers how he used to be, hates what he has become, and continues to be his own worst enemy. So we find in Devon’s Otherworld, that he is fighting himself.
Devon’s nightmares center on his inability to control his bloodlust. Whether it be wife or mother or friend, the apparitions that taunt him Down Under make for emotional reading. Fowler actually goes old-school with her Down Under vampire mythology; they must sleep from sunrise to sunset, they get seriously burnt in sunlight, and most important of all, they are bloodthirsty, hissing, pointy-toothed predators. In other words, they aren’t romanticized. And I consider this the novel’s greatest strength. Instead of taking a classically evil character and divesting it of all that makes it truly inhumane so that it becomes palatable to the romance reader looking for an easily workable hero, Fowler keeps Devon just…vampiric enough to make for an uncomfortable protagonist at times.
The main problem I had with Otherworld was that it was very much Devon’s book – at the expense of his wife Helene. His character was always dynamic – we saw him through contentment, struggles, failures and successes in contrast to a static Helene who was simply waiting to be saved. Her appearances were, for the most part, to play victim in Devon’s Hell. Her role changed towards the end of the novel, but not enough for me to consider both characters equally developed.
As this is the second in The Veil series with the first portraying Helene as a sheltered high priestess and Devon as the caustic hard-boiled cop, I’m assuming that the self-confident Helene we see early on in Otherworld is a result of significant development in that first installment. I would rather not have had to go through so much assumption but due to my positive experience with Otherworld, I’m interested in getting to know Helene better through that first book, rather than giving up on the series, disappointed and annoyed.
Overall, this was an entertaining read. A bit graphic and very emotionally intense…just the way I like my paranormals.