The Last Vampire by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
Review by Ryan Lawler
The earthquakes with their falling ash, the global floods and the devastating fires arrive first. Then the worldwide plague with its stench of death. And as mankind suffers and dies out, vampires, their numbers dwindling, struggle and fight fiercely among themselves to survive in a world where there aren’t enough humans to prey and feed upon. As the weeks go by they become fewer, more desperate and more ruthless.
Emma, as the world disintegrates around her, finds herself alone, family all have perished…and fending off an unnatural hunger as she becomes one of the undead. Fighting her unwanted destiny she’s determined to resist the bloodlust she feels, the need to kill and feed on humans, of losing her humanity, for as long as she can bear it…but she’s so hungry…and the night calls.
Synopsis sourced from the publishers website (http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615722075)
I’m not one for paranormal romance. I like fantasy to be epic and my sci-fi to be intergalactic. But it is important as a reader, and especially as a reviewer, to branch out into unfamiliar genres and sub genres to gain a greater appreciation of what the writing community has to offer. If you are looking to branch out into the paranormal romance genre for the first time then The Last Vampire: Revised Author’s Edition by Kathryn Meyer Griffith is great place to start.
The Last Vampire is set during the apocalypse with the world being torn apart by massive earthquakes. When the earthquakes strike a U.S. underground pathogen research facility, a deadly plague is released into the atmosphere, slowly killing off the remaining earthquake survivors. Vampires are not immune to this plague that has infected their primary food source, and as a result they are dying out even faster that the humans. This is a very interesting take on the end of the world, and one that completely fascinated me. Griffith plays with the psychology of the survivors, often reducing them to primal version of their original selves, and the psychology of the vampires who are trying to come to terms with being knocked from the top of the food chain. Griffith also has a bit of fun with the vampire mythology, coming up with a vampire / werewolf hybrid whose origins are perhaps not of this world. While this book was originally published in 1992, Griffith has rewritten this book for the 2010 e-book release, incorporating a number of our current fears like global warming and climate change to provide more of a scientific basis for this apocalypse.
Griffith explores this world with two main characters, Emma the newbie vampire and Matthew the Cherokee Indian who have both lost their partners and children during the onset of the apocalypse and find comfort in one another. As individuals these characters are very likeable and they have a lot in common, being strong willed and resilient on the outside but completely shattered and tired on the inside. For all their similarities it is their differences, both physical and mental, that create the most interesting dynamics and lead to their relationship being far more fragile and volatile than they want it to be. This is the real story of The Last Vampire: Revised Author’s Edition, the journey of Emma and Matthew’s relationship as they face adversity after adversity from both the environment and from within.
For all the great world building and characters, the plot itself is rather mediocre. The characters don’t have any goals other than to survive the adversities being thrown at them, and while this is probably a realistic portrayal of how people would react in an apocalypse, it’s not very interesting. You could probably argue that development and progression of Emma and Matthew’s relationship serves as the plot in this story, and this relationship is certainly good to carry the story, but I would have liked to have seen the characters strive to achieve something more than just survival. Maybe they could have been searching for a cure to the plague, or the source of the earthquakes, or just something to give this book some clear direction. This lack of direction really hurts the ending of the story, and while there was a good relationship resolution at the end I could help wonder if I was missing the last few chapters.
All in all I quite enjoyed reading The Last Vampire: Revised Author’s Edition, a lot more than I thought I would. The unique approach to the apocalypse and vampire mythology allowed for a compelling relationship to form between two great characters. While I was left feeling unsatisfied with the ending, on reflection I found myself pretty satisfied with the journey as a whole. The Last Vampire is a book that appeals on many different levels, and I would highly recommend this to all fantasy readers who have never read a paranormal romance.
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