Mark Benjamin asked me to read his novel, "A Change of Heart", the first in his Royal Blood Chronicles series. I will examine plot, character and polish and then assign a grade.
The story is told through rotating viewpoints. Every chapter has a different perspective and some of these "chapters" are a couple paragraphs long and consist solely of a character's thoughts. You might need a flowchart to keep track of who is who and related to whom. I typically frown on this sort of thing because it dilutes the narrative, among other things, but this case has so many viewpoints and it rotates so rapidly through them that it crosses a kind of literary event horizon and becomes useful; for storytelling, for webs of alliances and schemes, and for Omniscient Third Person.
Assuming that one can keep track of everything, it becomes a marvelous device. There is a LOT of scheming and backbiting and plotting going on, and this rotation of viewpoints enables the reader to see all the points and developments in real time. It develops the setting and character dynamics in a way that a single viewpoint never could. It also helps to lessen the Gary Stu factor of Gabriel because he is just one viewpoint among many and doesn't intersect with the main story for over a hundred pages. This story does not revolve around him.
It has a slow pace. This is a consequence of the viewpoint kaleidoscope. Gabriel isn't turned into a vampire for many "chapters" and doesn't realize this for many more; dozens of pages. The Silver Legion drafting Gabriel and his friends, which is described in the book's blurb, doesn't happen for one hundred pages, and by then the reader will have figured out on their own all the exposition given in the draftees' orientation, which further slows the pace.
In my opinion, this book causes Darkness Induced Apathy. That's what we at Tvtropes call it when the story/setting/etc. is so grim and awful on all sides that the reader stops caring what happens to whom. The vampires are, of course, vicious monsters. Even the more sympathetic ones think nothing of torturing and killing both humans and other vampires For the Evulz or something equally petty. The Silver Legion is no better, being an equally Deadly Decadent Court which cares more for killing vampires than protecting humans from them and recruits via kidnapping and indoctrination. Gabriel is too much of a pacifist to do more than protect his friends (he doesn't even want to feed on squirrels, let alone human, even evil ones) and said friends get absorbed in the culture of this shadow war.
This book has an interesting twist to the whole "protagonist transformation into magical superbeing" thing; no one to explain. Gabriel doesn't know he's become a vampire until a week has passed because his transformation took that long. He basically has to figure everything out on his own. His initiation to the secret world of fantasy is an entirely separate event.
One flaw in the story that I noticed is an inconsistency in the Silver Legion's structure. One part says that they are a secret government agency and another part says "we answer to no one" and says that the organization is older than most modern governments.
There is an open ending but it is more sequel hook rather than cliffhanger. If one considers "the fallout of the assassination of Lucas" to be the story's main narrative thread and Darius' Evil Plan to be the conflict, then there is....not really "resolution" but more of a changing of gears.
Gabriel is kinda-sorta the protagonist. The rotating viewpoint device mentioned in the PLOT section makes this story more of an ensemble thing but he's the closest to a central viewpoint character.
He's a nice guy, a nerd and a stereotypical wimp. He's also a vessel for wish fulfillment; getting bitten by a vampire made his life better on all accounts and he doesn't have any their weaknesses. The amount of Wangst makes him even more annoying.
When he realizes that he's a vampire, he REALLY pushes the Cursed with Awesome angle. He even rejects the Vegetarian Vampire route.
Gabriel's friends are a pair of foils and a love interest. There's the intelligent rich nerd who envies Gabriel's "change" into a socially smooth hunk and there's the jock who used to protect him from bullies and now suddenly feels socially threatened by him. The love interest is basically a nice girl without much else to add. What happens when they are drafted into the secret war is where things get interesting.
The rich nerd appears primed and ready to Jump At The Call but then he gets a more complicated view of things. The jock appears to assimilate into the hyper masculine Social Darwinist of the vampire hunters (a la He Who Fights Monsters) while the love interest jumps on board with the Fantastic Racism as soon as she sees that her little sister was in danger because of the vampires.
Darius is a half-breed royal vampire, a noble. He's the one with the Evil Plan. He is Cruel, arrogant, and ambitious to the point of kin-slaying. He's also completely lacking any sort of compassion or empathy for anyone. He even wears a turtle neck to hide his bite mark and so pretend to be a full-blooded vampire. It looks like the only reason his evilness hasn't exposed him is because vampires as a whole are a nasty lot.
Vincent is one of the rising stars in the Silver Legion. Now this guy is a messed up piece of work. He acts all gung-ho for vampire slaying just like his best friend (the guy whose in love with his own adoptive sister) when he actually wants to make the vampire hunters implode because he wants to be a vampire. It's not because he thinks being a vampire is awesome but because his mother turned into a vampire and he lived with her Momma's Boy style until the vampire hunters "saved him" by killing his mom.
There were a couple of spelling and grammar problems, but those were minor. More pressing is when one character's name is used in place of another's. It's like the author got confused.
There is lavish detail on injuries suffered by the characters. It is gruesome to the point of Gorn.
This book is long and drawn out. I am no stranger to that. I've been accused of it myself. This book has Gabriel spending several pages of story (most of his time in each of his viewpoint chapters) indulging in each individual superpower as he receives it to the point that he does something like watch ants crawl from the far side of his yard. That is too much even for me.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "A Change of Heart - THE ROYAL BLOOD CHRONICLES book 1" a C
This has been a free review request. The author requested an honest review so I provided one.
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Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).