"Verland: The Transformation" Book Review
Written by B.E. Scully
2011, 355 pages, Fiction
Released on May 23rd, 2011
It's getting harder for writers to create original vampire novels these days. I would hate to bring the "T" word into this review, but since Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series saw the light of day there have been numerous attempts by new authors to jump on the vampire bandwagon. Sadly, most of these efforts are as clichéd and as tired as the last. So it is with great relief that I can say Verland: The Transformation is an original, gripping tale of a vampire that really had me hooked until the last page.
The book centres around true crime writer Elle Bramasol who has been asked to write a new book to delve into the mysteries surrounding a high profile murder in Hollywood. What makes it all the more intriguing is director Eliot Kingman, the man arrested for said murder, has personally asked for her to write the book. Elle is clueless to why he wants her, as she is still relatively unknown for her work, but as she delves further into the case she realises not everything is black and white and she has been chosen for a reason. Leading up to the murder, Kingman became obsessed with the idea of eternal life, especially the legends of vampires. Elle is told Kingman had tracked a real vampire known as Verland and acquired his journal with the hope of joining him in immortality. As Elle delves deeper into Verland's past, she finds herself caught up in Kingman's schemes. Not everything is as it seems and Elle must uncover Kingman's plans, but the lure of immortality has created a web of deceit, can Elle get to the truth? More importantly, will she be able to believe it?
The book is primarily set in Hollywood, where our heroine Elle lives with her numerous cats. By far the best thing about this book is the way it mixes the events of present day with the history of Verland through his diary. We constantly switch between two narratives set in different time scales, creating a truly escapist tale. I loved the setting of Los Angeles for the modern day aspects as they clashed with Verland's diary entries of foreign lands, creating an effective way of jolting the reader from the past back to the present with blaring realism. This world the author B.E. Scully has created through Verland's diary is really remarkable. We see the last 200 years through his eyes, wars, famines and distant lands are described with such detail and precision it feels like we are there with him making this a something we can believe in.
It is not an action packed book, but more a slow burner that tempts and intrigues us into reading more. I found the Verland diary pages especially compelling. When I got to the end of a chapter and was back with Elle in the present, I almost cried out, "No I want more of the diary!" But once the story was with Elle, it was back to the mystery and I was involved with that section instantly. It's a great technique switching between the two, I never felt the momentum lagged in any way and was always eager to read more to see where it was going.
What's really great is Scully doesn't conform to these rules we seem to have about vampires. Yes they drink blood, but here in Verland's case he doesn't kill for fun, but pure necessity and can live off animals if he needs to. Also, he can live in the sunshine as long as he has had enough sustenance. It is a nice twist on the tale as it makes it creepier that a vampire could be living among us, in the daytime, and we could never know.
The only area of the story that I did not really connect with was the romance between Elle and homicide detective Gary Holland. It's not so much the nature of their relationship, that's completely fine, it's more the overblown, "heaving bosom" type descriptions we got with their relaxed sexual relationship. It felt rather out of place with the rest of the story, which would have worked just as well without it. But maybe I'm just trying to find flaws here in a perfectly good horror novel.
Verland is the kind of creation that I would be very happy to see carry on into a series. The style and the characters created are really gripping and I feel there is plenty of room for them to grow or for the essential storyline to broaden out into other directions. Whereas some series can seem forced, this one would be completely natural progression.
With its variety of subject matters I can see Verland will not just appeal to horror fans out there. It is a tale of crime, history and passion, and while there are some graphic parts that will keep the horror fans interested, it is not all the book has to offer which is really refreshing.