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1ea19d055e66f515967572f6577444341587343Novels about vampires, immortals, and the women who get caught up in their worlds are all the rage these days. But before I read CRAVING, if you had told me I’d be reading a book about Buddhist vampires, I would have laughed you out of the room. Of course, calling the antagonists of CRAVING “Buddhist vampires” isn’t strictly accurate or fair, and might even be a little dismissive, but it captures a sense of what we see here. (Though I should note that the title is a bit misleading and the sub-title makes almost no sense whatsoever.)

Some mild plot spoilers follow.

The novel begins straightforwardly enough: Lilith Pierce’s younger, free-spirited sister Eve has committed suicide and Lilith, as Eve’s only relative, is left to clean up Eve’s apartment as she tries to make sense of why Eve killed herself. The story rapidly takes a strange turn as it becomes clear that Eve was (1) involved with some strange things (and people) and (2) she may have been a victim of murder rather than suicide. Eve is aided by the sympathetic detective assigned to Eve’s case and some of Eve’s old friends, most of whom are far more than they appear. Shortly after Eve’s funeral, Lilith realizes that she is being drawn deeper into Eve’s past and the strangeness surrounding Eve’s life (and death). The matter becomes even more personal when Lilith herself begins experiencing visions and eventually starts developing some unusual abilities of her own. Of course, the whole affair is about far more than the death of a single girl who got in way over her head in the big city, with Lilith realizing that the stakes involved are far bigger than she imagined.

I hesitate to say more about the specifics of the plot, as the slow unveiling of the truth behind the situation is a big part of the fun. Characterization is reasonably good here, as long as the reader maintains a healthy suspension of disbelief. Ultimately CRAVING reminds me of a lot of the kind of supernatural horror in the 1990s (Anne Rice, Laurel Hamilton, etc.) that spawned the paranormal romance genre, with all the good and bad that that implies. The pace is, at times, slow going, and that’s CRAVING’s greatest weakness, though it is punctuated by staccato bursts of action. It meanders and the reader – along with Lilith – is sometimes left wondering what the heck is going on. But even so there’s some action and good bit of dialogue and philosophizing; it helps, I think, if Buddhism and similar Eastern philosophies intrigue you.

Recommended for those who like paranormal romance with a philosophical side. It also helps if you’re a patient reader looking for a slow build and a fairly strong climax. CRAVING’s essential premise and opening are strong, and I promise that the eventual revelations concerning CRAVING’s background and mysteries are interesting; you just have to be willing to wade through some less exciting parts of the plot to get there. If you’re not prepared for interested in a healthy dose of Eastern philosophy along the way, you might be turned off, but if you are looking for an original take on the modern-day vampire novel, CRAVING just might be the book you’re looking for.

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Review copyright © 2013 J. Andrew Byers