Title: The Vampire’s Promise by Caroline B Cooney
Summary: Lacey and her friends are looking/or excitement a night to end all nights. So they break in to the Mall House, the mysterious, dark house with the circular tower. The Vampire Tower…
They wake the Vampire from his slumbers and he comes to them, holding them prisoner in the crumbling ruin. And the Vampire promises them one thing – that he will let them go – except for one who will satisfy his hunger.
And between them, an horrific decision must he made. They must decide which one of them will he his…
Tagline: Never make a deal with a vampire…
Notes: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall. Thanks to Mimi for the alternate cover art, with the big spoiler on the front cover!
[Wing: My god, publisher, what were you thinking with that cover? WHY SPOIL THINGS?]
Well, as I said on the last recap:
I believe I have read the third, but can’t remember a thing about it. I will be recapping it next time. I personally hope that, since the hatefulness of the protagonist is escalating, the next book is about a girl who is utterly ruthless. No dithering about, she basically goes to the vampire with a laundry list of things she wants. “I want Suzie’s hands, and Jenna’s eye-shape, but Cathy’s eye colour, and Jo’s hair, and Beth’s boobs, and Kayla’s butt, and…” and the vampire is at first delighted that he’s found his perfect mate, but ultimately ends up killing her because she’s far too demanding.
I doubt that will happen. If anyone wants to write it for me, I’ll love you forever.
The summary leads me to believe this is not the case, so I’m already disappointed.
[Wing: I know I’ve read this book, though not until I became an adult. I never found a copy when I was reading the first two. And yet I remember nothing about it. NOTHING. So clearly it is a wonderful, memorable story.]
We start right in the action. No build up, no messing about, the kids are already in the tower and the vampire makes himself known.
Lacey notices the smell of the vampire first.
“What’s that smell?” she said. She already knew. The knowledge seemed to have been born in her centuries ago, waiting for this single moment, this particular evening, this very darkness, to emerge. Somewhere, in another life, in another country, she had smelled this before.
This I actually like. I like the idea that humans know, and it’s been buried.
What I’m less keen on is Cooney’s rather songficcy approach, about eight words per sentence, each sentence gets a new paragraph. It’s a bit annoying. Maybe I’m just a bit tapped out on her style by now. Also, there are breaks and POV switches, and I think it would have been better, if she insisted on doing that, if each character got a POV as they realised the vampire was there, rather than three people, swapping back and forth with no real pattern. But then again, I’m used to Wing, who beats me to death over POV changes, and makes me really earn the right to add a new person’s POV to our writing. Wing is a badass.
[Wing: I like Cooney’s style well enough, I guess, but it gets old fast. I can usually only manage one or two of her books close together before I need a long break.]
So, there are six teenagers in the tower: Lacey, Randy, Roxanne, Bobby, Sheree and Zach. It was Randy’s brilliant idea to break into the house – which is now called a “mansion”. I’m sure it’s always been a “house” before.
We don’t get much information about them, except Roxanne is dating Bobby, but she’s going to call it quits, because he’s a tenth grader and she thinks if she keeps dating younger men it will cross a line and she’ll be weird. Even though Randy and Lacey also get POVs, we don’t really learn anything about them at all.
The vampire offers them a deal, one of them will stay in the tower with him, the rest will leave safely. He will leave them alone to discuss who it will be. They say they’ll leave him in peace, but he says he’s had enough peace in the past decade. I suppose that’s fair, there’s only been two feeding frenzies that we’re aware of.
Then we move on to Chapter 2, which covers how the brilliant idea of breaking into the house came about. Randy suggested they break in. Randy is driven to show off more than boys his age because he hates how weak his name sounds (over here, it means “horny”, so tough break, kid). He pitches the idea to his best mates, Zach and Bobby, and they’re not overwhelmed with enthusiasm. Zach says, “They stripped the place of anything valuable years ago”, which implies that Zach’s motive is theft.
Actually it had been only a year ago that the last occupants had moved out. A weird family. Not that anybody normal had ever lived in the mansion. There were stories about a girl named Althea who’d moved away before Randy was in high school. The mansion had been vacant for a while. And then Devnee’s family had moved in. Randy remembered her clearly. A girl he had found plain at the beginning of the school year, captivatingly beautiful during the middle, and ordinary again toward the end. He had never figured out what she had done to herself to metamorphose like that. But Devnee’s family, too, had left town. Vanished.
I love it when they call back to the previous books, it helps me figure out the timeline.
Bobby just jogged off the playing field and made a choice among the eager females waiting on the sidelines. This year, incredibly, Bobby made not one choice but two. He was not only dating Roxanne, a beautiful and brilliant senior, but also Sherree, a bubble-bath-cute ninth-grader. Bobby would alternate Sherree and Roxanne, and either Sherree and Roxanne didn’t notice, or they adored Bobby so much they didn’t mind. Randy kept expecting a nursery rhyme situation in which the calico cat and the gingham dog would eat each other up, but no. Each girl linked arms with Bobby when it was her turn and stayed friends.
As for Zachary, he did not date. He said this was because he had high standards, and local girls simply did not meet them. Bobby said Zach did not date because Zach would not participate in anything where he could not get an A plus, and you were never entirely sure whether you’d be an A plus with any girl. It’s okay to get a C in class, Bobby told Randy confidentially, but it’s really crummy to have a C average in girls.
Both Bobby and Zach felt that going around with Lacey was a C average in girls.
Cheer on the killer: 1 (Because the protagonist is such an insufferable wretch that you can’t help but side with anyone who wants him or her dead.)
Bobby and Zach deride the idea, and Randy feels slighted, especially because they think Lacey – Randy’s girlfriend – is a “dwindle-head”, which is an insult thrown around a lot in this book. I’ve never heard this term before. Anyway, Randy calls the girls to set up the evening anyway.
[Wing: I’ve never heard it before, either. Cooney sucks at making up insults.]
Switch to Lacey. She has no idea that Bobby and Zach have been bad-mouthing her, and would be hurt if she knew. She does hate them for being conceited. And I sort of love her now. She doesn’t really love Randy, but she tries. She was wondering what it would be like when true love hit with full force when he called, and she felt so guilty that she immediately agreed to make up for her traitorous thoughts. Lacey, you’re in high school, it’s fine that your first boyfriend isn’t the love of your life.
Switch to Sheree. She can’t remember who Randy is, but after a bit of prodding remembers that he has an awesome home cinema style setup in a cool house. Sheree is boy-obsessed and shallow as fuck. She’s only going out with Bobby because it will increase interest in her because he’s so popular.
Cheer on the killer: 2 (+1)
Switch to Roxanne. She agrees to go because it will be entertaining to see how well Bobby juggles two girlfriends at once in front of his friends.
Switch to Zach. He’s scared. Seriously, that’s all that’s going on.
Switch to Bobby. He’s going to make a run for the door.
Ok, I’m not going to note all the POV changes, because they’re only a few lines, and it’s just irritating.
So, Bobby charges at the door and gets stuck there. Just hanging in the air, silent and not moving. Lacey investigates. She pulls and pushes but can’t get him to move. She understands that while Bobby is frozen, he’s seeing all of the vampire’s victims, and what will happen to one of them. She then realises that the light is an invader in the tower, and turns off the flashlight. Once she does, Bobby is set free. Afterwards, he’s different, no longer cocky.
[Wing: How come light never made anyone else freeze, then?]
We switch to Kevin, Lacey’s brother, who’s experiencing his first crush on a girl called Mardee. A name which is northern slang for stroppy (example: “oooh, you mardy arse!” or “he’s right mardy today” – and for precision, “right” would be pronounced “reet”) – so the names aren’t translating well to an English audience, so far.
He calls her and she says she was just thinking about him because her brother, Bobby, is out with his sister at a party.
Kevin was under the impression that Lacey was sleeping over at Sheree’s house and is kind of proud of his sister for breaking the rules. He gets halfway through asking Mardee out before she says yes, assuming he means they should follow their siblings to the house and try to scare them.
Kevin ceased to be an eighth-grade boy striving for adulthood and sex. He became a fifth-grader, dying for Halloween and fake blood, free candy and screaming girls.
I think he and Mardee are going to be just fine with their relationship.
And back to the tower, where Roxanne has a hammer, which she intends to use if the vampire comes near her. And I’m feeling that this is going to be hard to recap, because there’s just a lot of sitting and thinking and blaming other people in this book.
Zach suggests they waste time discussing it until morning, and then in the light the vampire won’t be able to eat them. It’s a good plan, but unfortunately the vampire controls the tower, and it will be night in the tower as long as he needs it to be.
Roxanne uses her hammer to dig a hole in the floor, and Zach sticks his head out of the window.
I’m sorry this recap is dull as dishwater, but honestly, it’s an entire book of six kids sitting in a tower being afraid.
Mardee and Kevin arrive at the house and look for a way in.
Zach tries to escape out of the window, but finds that his grip is being peeled off, nobody can hear or help him in the tower, and he’s going to fall to his doom.
You know what? It’s early, but I think this is a perfect time for bullet points, because the POV switches are every couple of lines, so this is one of the rare times where the entire recap would be better in bullets.
- Lacey is belligerent to the vampire. It is delightful.
- Mardee gets pulled into the house by her hair. Kevin stops her from being dragged in, but she says she saw a vampire.
- A car thief arrives on the property – backstory: he is a bad guy with no nuance at all.
- Ginny’s unnamed brother has not brought back the family car. She and her boyfriend, Jordan, will go looking for him. Hi, Ginny, who the fuck are you and which boy is your brother? He’s described as someone who lifts weights, which rules out Zach and Randy, but Mardee is Bobby’s sister, so what the fuck?
- After a lot of words that imply Zach is now utterly dead, the vampire returns him to the tower. He’s fine. He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1 (Where the story tries to convince us that there really is a body count, only to later reveal the victim only sustained minor injuries.) He asks why the vampire peeled his hands off the tower, only to save him and the vampire says he did not do that. [Wing: The vampire is insulted they think he would do such a thing. You’re a vampire. You should not be surprised by people’s reactions to you.]
- The vampire suggests they all come up with a defence and present it to the group.
- Roxanne keeps pulling up floorboards, and she stands to get better leverage. On pulling up another board, she realises the space between the floor and the downstairs ceiling is the vampire’s nest. She faints and lands in the nest. This seems like bollocks, it’s been 100% consistent that the vampire lives in the shutters. [Wing: Is there a second vampire? That’s been my takeaway since someone flung Zach off the roof. Or, you know, slowly peeled his fingers up. Actually, since Roxanne started pulling up boards and the vampire never noticed. Something’s keeping him from noticing. And I remember thinking this the first time I read the book, but I still can’t remember actually reading the book. This book, man.]
- This causes the vampire to flee, and Randy figures this out. When Roxanne tries to get out of the nest, he shoves her back in. Go fuck yourself, Randy. Cheer on the killer: 3 (+1)
- Then, she gets out and the vampire doesn’t come back immediately, so Randy shoving her around was pointless dickishness. Fine. On the way down the stairs, they meet the vampire. And he is done. with. their. shit. He asks them to choose his victim.
- Sheree nominates Lacey. Everyone else silently agrees. They leave. And spend an entire chapter switching POVs as they regret it and charge back up the stairs to save her.
- Randy offers himself instead. The vampire tells him that he won’t be a hero, because his friends won’t even remember him once they get outside. He’ll completely vanish from their minds. Lacey argues that they’re all heroes because they came back for her.
“I don’t even think you can really do this, anyway,” sneered Randy. “I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ‘event.’ You’re nothing but a slimeball. Maybe I’m not a hero. But you’re not a vampire, either. You’re just a thing without power.”
- The tower goes dark after that.
- Ginny and Jordan get a lot of screentime during which nothing happens. Seriously, who the fuck are you and why are you in this story? Kevin and Mardee were doing fuck all. The car thief is doing fuck all. Did we need two more fuck-all-doing people to bump the count? GTFO of the story.
- The vampire says that Randy is now exempt from selection, because he volunteered. The wording was that they had to choose. Sheree then volunteers and the vampire accepts because she volunteered for selfish reasons. Lacey asks for time to think because he keeps changing the rules. He says she can think outside and he’s not changing the rules. Vamp, I love you, but you are changing the rules. [Wing: Well, not necessarily. As he says, they don’t actually know the rules of his world. We don’t, either, so he might not be changing the rules. Though, since we’re not getting actual world building so that we as readers can learn the rules, it still sucks and feels like a cheat.] Then they hear someone laughing in the house.
- Switch to a policewoman. Seriously? Another character. She’s young, was a cheerleader and knew Althea – as with the last book, not mentioned by name. She’s near the house, and wonders why this end of town is always so dead. Then she drives away to be a cliché and buy coffee and donuts. SERIOUSLY, COONEY, WHAT THE FUCK? ARE YOU JUST PADDING YOUR WORD COUNT?
- Another vampire enters the tower. Ah. Ok, so this vampire that they’ve been talking to is a different vampire, and the vampire from the past two books has just arrived. Ok, I take it back about the nest in the floor being bollocks. And that comment that the vampire had had enough peace in the last decade was good foreshadowing. Ok, I’ll allow this. However, the book is still rubbish in itself, but I will concede that Cooney can foreshadow. [Wing: How has Nest Vamp ever hunted? How often have people torn up the tower floor? Not that often, so why in the world would he live there?]
- Nest Vamp tells Shutter Vamp that there are people outside, if he’s hungry. Shutter Vamp then asks if Nest Vamp promised to let five of them go. Nest Vamp confirms he did, but that was his promise, Shutter Vamp made no such promise. Ok, loving this bromance.
- Mardee and Kevin head to the car, but there’s a vampire there. Seriously, what is the point of these bits?
- Roxanne asks what’s the point of choosing, because Nest Vamp will eat one of them, and Shutter Vamp might well eat the rest. Nest Vamp suggests they hurry up and choose and hope that Shutter Vamp is still eating the outside people when they leave. Lacey then leans out the window tells whoever is out there to run. Nest Vamp laughs, and points out that humans often do the opposite of what they’re told.
- Kevin heads towards the house. Also, snark from Mardee, which is enjoyable, but I’m so bored of the entire book, I can’t quite sink into it.
- Ginny and Jordan waste a lot of words to arrive on the property. Just die, you pointless wastes of words.
- Lacey volunteers – and not for selfish reasons. She wants to save them and her brother.
- Sheree wants to remember Lacey, because it would make her a better person.
- Bobby, arrogant clot that he is, tells her he considered dating her – Lacey knows he doesn’t mean it, and thinks it’s kind of ridiculous that Bobby thinks this will be comforting, but appreciates the effort.
- Roxanne feels guilty, and accepts the task to get Kevin away from there. A task gives her strength.
- Zach gives her a salute. Wow, and I thought Bobby’s attempt was lame.
- Randy basically gives her a fist bump. Oh, you cool and romantic being, Randy. Lacey, who is much cooler, hugs him.
- Ok, I take it back. Zach’s written instructions to himself to save Lacey. Sheree plans to crash the Land Rover into the wall and lean on the horn. Randy left a camera in the car, and plans to come back with it and scare the vampire off with it (think you’re thinking of crosses, son, but good luck). He can’t wait to be Lacey’s hero and have her look up to him. Oh, fuck off, Randy. Cheer on the killer: 4 (+1)
- If Roxanne wasn’t already Wing’s favourite, she will be as she has this thought “Violence! That was what would work.” [Wing: If I was going to have a favorite, it would be her.] She plans to kick the Nest Vamp’s ass with the hammer. Bobby simply plans to rip the cloak off the vampire. And that actually sounds like a good plan.
- As they leave, Nest Vamp confiscates Zach’s notes and Sheree’s keys (which he throws out the window). He tells Randy that he’s not scared of having his picture taken, he simply won’t show up.
- Roxanne lunges at him, but there’s nothing substantial to hit. She falls, and the vampire confiscates the hammer too. Bobby tries to rip the cloak off, but it won’t come off.
- Ginny sees teeth and darkness. Jordan rugby tackles Ginny, and she is saved. GOOD LORD, STOP WASTING MY TIME WITH THIS FUCKING WORTHLESS NONSENSE.
- Zach and Sheree know that they can’t remember something.
- The policewoman enjoys her coffee and donuts. I’m not kidding. Cooney wastes 55 words giving us this update. Fuck me.
- Outside, the main cast now meet up with Kevin, Mardee, Ginny and Jordan. After a metric fuck tonne of words, Kevin asks where Lacey is. Zach calls her a dwindle-head, then immediately knows she’s better than that, and Sheree calls him on it. Then they leave anyway.
- Shutter Vamp is pissed off because he can’t penetrate a herd of humans. He eats the car thief. I am shocked that Cooney created a thoroughly bad character with no redeeming features just to get eaten. SHOCKED, I TELL YOU.
- Lacey, resourceful lady that she is, rummaged in Randy’s pockets when she hugged him and took a lighter. She scoops up Zach’s notes and uses them to set fire to the nest when Nest Vamp lunges for her. She then falls to the floor and rolls down the stairs. She finds her brother outside and they walk home.
- The vampires have a few hours before dawn to find new nests, and that’s probably enough time.
What the blistery fuck was all that about? Why did we have the policewoman’s point of view? She literally did nothing except eat a donut. [Wing: Well, she also drives past very quickly after Lacey joins Kevin.] Who the fuck is Ginny and who the buggery blazes is she related to? [Wing: RIGHT? COME ON.] What was the point of having Kevin and Mardee in it at all? I assumed that them all meeting outside would jog memories, but no. There was just no bloody point.
I hate this book. It’s stupid.
[Wing: It really is. There are some potentially interesting pieces to it, but way too many POV characters for no good reason, and far too much head hopping.]
Cheer on the killer: 4
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1