I’ve been a fan of Trent Jamieson for a long time but even then I was dubious about this book. A vampire story. I’m so over vampire stories.They’ve been done to death (pun intended) and so many people claim to be re-imagining the vampire mythology yet so few actually do. Peter Watts did in Blindsight, for example, but most people just put the same old mythology in different settings.
But Jamieson has created something truly brilliant here. In some ways he has put the same old mythology in a different setting – in this case, a post-apocalyptic Australia – but he’s also tweaked that mythology in certain fundamental ways that makes it fresh and interesting. A lot of it isn’t explained and if I have any problems with this book, that’s it. I’d like to know more about the apocalypse and the rise of the Masters, but given our first-person point of view character it’s understandable that we don’t get that.
In some ways this is a YA novel, then it gets utterly dark and brutal and you wonder if teenagers might be better off avoiding it. Then again, I was reading Stephen King at 12 years old and I turned out fine. (Shut up, you can’t prove anything.) Regardless, this is a book with a massively wide appeal even though it’s solidly genre in so many ways – slightly-YA, horror, post-apocalypse, yet a fantastic achievement in the exploration of relationships, particularly the father/son relationship, that will appeal to any reader, whether they enjoy genre fiction as a rule or not.
The characters are strong, especially the sad and brooding Dain. Through him we get insights into the lives of the Masters, refracted through the lens of the protagonist, Mark’s, understanding. Mark is the Day Boy of the title, tasked with looking after his Master during the day and he lives in a small regional town with a few other Masters, each with their own Day Boy. They politics of the Masters and the intertwined yet separate politics of the Day Boys is fascinating and superbly drawn.
The writing is beautiful and powerful, an assurance of voice that’s rare and hard to maintain, but Jamieson nails it. The mythology of the new world, post-whatever kind of apocalypse that’s never fully explained, is rich and compelling. I have one question that still snags – why are there no female masters? But it’s not a question that in any way detracts from the book, and, according to a comment I read from Jamieson, there is a reason and he hopes to explore that in future books. So I’ll be looking forward to that. I loved this book and consumed in no time at all. Highly recommended!
(And mark my words, this book will win awards.)