Earth Thirst by Mark Tepp – Book Review [Shadowhawk]
Shadowhawk reviews the first novel in the Arcadian Conflict series, originally published by Night Shade Books.
“Some really interesting concepts here and an interesting narrative, but also some obvious predictability and some over-thinking.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
Let’s get down to it: Earth Thirst might very well be an important milestone in vampire fiction for the simple fact that there is nothing of the urban fantasy here and the vampires presented here are very much eco-warriors. Yes, you read that right. Known as Arcadians, the vampires in Earth Thirst are pseudo-guardians of nature, working behind the scenes extremely discreetly to stave off all sorts of pollution that is harmful to Earth’s ecology. It certainly presents a very interesting take on these classic monsters, and presents a rather climatically-relevant modern perception of them, but it doesn’t quite go all the way.
Some of that is due to the characters, who are not as memorable as they could have been. Silas and Mere never quite clicked together for me, despite the author giving me ample time to get to know them. The characterisation was just that little bit weak, and combined with a so-so interesting plot, it meant that the chemistry between the two characters never gets off the ground, so to speak. And where Silas is concerned, I also had issues with how the Arcadians in generally are portrayed: they are too powerful, simply put. They can do a lot of things that “classic” vampires can’t, such as walking in the sun and going for really long periods without blood. The former isn’t portrayed to an extreme degree, which was good, but it still rankled. It kind of took a lot of the tension of the Vampires concept away and contributed to my struggle with getting to understand the character. With the latter, it somewhat bordered in the absurd, especially with the conclusion of the first act and the consequences that entails for Silas. I kept asking myself if the author had really gone that route.
With Mere, part of my disinterest was just that: a general disinterest. The character has some good moments, sure, but those are overshadowed by the bad ones. She just wasn’t all that interesting. Its as if the author was going for a Lois Lane vibe here, but instead ended up with a Cat Grant one, or rather, a hybrid of the two even.
However, having said that, I did enjoy the flashbacks of Silas’ previous life, when he was a foot-soldier of Troy and fought in the Trojan War. We get some really nice introspective scenes with these flashbacks and they added a lot of colour to the narrative. Of course, this meant that Silas was an incredibly long-lived Vampire, and that didn’t sit well with me because it just seemed too grand an effort to make the character come across as cool. I think it could have been handled a lot better by giving Silas a much more “recent” backhistory, but all the same, those scenes were some of the best in the novel.
Of course, Earth Thirst is also somewhat of a thriller novel, or perhaps, a better term to use would be eco-thriller, given the core premise and the characters. Perhaps my (somewhat) muted reaction to the novel is due in part to that, since I don’t read all that many thriller novels, preferring to read more… mainstream (and tie-in) SFF. Still, the entire mystery at the heart of the novel, and the thriller elements are portrayed fairly well. While the pacing goes up and down from chapter to chapter and there’s a bit of instability to the narrative in that regard, I wasn’t particularly bored of it. Mark Teppo did keep me turning the pages to read and find out what was going to happen to the characters, what new twist would present itself.
So that’s something I suppose.
When all is said and done, there is one thing that this novel deserves high marks, and what I’ve already mentioned: the redefinition of vampires as guardians of nature, fighting the “good” fight against all the pollution and corruption that blankets the world. It is an extremely unique take on the vampire myth, and it gives them a very contemporary outlook, firmly placing them in the here and now.
Finally, one of the things that I really liked was all the globetrotting. Normally, that kind of a thing sets me off, but here, Teppo makes each location standout, and gives it a unique charm. The scenes set around the Easter Island, therefore, were among my favourites. They helped to explain some of the mystery behind the Islands and tie everything into the larger mystery facing Silas and Mere: who Arcadia’s enemies are, what they are planning, and even, how things are going to fall down in the climax. A connecting story, from start to finish.
Overall, Earth Thirst was a decent read. It has a very promising story, like I said, but the execution doesn’t match that. Which was a slight disappointment. Still, not all that bad a novel.