What I learned from a year of reading vampire books

Hello Book lovers, and Happy spooky season. If you’re not a big fan of all things spooky- but you enjoy fantasy and perhaps paranormal romances, then I have a treat for you today. After reading Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Better Off Red and its sequels in 2021, I was blown away by all the diverse vampires in that universe. 

This set me off into a quest to read more vampire novels. And I’ve noticed some similarities across the genre. One of the first things I connected across all novels is that vampires are sexy.

Vampires are sexy

Despite the uncanniness of coming face to face with a human like creature that is actually undead vampires are hot! In every story there’s a handsome vampire that the protagonist cannot resist. Although there are grotesque looking vampires thrown in some of these stories for conflict, I find the allure of the sexy vampire interesting. Almost as a flirtation with death itself. Which brings me to my next point: sexiness and danger go hand in hand.

Flirting with Danger

Both adult and young adult vampire stories flirt with danger. It goes like this: the protagonist has feelings for the vampire, the vampire warns the human, and bad people are after the vampire. I suspect this formula’s purpose is to emphasize the unnaturalness of dating a supernatural creature that’s “dead” instead of a plot point to cause conflict in a story. As a fiction writer, I find it fascinating!

Racist Vampires are not sexy

Because vampires live so long, they live through important points in history, and lot of authors love to write vampires with racist pasts.

Now what do I mean by that? Surely that’s a thing? I wish I had a concrete answer as to why this was another theme I found in some of the vampire literature I read (Matthew’s sister in a Discovery of Witches owned enslaved peoples, Edward’s genocide fantasy in Midnight Sun, the confederate past of vampires in Trueblood, Vampire diaries, and Jasper Hale himself), but the only explanation I’ve come up with is colonialism. Perhaps the need to redeem colonizers in some instances. Or racism creates an antagonist so evil they go against the morals and values of readers. Although a majority of the novels on this list do not have this theme, I wanted to note it because it is recurring.

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned from reading all these vampire novels is that the fascination with these uncanny creatures of the night will never end. And I don’t mind it one bit. Vampires are a staple in the paranormal romance genre, and I loved reading all the ways authors have made their own twist on these tales.

Let me share with you all the vampire books I read during this year-long journey.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla is not the first vampire story, that honor is bestowed on John William Polidori’s the Vampyre, I chose to read Carmilla because it’s credited to have inspired Bram Stoker’s novel. Carmilla tells the story of Laura, who lives alone in a castle with her father, when one night, the beautiful Carmilla comes to visit and a friendship forms between the two women.

Similarities with other vampires novels I noted: Beauty, immortality, danger, sapphic themes

Carmilla’s sapphic undertones is what made me want to read it. Our antagonist Carmilla is beautiful, and her quick friendship with Laura grows more suspicious as she declares Lauras as hers. But as the novel progresses, we learn that Carmilla has a history of forming friendships with girls in the city. And then those same girls die soon after.

It’s very reminiscent of Goblin Market and I appreciate it!

Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Similarities: Immortality, Sexy vampires, LGBTQ+ vampires, diverse vampires

Ginger Carmichael joins a sorority with her roommate, and she can’t keep her eyes off of Camila, a mysterious brunette who lingers in the shadows. But Ginger soon realizes the pledges feed the vampire queens who run it. A sapphic love story between a human and a vampire queen.

Better off Red inspired this post because of all the diverse vampires in this series. Although the vampires in this world trace the origins to demons, they are not all that demon-like. The vampires in Better off Red are sexy, kind, and big on consent. I can see inspiration from Carmilla in this series, but instead of vilifying the vampire queens this series aims to humanize them. 

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno Garcia

Atl’s on the run when she meets Domingo, a trash collector, in Mexico city, and they form a unique friendship as they try to outrun a rival vampire clan.

Similarities: Sexiness, immortality, LGBTQ+ vampires, diverse vampires

Vampires in Certain Dark Things have various species, and they attempt to integrate into human society. Because of the different species in this novel, some vampires are not as attractive as others, their feeding habits are different, and they can have children.

Although I theorized the need to have confederate/racist vampires may have something to do with the need to redeem colonizers, Certain Dark Things definitely convinces me of this. Atl points out that many European vampires came to Mexico to profit off the drug trade.

“Motherfuckers in snakeskin boots and stupid cowboy hats. Guys like Godoy. Fucking Necros. Colonizers! Nothing is ever enough for them, nothing!”

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

This series follows two runaway best friends, Rosemary and Lissa, who are dragged back to their elite academy for other vampires.

I have a longer review for books 1-3 and my explanation for abandoning this series in separate blog posts, but like Better off Red, Vampire academy is set in an educational institution and contains a romance with a mentor. But the world of vampires in this series is based on class dynamics, and in this world only the richer vampires can afford protection from a lower-class vampire or dhampir. 

Similarities: Danger, age gaps common in vampire novels, vampires with special abilities as seen in Certain Dark Things

This book series is much different than other vampire novels I’ve read, but like Certain Dark Things the vampires in these novels have different species.

An interesting premise, and I wish the series had not been such a flop for me because I truly enjoyed the concept. Additionally, this series features a biracial protagonist, and the 2022 show has even more diverse characters.

The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black

Tana races against the clock to get her ex-boyfriend and a mysterious vampire to coldtown, a refuge for vampires and people who were infected.

Similarities: Sexiness, danger, immortality

Vampires in Cold Town have their own dystopian society where they have balls so grand they’re televised. As a result, vampires are romanticized, and some humans dream of living in a cold town. Even Tana, who spends the novel wondering if she’s infected, is tempted by the glamour and by Gavriel, who she develops feelings for despite learning of his violent past.

Vampires in Cold Town govern themselves, and they allow a little bloodshed. This novel was much more reminiscent of older vampire novels; the atmosphere of this novel was gothic and spooky. 

A Discovery of Witches by Deobrah Harkness

Dana Bishop accidentally summons a bewitched manuscript, and the supernatural community wants answers, but fellow colleague Matthew Clairmont has her heart. But as the two begin to test their relationship they also break the convent between interspecies relationships.

Similarities: immortality, danger, prejudice/racist vampires mentioned

The vampires in a Discovery of Witches are similar to vampires in other works, but in this world their status is no different than other witches or daemons. A Discovery of Witches vampires are attractive, but they integrate into a supernatural society that accepts them as long as they follow the rules dictated by the council. Unlike the vampires in the Coldest girl in Coldtown, vampires in this novel hide behind the illusion of a civil society.

Vampires Never Get Old (anthology) edited by Zoriada Cordova and Natalie C. Parker 

This anthology offers many diverse vampire stories with themes that range from friendship, colonialism, and love. If you’re searching for diverse vampire stories- this anthology is a great place to start.

Similarities: Immortality, Sexy vampires, danger, POC vampires, LGBTQ+ vampires

 My favorite stories were “Vampires Never Say Die” and “Mirrors, Windows, and Selfies” by Mark Oshiro. In “Vampires Never Say Die,” vampires are unknown in the human world, but the vampire in this story is an Instagram influencer who befriends a human. 

In “Mirrors, Windows, and Selfies,” a teenage vampire blogs about his sheltered life only to learn they’re other vampires like him.

These two vampires stories humanize vampires but also set them in the modern technological world. 

Vampires novels have changed so much since the first novel “Vampyre” was created in 1819.

The most important thing I’ve learned from reading all of these vampire novels is that the genre is always growing and changing. I don’t think vampire novels will ever go away. In fact, the Vampires Never Get Old anthology proves that the vampire genre has much room to create and build upon. This makes me super excited for the future of vampire novels.

until next time I’ll be living in libros,

Gabriela

Fall Favorites 2022

Hey book lovers, it’s that time of year when trees shake off their leaves and litter the sidewalks with red, brown, and gold. This means it’s also time for me to share my Fall favorites of 2022! This year I have some great recommendations, but if you want to check out my 2021 and 2020… Continue Reading →

Don’t be scared and read Mexican Gothic!

Mexican Gothic is a New York Times Bestseller: It’s another Silvia Moreno classic! Despite my love for Silvia Moreno Garcia’s writing, I hesitated to read this novel despite adding it to my tbr every year since its publication. But the open chapter convinced me to continue this story. Noemí’s father sends her to check in… Continue Reading →

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