On the Soul of a Vampire by Krisi Keley was not at all what I expected. It is a deeply emotional and introspective look at one ‘man’s’ search for meaning in life. (Or in this case, one ‘vampire’.) Written primarily in first person from the point of view of Valery Castellene, a vampire of some 800 years, we see and feel his inner pain as he struggles with his existence. Convinced that he is evil incarnate, yet still subconsciously wishing to be good, Valery’s emotional conflict is the center of this novel.
One would think that after that many centuries little could surprise, but even Valery is taken aback when he meets a young mortal woman named Angelina Lacroix. In her he senses sublime goodness and beauty; her very presence brings him to the brink of self control and back again. But even more alarming is the fact that she can sense his presence even when she can’t see him. She knows him by name and seems to know every detail about his existence, both past and present. As the book progresses, Valery is more and more frustrated by his need to find out the truth about this girl, struggling with his overwhelming desire to take her life and his need to protect her at all costs. Woven throughout are flashbacks to Valery’s past which further develop the complexity of his character and the struggles he now faces.
Lest the description so far sound somewhat like another familiar vampire saga, let me assure you that it is not remotely similar. In fact, it isn’t even really a love story in the typical sense. Yes, there are deep emotional passages, but the real crux of the story is about self discovery, forgiveness and hope. The author writes with eloquence and sophistication, in a tone that is reminiscent of an older, more classical style. This fits well with the story since it is primarily told by Valery himself, and he is, after all, 800 years old.
Let me reiterate that this was a very well written book, with complex characters, subtle plot twists, and a strong focus on examining man’s innate capacity for both good and evil. It is also written from a Biblical world view, and tries to (quite successfully I might add) point to a higher grace which is above even the most heinous of sins, although I would not recommend using it as a doctrinal reference. Sometimes the inner musings seemed a bit drawn out, however. I felt at times like a certain point had already been hashed over quite thoroughly and then it would reappear subsequent times. As well, I was sometimes frustrated by the use of foreign languages in the text (usually French) which were often quite lengthy and which forced me to consult the appendix for an explanation.
Aside from that, On the Soul of a Vampire is worth consideration simply because of its uniqueness. As a book with a Christian bent it stands out as totally fearless, especially in its choice of protagonist and his portrayal. From a secular view, it is also unique in its genre since there contains such a profound message of hope not usually found in a novel about vampires. I recommend this book for those who are looking for a meatier read. (No pun intended.) Read it if you dare.