It would be my birthday in thirteen days. I would turn eighteen a hostage.

One night in London, Violet witnesses a blood bath in Trafalgar Square. Unable to flee the scene fast enough, the murderers take her with them to their home in Varnley. Discovering she is the daughter of the Minister of Defence, her captors realise they cannot harm her without severe implications. But they are more than human, their desires driven by their blood lust. Yes, Violet has been taken hostage by vampires and she’s about to be plunged into the middle of a political war between them and humanity.

Abigail Biggs started writing The Dark Heroine when she was just 15 and it was originally published as an online serial before being snapped up by HarperCollins to publish the novel in its entirity. I initially picked it up as I was rather intrigued to see what could be done by such a younger writer and I was pleasantly surprised. Despite its faults, I really rather enjoyed it and will be keeping an eye on her in the future.

As I was reading I assumed that it had been lifted straight from the serialised version without editing but the acknowledgements do, um, acknowledge that it was chopped down quite a bit by the editor. I think you can still see signs of its origins; the plot is a bit meandering and the prose gets stronger as the story goes on. The first few chapters really needed a re-write; they are rather weak and may put sample readers off buying it. Violet’s narrative voice is a little inconsistent but the dialogue’s full of personality. Indeed, her inner voice turns out to be a sign that the girl can write but in a way I can’t explain without a spoiler.

I screamed as blood and sinew was ripped from [his] carcass, monster after monster now throwing themselves at the ravaged corpse. His stomach was sliced open by a single nail, vampires lowering their heads to drink the blood from the organs torn out and treated as offal. I clamped my mouth shut, gagging uncontrollably.

Vegetarian Violet is under no illusion about what vampires are. She is horrified about what they do and she wants no part in their world. But she soon learns that it’s not as simple as humans good, vampires bad and that there are several shades of bad in between. Even as the story and relationships progress, she is repeatedly repulsed by some of her thoughts and the things she witnesses. Yet she learns to be pragmatic about such things.

Of course, there is a love interest, although I’m not convinced by the cover’s declaration that it’s the sexiest romance I’ll read this year. There are a few bits of sexy and I was quite surprised at the honesty of the sex scene. Apart from “hitched breathing” (can we please ban that phrase?) it wasn’t over romanticised or made into something magical. At one point we meet Violet’s ex-boyfriend and instantly you realise why she would fall for a sophisticated if dangerous vampire compared to him. Though Violet doesn’t instantly swoon at anyone’s feet, she is quite sassy and gives the vampires a lot of trouble before she would even consider being friends.

It’s not the best written book in the world but it was compelling reading. It’s the sort of book that, once you get into the story and stop analysing the prose, it’s hard to put down but it wasn’t one I craved to return to when I had to go and do other things. I am certainly looking forward to seeing what she does next. The ebook is available now (at the bargain price of £1.99) or you can wait until 25th October for the paperback.

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