Drayton doesn’t know what he is. Or why he has lived for thousands of years. He takes not his victim’s blood but the silky essence of their soul during their last breath. Often mistaken for the Angel of Death, his victims sometimes ask for forgiveness. Sometimes he delivers.
After all, he is not without sin
The Drayton Chronicles, The Taker by Tony Bertauski is a unique twist on the vampire legend. He creates something darker than Ann Rice, and as unusual as Stephenie Meyers; however, like Meyers, his story line, setting and characters could have been flushed out more. The best vampire story I’ve ever read is one that didn’t try and become something different, but remained within the confines of basic human nature gripping the original vampire folk tale. In John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, he makes the vampire into a child named Eli. Eli not only needs blood, but love.
The story is set in a suburb of Stockholm where one of the main characters, Oskar lives with his mother in disgraceful living conditions. Oskar like Eli needs love. This sets the stage for a unique kind of love story questioning existence and the why of despair in a way other vampire novels do not. Lindqvist does a brilliant job weaving setting, human need, and the mysterious vampire origin to create horror in human suffering leading through a dark tunnel with clouded grey love at the end.
Trailing behind Lindqvist’s vampire tale, is Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, another vampire story utilizing setting and traditional vampire lore to create a very scary book. Salem’s Lot is set in the typical New England town chopped full of history to highlight its characters. Bertauski’s setting is set in South Carolina, a place after living there most of my life, did not strike me as rich or intricate to the characters in the stories.
Still, Bertauski’s Drayton Chronicles is a very interesting concept, which is why I picked it up in the first place. I wanted to know more about Drayton and how he came to be. However, the plot line jumped around through various other characters hinting at Drayton’s motives and past. It made Drayton seem more elusive than mysterious. My feelings became indifferent to him. Indifferent is not good when it comes to a main character. Either I have to hate a character, or love one to make them good. I can even love a monster as long as I understand clear cut motives, and there is some good beneath the madness. Dexter is a grand example of this. Drayton didn’t strike me as a creature driven by intellectual reasoning, but one that had allowed his hunger to drive him and when that appetite dissipated then he became more human.
Drayton, even after being around for centuries didn’t seem to understand his own evolution towards being human. His constant pondering troubled his motives and his role as a monstrous hero. Even after centuries of life, he couldn’t figure himself. Most of us/humans may not know what role we play, but I do believe we understand ourselves to be governed by an inner moral law, one that tells us to save a drowning man rather than stand on the shore to be safe. How could we learn this in quicker years than Drayton?
And even though we as humans do not have a urgent need for bloods or souls, don’t we have our own selfish needs and preservation for our own life to wrestle? And in the end, we always understand when we have made poor choices whether we admit it or not. In the case with Drayton and all of his interesting powers; I’d choose to be human. If for no other reason than to move towards unselfish behavior connecting me and making me larger in relationship to the universe around me.
In between Drayton’s search of self, other characters moved in and out like silhouetted answers into his already elusive history.
Ending, The Drayton Chronicles, The Taker is a unique vampire concept with fast pacing making it worth a reader’s time. I read it in just a few days. My critique hat goes off to Bertauski in creating something so different in the vampire world of sameness. This book should be read by an adult audience. It can be purchased at Amazon.com.