by Sue Dent
All right, get ready for another review in which I have to eat crow. I admit it: I resisted reading Never Ceese. Why, you may ask? Assumptions. First of all, it's a story about a werewolf and a vampire. Sue was invited to the World Horror Convention and short-listed for the Bram Stoker award. From these facts, I inferred that Never Ceese was a horror novel and I abhor the horror genre. But then another reviewer I respect (Cathi Hassan) told me that she didn't consider it horror at all. What? How can a vampire and werewolf story NOT be horror? After reading it, I agree, but let us just say that this got me thinking.
Secondly, I somehow missed the fact that Sue considers her work Young Adult. (Okay, it's pretty obvious from Sue's shoutlife page, but I had "horror" set so firmly in my head that I didn't really pay attention to all the clues she leaves.) So once I got it through my thick skull that Never Ceese was YA, I thought to myself, "Hey, even if it *IS* horror, how bad can it be if it's geared to kids?"
Then there's the fact that Sue's sequel has been contracted by the same publisher that put out Frank Creed's Flashpoint (The Writer's Cafe Press). So that gave Sue a lot of credibility by association. And lastly, it came up for tour here, and I ran out of excuses. So I broke down and read it.
So, is it horror? I guess that depends on your definition. Either I don't dislike horror as much as I thought or Never Ceese is not horror. I lean to the latter, but I'm not in charge of assigning genres to other people's books! No matter what you call it, it's certainly not like any other horror.
How many times have we read vampire/werewolf stories where the changling/beast is just some monster to be hunted and killed, rather than a real human being who might not have chosen that existence? Yet the other extreme doesn't sit right with me either, where the beast and his/her powers become "cool" and the darkness is embraced. Sue Dent has avoided both failings in Never Ceese.
First of all, the vampire and the werewolf are sympathetic characters rather than the typical monsters. Becoming a vampire or werewolf is portrayed as a CURSE rather than something to be sought or embraced...well, almost. The evil stem cell researcher (antagonist) in Never Ceese seeks the curse as a fountain of youth and the ticket to eternal life, not caring about the consequences involved with such a choice. He is clearly deranged and immoral in most of his dealings, even extending to his students.
By contrast, the two protagonists have taken great pains over the centuries not to pass on their curse to others. As the story opens, Richard, the vampire, has stopped pining for a cure, but he still retains enough of his former morality to refrain from dooming anyone else to the fate he suffers. Cecilia (Ceese) is the werewolf who has dealt with her curse by spending majority of her cursed existence in wolf form. She has also worked hard to keep from giving in to the seductive pull of the demons which beset her, urging her to become a killer and to spread her curse to others. Ceese holds out much more hope that a cure can be found and the curse can be overcome.
Ceese and Richard don't get along very well at first, and there is quite a bit of fighting, much of it rather humorous. Now, since I am not in the target audience, it's probably irrelevant that I found the bickering a little tedious after a while. We all know kids can argue ad infinitum so they probably wouldn't even notice. The opposition does eventually end and the two cursed humans form a truce in order to seek out the cure to their conditions.
I don't want to ruin all the plot points, but let me say that the ending was a surprise, and a pleasant one at that. I was impressed with the way faith intersected with mythology to form an enjoyable tale. Look for Sue's sequel, Forever Richard, coming later this year.
Sue's Shoutlife Profile
Where to buy Never Ceese:
You can get an AUTOGRAPHED COPY from Sue herself, PLUS free shipping!
Or buy it at Barnes and Noble. Did you know they offer FREE shipping with a minimal order of just $25?
Other CFRB members who will be posting sometime this week:
A Frank Review
Back to the Mountains
Main CFRB site