This is a combined edition of the two young adult Bergstryker U ebooks by “W.J. Everett” (Richard Parks), The Face of an Angel and The Voice of a Demon, originally published in 2011 and 2014, respectively. For the new edition Parks has abandoned the pseudonym in favor of his real name, which will likely increase his audience. After all, he is fairly known under his real name as the author of numerous fine fantasies for adults, while as “Everett” he had but these two titles to his name. The striking new cover illustration can’t hurt, either; the original ebooks were ill-served by covers showing what appeared to be a drugged-out angel/demon (actually the vampire heroine Amelia Wainwright).
J.K. Rowling popularized the supernatural boarding school genre. This is Parks’s take on it. Bergstryker U’s distinction is that the student body is older (college age), and instead of magicians is composed of a variety of supernatural beings, with a sprinkling of ordinary students to add diversity. The purpose of the college is not just education, but to promote peaceful coexistence between species that don’t necessarily get along left to themselves—a worthy ideal. It is not completely clear if the world in which it is set is one in which the mass of humanity is aware of the supernaturals in its midst; if not, the school may be a secret one. There does seem to be at least some official contact between the supernaturals and the mundane authorities. Regardless, Bergstryer is portrayed as an experiment, and a fragile one.
The first story, “Face of an Angel,” unites two scholars, human Jeff Tolbert and vampire Amelia Wainwright, in an attempt to uncover a mystery that could well end that experiment. In the process, an unlikely friendship, perhaps even romance, is born. As Parks excels at characterization, he weaves both threads of the plot into a well-told tale. If there’s a problem with it, it’s in its limited length and focus. It’s too short to achieve much depth; the author doesn’t give himself enough space to make his world fully live and breathe. We learn little even of the student body beyond the two protagonists’ own species. The only prominent non-human, non-vampire character encountered is a were-squirrel, who, as the murder victim, is on only briefly. There is more to Bergstryker U and its denizens than is explored here, and what we do learn invites additional questions.
As an instance, Parks’s vampires, while allergic to sunlight, garlic, silver and religious symbols, aren’t your traditional undead, but a living subspecies of humanity that just happens to be super predatory on ordinary humans. As such it propagates like any other viable population, and while some new vampires are converted from victimized humans, most are born and raised. They can also interbreed with humanity; Amelia herself is a human/vampire hybrid. They have other unique wrinkles; they don’t feed on blood per se, but rather the life force in it, and they can suck nourishment from a plant as easily as a person. So they’re not obligate carnivores; there can be, and are, vegetarian vampires! All of which sounds peculiarly natural. The divide between the natural and supernatural in Parks’s vampires is left fuzzy, crying out for further elucidation.
The possibilities in this series only hinted at in the initial tale. The author begins to open his world up a bit in the sequel. In “Voice of a Demon” Jeff and Amelia, having resolved the threat to the school, are now clearly paired. This, thankfully, allows the author to open up his vision beyond the claustrophobic focus on vampires limiting the first installment. His protagonists now face a new conundrum, less existential in scope, which puts them at cross-purposes. Jeff catches his phooka friend Gillie pranking the banshee Katie McRaven. It seems part of a campaign Gillie has been waging for some time; the problem is, it’s a death-wish. While phookas are inveterate jokers, banshees are humorless harbingers of doom; needling one is a sure route to getting your butt kicked. At minimum. Yet Gillie persists. Why? Jeff is determined to find out, while Amelia would just as soon see the issue dropped.
Actually, everyone seems to know already, with the exception of the clueless Jeff, but he is still intent on saving his friend, if possible. And all turns out well in the end. As he unravels this new mystery we not only become pleasantly reacquainted with our two engaging leads, but learn considerably more about phookas and banshees. Incidentally, these two types of supernaturals appear to have intrigued Parks, and he goes on to explore them in other works that may or may not be related to these two stories, Little Fire and Fog (2020) and Tales from the Black Dog (also 2020).
Though “Voice” is less than half the length of its predecessor, and its plot of considerably less moment, it has a more expansive feel, since we find out more about Bergstryker U and its unique denizens. But even together, they feel more like a beginning than a complete work, mere episodes in an extendable story. Parks’s supernatural college has definite potential that would be fun to see spun out at greater length, to a proper novel, if not several. It could be the start of something very good indeed. If Parks continues this series, he has this reader hooked, at least.
I reviewed the original two ebooks in October of 2018, at which time I rated each with four stars out of five. I am pleased to repeat that rating for the combination.
|Print List Price:||CDN$ 6.65|
Save CDN$ 5.34 (80%)
Loading your book clubs
There was a problem loading your book clubs. Please try again.
Not in a club? Learn more
Join or create book clubs
Choose books together
Track your books
Bring your club to Amazon book clubs, start a new book club and invite your friends to join or find a club that’s right for you for free.
Bergstryker U: Where Monsters and Humans Mingle Kindle Edition
See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
|New from||Used from|
This shopping feature will continue to load items when the Enter key is pressed. In order to navigate out of this carousel, please use your heading shortcut key to navigate to the next or previous heading.
Customers who bought this item also bought
Page 1 of 1 Start overPage 1 of 1
- File size : 2370 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 43 pages
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Publisher : Canemill Publishing (Sept. 18 2020)
- ASIN : B08JJMP4FG
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Language: : English
- Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
- Best Sellers Rank: #481,543 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
4.2 out of 5
5 global ratings