Hello Humans! Today’s book is another ARC review, this one requested after Asha told me I really ought to read it. When she told me there were lesbian vampires I WAS READY. I confess, before starting this book I hadn’t come across the web series on which this book is based, and I’ve got some thoughts on the best way to consume the book and the series below…
An adaptation of Shaftesbury’s award-winning, groundbreaking queer vampire web series of the same name, Carmilla mixes the camp of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the snark of Veronica Mars, and the mysterious atmosphere of Welcome to Nightvale. Newly escaped from the stifling boredom of a small town, college freshman Laura is ready to make the most of her first year at Silas University.
But when her roommate, Betty, vanishes and a sarcastic, nocturnal philosophy student named Carmilla moves into Betty’s side of the room, Laura decides to play detective. Turns out Betty isn’t the first girl to go missing? she’s just the first girl not to come back. All over campus, girls have been vanishing, and they are completely changed when (or if) they return. Even more disturbing are the strange dreams they recount: smothering darkness, and a strange pale figure haunting their rooms. Dreams that Laura is starting to have herself.
As Laura closes in on the answers, tensions rise with Carmilla. Is this just a roommate relationship that isn’t working out, or does Carmilla know more than she’s letting on about the disappearances? What will Laura do if it turns out her roommate isn’t just selfish and insensitive, but completely inhuman? And what will she do with the feelings she’s starting to have for Carmilla?
So, how did I read this? Well, I started with just reading the book and I found it a little hard to get to grips with the tone, I hadn’t initially realised how silly this book is and it took me a moment to really lean into that. So that’s my first tip – lean in.
I also ended up reading this book in tandem with watching the web series, which, in my opinion, was the best thing I could have done. The two compliment each other, each one lending that little bit of extra context to the other. Unlike other adaptations I don’t think this book can exist in a vacuum, it needs to be tied to the series or else it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. The tone is so weird, the characters so funny and not what one might expect, the dialogue is the same somewhat stilted lilt of the series. They work so well together I see no reason to take them apart. Perhaps that would be different if you’ve already seen the series? If you have, read the book separately and then let me know what you think?
Worth noting, there is one instance of a non-binary character being consistently wrong-named and misgendered by another character in a moment of tension. In the series, this didn’t feel like it had the weight that it does in the book, another instance of one adding to the other. I have seen other reviewers react poorly to this, and I can understand why, but I thought that the representation of an old friend having difficulty adjusting to someone transitioning was a very real thing. I also thought that the way this was handled by the other characters, who supported LaFontaine and corrected the friend (whose name slips my mind while writing this review please don’t judge me).
I think it’s telling to read the reviews which are pretty much split (with a few exceptions) between people reading this with knowledge about the series and those reading it alone. As a book on its own, I agree…this wouldn’t be that great. But as a largely accurate novelisation of a series, I’d say this hits the mark. It captures the tone of the series perfectly and will appease anyone who loves their vampires silly and also gay.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Carmilla is available now!
What say you? What kind of vampire books do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below!