Review by Elaine White, Dead Camp book 1
I am stunned. This is the author's DEBUT work and it was enchanting. From the entertainment factor of Mal and Eli bickering like an old married couple, the intensity of the mystery surrounding Eli's past as well as Ethan's father, and the incredible historical detail, there wasn't anything I didn't love about this book.
Oh, and editing? Normally, if a book has less than five notes from me about editing issues, I don't mention them unless they hugely impact my reading. This book had ONE. One tiny little slip of a comma (which are the bane of my existence, so I get it!) and that was it. I never saw anything that could count as a spelling, grammar, editing or plot mistake, slip up or accident. In a debut novel.
When it comes to POV, 1st person has never been a friend of mine. There are few books that actually write it the way that I can read it – which is falling into the story and never having a million unanswered questions about who “I” as the character am supposed to be. Because, the trap with 1st is that it's written where you're supposed to know who you are already, so there's no real introduction.
There was no need for an introduction here. Eli is perfectly clear and brilliant as a main character. Sarcastic, but deeply troubled, he's the quintessential tortured soul, with a difference. He feels sorry for himself, but only rarely; he tries not to let his failings, past or fears distract him and tries not to let anyone else see them, either. His ego is incredible; he's the kind of man who loves himself deeply and isn't ashamed of his vanity. But, at the same time, he uses it as a shield to prevent anyone from seeing the dark side of him. He's far from your typical hero. But, then, maybe he's not a hero? Maybe he's just a regular guy (vampire) who has a job to do?
Similarly, I love Malachi. He's a ghost, but he's hilarious, camp and all the other things Eli claims he is. Utilizing some seriously eloquent snark and unabashed campness, the pair together are a riot, but Malachi himself is just so adorable. I spent half the book shipping Maleli and the other half shipping Elian. Now I can't decide what I want or if I really want Gideli back. (Not that I ever saw the together, to begin with, but you know what I mean.)
The way the POV was used – primarily in Eli's 1st person, but also with extracts of Ethan, Daniyyel's POV and diary entries for Isaiah, Ethan's day – meant that we got to find out all the important things, as and when we needed to know them. Eli wasn't there for the big events, but through the eyes of other people's memories and accounts – told in 1st person, which is much less draining and less complicated than having a long explanation from them during a conversation – we get to experience them with all our senses, to make sure we don't miss the important details.
Ethan is an enigma. I know there's a big secret in his past – as there is for all the main characters, Malachi and Eli alike – but I can't wait to see how it will be discovered. Knowing that all three have huge secrets, but that Ethan is the only one opening up about his past so far, would normally have me desperate for information. But, I'm enjoying the journey and the way that the secrets are revealed too much to demand that they're spilled in a quick, unsatisfactory manner. I want to juice, the detail, the gore and the excitement. So I'll patiently wait.
For me, the genius of this book is in it's detail. From characterisation – slowly explored, with hints and suggestions or more, as well as all the characters being nicely transparent or confusing as hell – to the detail of the locations, the historical facts, the emotions and the way that the characters all interact with each other. Not only is there a lot in this book, but it all comes together seamlessly, because of the detail binding it all together in a believable way. Characters like Eddie, Vicky and Adi were an interesting twist, allowing us readers to ponder and wonder, only for the big secret to be revealed when it was all beginning to come together.
The story covers a lot of historical incidents – Queen Victoria, her grandson Prince Albert Victor, Jack the Ripper, Nazis, Jeiwsh Concentration Camps, Adolf Hitler – but it never once feels disjointed, ridiculous or fanciful. The way the events are linked, how and the way they're interlinked is the interesting part. And the bit that is so clever.
And let's not forget the most important player of all – The Devil, AKA Melek.
For me, there was so much depth to this story that I can't believe it was contained within less than 250 pages.
It tackles some seriously hardcore issues – there is nothing light and fluffy about it. With a strong theme of the Nazis and Hitler's prejudice against the Jewish people, told through Ethan's story, and historical events that Eli has personal experience of – Jack the Ripper and Queen Victoria's reign – intense, upsetting historical crimes are explored in a way that is readable, but has the emotional impact of reverence towards the subject. Adding in Eli and Mal's naturally humour natures, these events offer a darker side to their lives and shows the horrors they've endured or are yet to endure.
Beneath the intensity, is a beautifully explored journey of self-discovery, themes of resilience and love in the face of adversity and the overwhelming need to see these characters rise from the ashes that other people have made of their lives. Somewhere along the way, I know hearts are going to be broken, but then again, this isn't the type of book (series) where everyone will get their happily ever after. It's more realistic than that.
When I read this part of the author's biography, I just knew that it was perfect. Basically, this one sentence can describe me to a tee. “My fascination with History, Religion and Conspiracy theories have, in this instance, gone hand-in-hand with my love of all things vampire, fantasy, sci-fi and horror.” Me too, Sean. Your books and I are going to be spending a lot of time together in the future.
All I can say is bravo. Bravo, Sean. You're onto a winner and I can't wait to see what else you write. Whatever it is, I'll be waiting with impatient grabby hands to get my copy.
Review by Elaine White, Dead Camp book 2
Gideon, you rat!
This, pretty much sums up my thoughts of book 2. I needed to read it so badly that I didn't finish until 2.30am. And then I had a total book hangover for half an hour, unable to even attempt to sleep, while wishing book 3 was available already. Because then I'd have bought it and stayed up until 6am if that was what it took to read it and find out what happens next.
And the annoying thing is that I can't tell you anything about the plot! Because it's all spoilers. Secrets, man. So, so many secrets!! And we finally get to learn some, in the heartbreaking, perfect way I imagined.
To try to articulate how I felt reading this installment of the saga that is Dead Camp, I spent half of the book crying. Poor Eli, for being so tormented and so evil that he couldn't make up his mind whether to love the humans of the world or hate them. And poor Mal, for trusting so unconditionally, when he really should have questioned everything.
Again, Melek was a troublesome, sneaky one, but I only fell more in love with him. I now very firmly ship Melmal. To the end! The way he dealt with things, carefully manipulating a really, really long game, was just genius.
The world building, once more, was spectacular. Not only did it use real events in history, but it wove them into this paranormal tale seamlessly. I cried so hard for Joseph and celebrated with even more tears when the prisoners from the camp fought back against the Nazis. Ugh. The way Sean Kerr can write emotion, can tug at your heart strings within a brutal, bloody battle scene, is just beautiful. Then I cried for Eli, because Gideon is a rat bastard.
It was a shame not to see Ethan, but I also think it was important. He wasn't strictly needed right now, though I don't doubt that he'll have a very important part to play in part 3. Daniyyel, similarly, is only in the story very shortly, but Wowee does he have a huge part!
In the end, this is the story of Eli, Malachi and Gideon, and how all three are intermingled in a war between Heaven and Hell, God and Melek. And how, ultimately, there are no heroes in the world. There is a world full of hatred, horror, death, lies and secrets. And there are humans, vampires, Menarche and more. But, in the end, there are only the monsters within us all.
All I can say is that I NEED book 3. NOW! Please and thank you.
Review by Sue, Books Laid Bare Boys Dead Camp 1 & 2
When I went in to these books I knew they were going to be tough but I never for one minute thought they would be this brutal.
I thought, ok, vampire, ghost, angel love triangle with a bit of angst.
What I never expected was the power of the words that lay within the pages.
The story about the men themselves is a strong enough read, with the odd demon or 2 making an appearance but it's the way it's written, the back stories, the absolute pain and horror of what they all see and what they have been through that make these books totally brilliant.
We go back in time, and when I say back, I mean all the way back.
We literally find ourselves in the presence of gods and monsters.
Eli, the vampire has done so many bad things it's fabulous, but as the story unfolds you see the reasons why!!!!
Malachi, the ghost, basically refuses to move on, hoping to gain the love of the brooding vampire, even though he knows it will never happen.
The angel seems to be a constant nuisance to Eli and when his brother shows up, all hell, as literally as you can get, breaks loose.
Add in the fact that a lot of the story is set in Nazi Germany and we get to see through their eyes the actual brutality and suffering of it all and the story becomes very real.
As I went on through the chapters I found myself totally bewildered at the story, the whole thing unfolding in front of my eyes made a weird kind of sense.
This seriously has to be one of the most thought provoking, genius pieces of writing that I have ever read and I need book 3 in my life right now so I can finally find out the truth of it all.
5 out of 5 stars.