When I first started publishing, John Conroe was one of Amazon’s self-publishing success stories, an author supposedly inspired by his annoyance with a Twilight novel lent him by his daughter. After reading it, he said, “Vampires don’t farging sparkle!” and proceeded to write God Touched, the first novel in the Demon Accords series. That was really pretty much all I knew about Conroe and his writing when I decided to give God Touched a try. Based on his much quoted line about Twilight, I was expecting a traditional vampire novel. Wow, my assumption was completely wrong!
Sure, Conroe’s vampires don’t sparkle, but Bram Stoker would barely have recognized them. Yes, they drink blood, and yes, sunlight burns them, though in Conroe’s universe the really ancient ones are capable of walking around during daylight with nothing but drowsiness to worry about. Silver also burns them, but holy articles like crosses have no effect at all. Not only that, but it turns out they have a lot of neat tricks they can do by energy manipulation, including climbing walls and riveting themselves to the ground during combat. Also, like many elements in Conroe’s universe, vampires have a scientific explanation, in his case a blood-borne virus, and they seem to have adapted rather well to the modern world. In fact, they secretly own a big chunk of the world’s economy. In the hands of other authors, that might be a frightening fact, but vampires aren’t invariably evil in Conroe’s work; they vary in much the same way Ann Rice’s vampires do. Actually, one of the religious discussions which are a frequent element in these novels is about the question of whether or not vampires have souls, and the answer will perhaps surprise you.
Not only is his take on vampires original, but, despite the origin of the book, vampires are not by any means the only focal point. Christian Gordon, the main character, starts out as a demon hunter with certain unusual abilities who doesn’t even know vampires exist. As the story evolves he and we learn of the existence not only of vampires but of werewolves (and were other things) and witches, as well as angels; there is no sign that the revelations are over, either. As Gordon learns more about the hidden world, his own abilities also evolve in very unusual ways that will keep you guessing. If course, to keep him from becoming plot-breakingly powerful, he too has his kryptonite. I’m not going to say any more about that for fear of spoilers, especially for those of you who haven’t yet read the first book.
Once I started reading, I was hooked. Not only does Conroe create an immersive world in which the supernatural is all around us, just under the surface, sometimes threateningly so; he also creates an in some cases equally threatening web of political and spy intrigue. For fear of spoilers, again I don’t want to be too specific, but let’s just say that sometimes the U.S. government is as much of a problem for Chris Gordon as the demons are. Even when the official government is behaving itself, there seem to be an incredibly large array of unpredictable rogue operations going on. In Conroe’s world conspiracy theorists have a much better chance of being right.
I’ve always liked cross-genre experimentation, and Conroe skillfully blends elements of fantasy, horror, and spy thriller…with romance. Yes, there is a great continuing love story, with the possibility of at least one other developing in the future. As a hopeless romantic, I found this element a welcome surprise. I wasn’t surprised, though, by the difference in perspective between Twilight and the Demon Accord books. Naturally, Conroe is writing from an adult male perspective, not a female one, so the relationships have a little bit different feel. The one thing that isn’t different is the intensity level–there are many things you may wonder about Chris Gordon, but how he feels about his significant other is pretty hard to miss.
As a writer of young adult fiction, I should also point out that two of the books in the series, Executable and College Arcane, center on teenage protagonists every bit as well done and every bit as innovative as Chris Gordon.
I’m not sure exactly what will be in John Conroe’s next novel, but I know one thing for sure: I will be reading it!
(I have found a way of rescuing some of the content from the blog I had with a different host. This is the first post resurrected from that source. As time goes on, there will be others.)
(The featured image was copyrighted by Boris Ryaposov and licensed from www.shutterstock.com.)