I read “Fallen Son, Darkest Night,” by Melissa A. Petreshock without any prior experience with her work. Even though it’s Melissa’s newest release, it serves as a prequel to her novel, Fire of Stars and Dragons, so I decided to read the prequel first.
The opening of the story was simultaneously intriguing and a bit confusing. The reader is introduced to a goddess who is distraught over the fate of her son, who seems to have been banished from the divine realm down to the earthen realm. Down on earth, the goddess’s son, Dante (a vampire), is waging death and destruction on innocents, possibly out of rage due to his exile. These elements of the story are quite fascinating, though the way the information is laid out at the beginning is a bit hard to follow, relying heavily on the dialogue between the characters in order for the reader to put together the pieces of this world’s rules and mythology. The dialogue is also hard to follow because there aren’t many dialogue tags or other indications of who is speaking, leading to confusion about who is saying what.
The story then shifts to the goddess giving Theo Pendragon, a dragon who can take on human form, the task of stopping the vampire’s rampage. This part of the story has some interesting descriptions of Theo transforming from man-form to dragon-form, and it paints a vivid image of the dragon soaring through the skies in search of the vampire. But a bit of confusion continues to be threaded throughout the narrative. One confusing thing is the dialogue; it has a lofty, medieval-fantasy tone that is both elegant and at times hard to follow. The other point of confusion is the style of the names, with things like the “Arcai Ylanjae islands” and the “Sqaera Brej village.” I ended up having trouble understanding or even pronouncing those names, which pulled me out of the narrative a bit.
A brief battle between Theo and Dante ensues, after which Dante flees. Dante then comes upon a stranger and attacks him, only to end up turning him into a vampire as well. This was another interesting sequence with some good descriptions, but it was lacking a bit in emotion and drama, particularly since the fledgling vampire accepts his fate and his new unlife without the least bit of resistance.
Dante then takes a somewhat sudden shift, now turning towards the path of repentance. He changes his ways and begins destroying the other vampires he has been responsible for creating, with the exception of his newest fledgling who “has a pure soul.” Though the story barely touches on his time hunting his offspring, which is a bit of a disappointment. The reader is told by the end that he killed nearly 250 vampires, though we only see one of those, and it’s a fight that is over so fast, there’s never any reason to believe Dante was in any danger.
By the end, I felt that the story was “good” but not “great,” with some unsatisfying aspects that left me wanting more. The plot jumps around too much, as if the author were trying to squeeze in a lot of different elements into a short span (most likely to connect as many aspects of this prequel as possible to the main novel). I would have liked to see the story trimmed down and focused more on a central conflict that got more development, instead of shifting focus so much. I became interested enough in the characters that I’d like to see more about what they’ll get up to in the novel, but I feel like more could have been done with them here.