Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice has since it was first published back in 1813 sold about 20 million copies worldwide and has also been adapted for various silver screen projects, thus appealing to wide audiences. It is not surprising that the novel has been unofficially continued numerous times, usually depicting the main characters' lives after their wedding. And with the recent craze for all things supernatural, it was only a matter of time when this beloved story would get a vampiric makeover, which is exactly what Amanda Grange does with Mr. Darcy, Vampyre.
The novel begins in the year 1802, with Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy getting married and immediately going on their wedding tour. Elizabeth is surprised to hear that they are not going to see the Lake District, as planned, but that they are instead travelling to France. Soon enough, they find themselves in a variety of mysterious and frightening situations. Not even the beauties of France and Italy can comfort Elizabeth, who has no one to turn to and fears she might as well be losing her mind.
The major problem with Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is that it does not know what it wants to be. It fails greatly as a romance, with characters so out of synch with their originals, written by Jane Austen, one could almost fall asleep of mediocrity. Gone are the witty exchanges of the two lovebirds, no more tension one could cut with a knife the readers would expect of Austen's characters! Instead, Elizabeth and Darcy are given mediocre dialogues that range from empty to ridiculous, and are mostly no longer than a few lines. As a paranormal story, the novel suffers from what just might be the biggest spoiler in recent literature - its title. Anyone who chooses to read this book will surely know its title and suspect that Mr. Darcy might have grown fangs, but the author treats this information as if it is top secret, revealing it only after you've read more than 200 pages. During this time, Elizabeth is served rather obvious clues as to the nature of her husband, but she seems not as quick as she used to be. Finally, there is not much of the plot, with bad guys only serving the purpose for the Darcys to swiftly change locations. The final scene is probably the worst too, packed with cliches and standard B-movie moments, at the same time failing to give much needed answers.
It would not be fair, however, to say that Ms. Grange has not done anything right. When it comes to linking the events in this novel to the original, the solutions the author comes up with are nothing short of genius. There is not a single ambiguous moment in Austen's novel not elaborated here, and as the events unfold, Austen fans will surely be able to slowly figure out some of the twists based on their knowledge of Pride and Prejudice. Another thing Ms. Grange should receive praise for is her depiction of European royalty. Although these characters may not fit the story at all times, they are sometimes much more interesting than the title character, especially when the author cleverly links their vampiric isolation with the recent French Revolution. Finally, the novel often captures the reader's attention with its lush descriptions of nature, vistas and cities, almost serving as a travelogue of sorts.
If you want to know whether Mr. Darcy, Vampyre will be to your taste, there is a simple test. Austen purists, who loathed the infamous ending of the American version of the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice, will not be happy with this continuation. On the other hand, people who simply liked the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy and would like to see the characters in a different light (or, technically, in the absence of light), will probably enjoy this interpretation. There are things to like about this novel, and it will surely become a best-seller.
Thanks to Danielle Jackson for the ARC.