So, here’s the deal. Vampirates shouldn’t surf. Actually, vampires shouldn’t really surf—the sequel to Lost Boys taught us that. But vampirates really shouldn’t surf. And, seeing as how our first vampirate starts surfing on just about the second page of volume two of the Vampirates series, that’s not a good sign.
As you know, I was so excited to discover the series and enjoyed the first book, Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean, so very much, that it is a disappointment indeed to find that the series has yet to live up to its promise. Because the thing is, the reason vampirates should not surf is because the idea of a crew of pirates who are also vampires is just ridiculously fabulous—you don’t need anything else. There is enough for an entire epic right there without having the vampires go to group therapy in a snowy mountain sanctuary, without having human twins Connor and Grace Tempest go visit the Pirate Academy, a very Hogwartsian kind of place, and certainly without having the bad guy vampirates surf.
The cast of Vampirates.
I realize, of course, that the target audience for Vampirates is 6 to 12 years old, and what comes off as a bit fluffy to me, a not 6 to 12 year old reader, might be right on target. But if Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that kids have a much more sophisticated pallet for narrative than we give them credit for. My feeling while reading Vampirates was that author Justin Somper was pulling his punches just a bit in order to appeal to younger readers. Actually, “appeal to” isn’t quite right, because, as I’ve said, the series is chock full of appeal. It feels more like the story self-edits in order not to offend or be “too much” for young readers. See, for example, the “pregnancy spell” in one of the later volumes. It seemed like an attempt to avoid any mention of sexual violence or sexuality in general but, thinking about my own 8 year old, something like a “pregnancy spell” would invite WAY more questions than it would obfuscate. It is a bit funny, actually. For as much as the series wants to side-step sexuality, including developing the romance between Grace and Lorcan and dealing with the traditional vampire trope of translating hunger for blood from other bodily hungers, or exploring what happens when Lorcan’s new donor is male, the body count is pretty high. Somper is decidedly not sentimental about death and the dangers inherent to the pirate’s life. Odd that death and loss and acts of bloody violence make the cut when sex doesn’t. Perhaps we imagine that our children can handle more of the former and less of the later? I wonder.
Lorcan Furey as imagined by artist Bob Lea
I still have hope for the series, though. Unsatisfied though I may be at this point, I am still positively mad about the idea of vampirates and I’m hopeful that as the series progresses, that it will develop the darker tone that the concept demands. Somper is working on book six, Vampirates: Immortal War, and I intend to snap it up as soon as it hits the shelves.