Title: The Beast Without
Series: Arcadia Trust #1
Author: Christian Baines
Genre: Gay Paranormal
Publisher: Glass House Books
Reylan is everything a Sydney vampire aspires to be: wealthy, handsome and independent, carefully feeding off companions plucked from the gay bars of Oxford Street.
When one of those companions is killed by Jorgas, a hot-headed young werewolf prowling his streets, Reylan reluctantly puts his cherished lifestyle of blood and boys on hold to help a mysterious alliance of supernatural beings track down the beast. It can’t be that hard… not when Jorgas keeps coming after him.
But there’s more to this werewolf than a body count and a bad attitude. As their relationship grows deeper and more twisted, Reylan tastes Jorgas’ blood, reawakening desires the vampire had thought long dead. And what evolves between them may be far more dangerous than some rival predator in the dark….
As a blood shade, Reylan’s life centers around getting his daily fill of blood, which he frequents gay clubs for–but he’s not gay. Reylan just happens to prefer the bolder notes of a man. Sex has little meaning for him, and the rumors that a vampire can’t get it up are not without merit, but who cares about all that sexual nonsense when blood is everything?
One night he has his feast ready to usher off to his apartment, where he’ll satiate his lover’s desires while satisfying his own, when his hookup is brutally murdered in front of him by a raging flesh master. Reylan couldn’t give two fucks for anyone but himself, and despite being cautious and a bit lazy, he’s more than a little affronted at the flesh master’s disrespect. A hard earned meal is fairly won, after all.
He leaves his would-be lover to die and escapes the flesh master’s rage, but against his better judgement he looks into the man behind the beast. The flesh master turns out to be a very young man named Jorgas, and his further investigation leads him into more intrigue than the older blood shade cared to be involved with. But he’s involved now.
On top of that, Jorgas keeps turning up where Reylan least expects, as if he wants to be found, and the two are forced to confront the possibility they may have an unhealthy obsession with one another.
The worldbuilding for this series is somewhat standard for a dark paranormal vampire book. It starts off cerebral, like Gun to My Head by Dira Lewis, and toward the end winds up plot heavy and action-packed like the Nightside by Simon Green. It most resembles Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. In other words, be prepared for some crazy plot twists and some fucked up gory shit.
This novel was perfect for someone like me. It was gritty, didn’t spoon feed me with telling or unnecessary details, and it was eloquently written. The style of the voice was a engaging. Reylan speaks to us as if he’s recounting a series of events, a bit like Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. He admittedly comes across as vain and callous, but I am a loud and out fan of antiheroes and asshole protagonists and he certainly doesn’t disappoint–let that also be your warning.
Reylan’s moral compass is more lawful neutral than evil, but aligned according to laws we aren’t accustomed to in the human realm. He barely bats an eye as people are ripped limb from limb. If he does raise a brow it’s because it insults his blood shade sensibilities–what an unfortunate waste of a good dinner! Even his friends are more mentees to him than actual friends or family. It’s hard to see him settle down into any sort of normal relationship by our standards.
It comes as a bit of a shock when Jorgas and he develop a sort of attraction, a relationship that is quickly attacked by the entire paranormal community and brings to light dark secrets of the past. As the community comes together to weigh in on Jorgas and Reylan’s extracurricular activities, it stirs up ancient feuds and threatens to tear the world apart. Reylan, old and set in his ways as he is, finds astounding new depths to his stone-cold heart. Maybe it isn’t enough for him to simply endure the tests of time. Maybe there’s something more in undeath to fight for.
Ben Brock is a reviewer for The Novel Approach and Queer Sci Fi. He enjoys running, whisk(e)y, the mythical gluten-free donut, and fills his life with bent bunk. He especially loves to discuss LGBTQ+ literature. His website is http://www.babrockbooks.com. You can find him on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BABrockBooks.