4 out of 4 stars
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The Western Passage Part 1: Exodus by G. DiCarlo takes place in a desolate, post-apocalyptic world. Just years prior, the war between humans and vampires was abruptly brought to a halt by incredibly destructive, genetically modified humans called morphs. After one of humanity's last remaining fortresses falls, Marcus, a famed vampire slayer, must lead a motley group of survivors to safety. Along the way, he blackmails a vampire named Aya into aiding him, only to find out that she might just be his most valuable ally.
Right away, I was struck by this book's vivid worldbuilding. Its take on vampire lore is unique enough to feel fresh, but it still includes enough influences from traditional literature and popular culture to not seem totally unfamiliar. I do wish that aspects with no direct plot relevance, especially vampire tradition and culture, were more present in the story. There's so much substance in other aspects of this book, though, that this isn't quite a problem, just a way to make an excellent story even better.
This is a book that's full of bloody action scenes and character deaths, but each one felt earned and distinct, and I found that they didn't blend into each other at all. I did feel like the book was a bit overly gruesome and dark at times for my tastes, but this is a stylistic choice that could be considered one of the book's strengths. The writing style lends itself effortlessly to this atmosphere, with some brilliant turns of phrase and a real knack for "zooming in" on certain characters' perspectives. I especially loved the interactions between Marcus and Aya; I enjoyed how viscerally they had to grapple with the history of their respective races.
The characters themselves are rich and full of life, with relatable motives and desires, which makes their occasional demise all the more impactful. Readers who tend to take an interest in background characters will be thrilled by this book's approach: it includes a fair amount of development for a wide variety of characters, giving each of them a moment in the spotlight without bogging down the plot. One notable example involves the half-vampire hybrid Clio and the parental role he slowly begins to take towards Cody, one of the few children in the group of survivors.
Ultimately, I'm very pleased to give this book 4 out of 4 stars. Its story development, characters, and worldbuilding are all impeccable. It was incredibly well-edited, too, and I couldn't find a single grammatical error. As long as you can handle some very dark content, gore, and mature themes, it's a phenomenal choice for anyone interested in vampire novels. Its content and themes strongly reminded me of the Castlevania animated series, so if you enjoyed that, you should definitely check it out. Be aware, though, that it's the first book in a series, so while there's some closure, there are many loose ends by the end of the book.
The Western Passage: Exodus
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