Billie Sue Mosiman,
Craven Moon
(DAW, 2003)

Craven Moon advances the storyline begun in Billie Sue Mosiman's previous vampire novels, Red Moon Rising and Malachi's Moon, each of which stands as a fascinating -- albeit sometimes illogical -- new interpretation of vampirism. In the future world of Mosiman's creation, vampirism is caused by a mutated form of the blood disease porphyria; one becomes vampire as a natural result of heredity rather some supernatural cause (with exceptions, of course). When the change comes over the afflicted individual, that person literally dies while his/her soul travels to a mysterious realm lighted by a huge red moon; here, the soul must choose the type of vampire it will become: Predator, Natural or Craven.

Predators resemble stereotypical vampires; they feed on the living and are generally quite aggressive. Naturals choose to live as humans, hiding their affliction from the outside world and feeding only on bags of blood supplied by a Predator network. Cravens are doomed to a life of sickness and weakness; still bearing outward evidence of the porphyria that afflicts them, they depend wholly on the support of other vampires and spend their years in solitude and depression. Mosiman's vampires can fall in love, and on rare occasions one chooses to marry and mate with a human; such unions give rise to the rarest creatures of all -- dhampirs. A dhampir has the superhuman strength and many of the abilities of a vampire but will age and die the same as any mortal.

Malachi, the protagonist of the novel, is an unusually powerful dhampir, and many vampires fear that he is the dhampir referred to in ancient prophecy as a slayer of Predators. Malachi has faced and overcome some incredible tragedies in his past, but as Craven Moon opens he has put the past behind him and found happiness in the arms of his wife Danielle and his young son Eli. Unfortunately, his longtime vampire antagonist Charles Upton still lives and begins forming a new army of Predators with which to wage war against Malachi, the Cravens and the Naturals.

Upton finds himself a most unusual human assistant named Jacques, a man whose empty soul knows no fear. As the novel progresses, the focus moves away from Upton and directly to Jacques as the true antagonist. A shift in focus from the same old Upton storyline of the first two novels was needed at this point, but I'm not sure Mosiman truly succeeds in her transformation of the story from one of personal vendetta to potentially religious warfare. It turns out that Jacques might just be the Antichrist. Whatever he is, Malachi swears vengeance when this new enemy destroys his family; he is so intent on finding and killing Jacques that he chooses to become a full-blooded Predator. The ultimate conclusion is a bit anticlimactic, as the predicted open warfare among vampirekind never really comes to fruition.

I think Craven Moon is a much weaker novel than its predecessors. The Armageddon plot element pushes the story farther than it is equipped to travel, as Mosiman doesn't really frame the story in a proper context for such a radical shift. Mosiman also damages the integrity of the story by taking what I consider a radical shortcut near the end, basically denying this reader the very thing he was anticipating. I understand the author's desire to move beyond the same old storyline explored in the two previous novels, but I think Mosiman just tried to go too far too fast with this novel. Still, Craven Moon is a very enjoyable read offering a few fresh twists to the traditional vampire myth, and I should note that readers need not have read Red Moon Rising or Malachi's Moon in order to understand and follow the storyline in this particular novel.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 6 March 2004

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