[Book Review] Deadly Offer (The Vampire's Promise, #1) by Caroline B. Cooney

Althea has always been a sweet, kind girl. In middle school, she had a group of friends to hang out with. She was on the softball team, took gymnastics, and won ribbons for horseback riding.

But high school is horrible for Althea. She doesn’t make the cheerleading squad. Her group of friends splits apart to form new cliques, and Althea is left to sit alone at lunch. That is, until she discovers a vampire living in the attic tower of her family home. A vampire who can make her dreams come true: a spot on the cheerleading squad; popularity; a boyfriend.

All the vampire wants in return is a small sacrifice, and Althea is in too deep to back out now.

Deadly Offer is the first book in Caroline B. Cooney's The Vampire's Promise trilogy. My first experience with this series--as far as I recall--was when I was in middle school; sometime between sixth and eighth grade, I read the third book in the series, Fatal Bargain, and was quite entertained by it. I was going through a bit of a vampire phase, I'll admit (a phase which was all but over by the time Twilight appeared on the shelves of our school book fair), so I rather suspect the book won't quite hold up to my memory of it when I go to reread it. But that's later. Right now, we're talking Deadly Offer.

When I rediscovered The Vampire's Promise after finding a copy of the second book in the trilogy at a local thrift store, I wasn't sure which book or books I'd read. I'm still not 100% sure if I read Deadly Offer (alternately titled The Cheerleader) or The Return of the Vampire (alternately titled Evil Returns) in middle school; if I did, they didn't leave nearly as great an impression on me as Fatal Bargain (alternately titled The Vampire's Promise) did. This time around, though, Deadly Offer did leave quite the impression on me.

The absolute best thing I can say about Deadly Offer is that Cooney is spectacular when it comes to tone. In all the books I've read, I don't believe I've come across another author with Cooney's talent for crafting her prose to complement her plot. In Fog, Cooney manages to create a genuinely eerie atmosphere; when she needs to portray the pressure and disassociation of a POV character's psychotic break in The Perfume, she captures it perfectly; and in Deadly Offer, Cooney's vampire successfully evokes a sense of both absolute disgust and G-rated seduction.

Which brings me to the other thing I particularly enjoyed about Deadly Offer. The vampire mythology here is quite creative and inventive (without getting into any of the silliness of, say, sparkling); Deadly Offer's monster is definitely a vampire--he's got the fangs, he's obviously undead, and he drinks blood (albeit offscreen)--but he also has elements of the djinn, the sylph, and the nymph. It's a really interesting twist on the vampire mythology, and I definitely appreciate that. I also appreciate that this vampire, in spite of the ease at which he seduces Althea into a partnership of sorts, is not your typical YA vampire. He has no pretensions of being a Lestat, Edward, Damon, or Bill (or Spike, Angel, Mick, etcetera, etcetera); like Bram Stoker's Count Dracula, he doesn't need to be a heartthrob. In fact, he's quite far from attractive; while his physical age and facial features are never revealed, Cooney paints an unflattering picture of a living corpse--described as having a mushroom-colored, bloodless complexion and spongy dead flesh--whose appearance, like Dracula's, is revitalized after he begins to feed. And frankly, I'd much rather read about a vampire like that than another Cullen clone.

Now, on the other hand, there was one particular aspect of Deadly Offer that didn't appeal to me. While the plot is an interesting idea, I feel Althea was too weak a protagonist to properly carry it; like Laura, the protagonist of Cooney's The Terrorist, Althea is what I'd call a "lesson protagonist", and it makes her somewhat frustrating to read about (though thankfully not to the extent of Laura). Althea is angsty, lazy, jealous, self-depreciating, judgmental, and downright cruel. These traits make the plot work--if she wasn't jealous, Althea would have no motive to work with the vampire, for example--but they also make Althea a bit of a chore to read about. So in a book with such great imagery and hints of a really intriguing mythology in regards to the villain, I'm definitely a bit disappointed that Althea took the spotlight (and quite pleased that other girls star in the two sequels).

All that said, I'll definitely be reading the rest of this series as soon as possible (I'm particularly looking forward to rereading the third book), and I'd recommend it to YA fans looking for a more old-fashioned, villainous vampire.

This book was provided to me via Netgalley.

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