Published in 2020, in the midst of Covid-19 and all the associated lockdowns we are living with, Dixon Reuel’s Rise of One: Blood Brute, Book One (which I’ll simply refer to as Rise of One for expediency) opens with quite the dedication:
This book is dedicated to 2020.
What a year.
I’m not sure whether Reuel wrote Rise of One exceedingly quickly or the book’s timing is one of those beautiful coincidences life throws your way, but in light of a pandemic that still won’t let the world leave their houses in peace, and all the fear, dread and anxiety that comes with it, it is difficult to not think of this when reading the book. To be certain, this is a story about vampires and zombies, but it is also a story about being isolated as the world around you falls apart.
One would be forgiven for imagining Rise of One tells a blood-filled tale of apocalyptic proportions, they would be far from the mark. Instead of a tale about vampires versus zombies, the author offers a contemplative story about this coven of vampires (well, three vampires—the titular Rise, Salter and Ogrim—and a human, Cypriot who provides his blood for them to feed upon, and serves as Rise’s love interest) fighting for survival in a world where most of humanity has succumbed to this virus. Sorry, this zombie apocalypse.
If you’re after an action-packed tale of vampires battling zombies, Rise of One is not the book for you. There’s some violence to be had, as you would expect from a story about bloodsucking creatures, but there is far more romance (LGBTQI+ romance, in case you’re someone inexplicably bothered by that in today’s age). The crux of the story, though, is far more insular, set largely inside their sanctuary, with Rise leaving to find more human survivors.
The result is a book that moves slowly, examining these characters and their world. The story unravels slowly; the author has methodically paced the story to build tension, rather than jump out at the reader with any horror tropes. Quite the contrary, in fact; while there is no doubt that these creatures of the night are indeed the stuff of nightmares, supernatural killers, Reuel grounds the characters and world in reality, using real-world science. While not labouring on this, instances like referencing Blaschko’s lines which reveal themselves in the light, add to the believability of the world.
After making my way through the aforementioned dedication and starting the story, I was struck by the atmosphere that Reuel crafted. Dark, mysterious and anxiety inducing, she paints a horrifying world, with mystery around every corner. While the book itself is not a mystery, there is mystery to be found within its pages, including who, or what, the “Warwolves” are (a great mystery on its own). However, the author uses many of the genres’ tricks to draw the reader into this world, focusing more on building suspense than keeping the reader guessing. This is aided by prose which, by and large, is poetic.
However, as poetic as this prose largely is, I was drawn out of the book at various intervals by certain points where it tells, rather than shows, particularly when it comes to characters’ reactions. The reader is told what a character is feeling, rather than shown. In many other books, this would not be as big an issue for me; it is particularly glaring in Rise of One thanks to the strength of the rest of the prose. I found myself so drawn in by the beautiful atmosphere that once this dropped, even by a small amount, I was pulled back out.
Likewise, much of the dialogue in the book didn’t ring true for me. I’ll draw your attention to the words “for me,” because everyone’s mileage on this will be different. While most of the dialogue from the human characters felt natural, the vampires’ didn’t; they are imbued with a sense of immortal romanticism that sounds like they stepped from an Anne Rice novel. This style of speech will generally take me out of the story, moreso when said story is so grounded.
The book is broken into three acts, clearly broken up as parts one, two and three, with each part being introduced by a quote from the world, which automatically draw the reader in. While not necessary, this approach works for the story, denoting these act breaks across it’s 300 pages (in paperback and hardcover; an estimated 302 swipes in eBook). Despite the pace and meditative nature, the book is an easy read, something that can be digested easily; a fine balancing act by the author.
While some aspects didn’t resonate with me, if you are a fan of suspense stories, I still highly recommend Rise of One. I’m a little more cautious about recommending it to fans of vampires and/or zombies, because Rise of One abandons so many of these tropes. This is in service of the story, and in my opinion the book is stronger for it. However, the reason you enjoy these stories will weigh on your personal enjoyment of it.
“We have to be careful, as those who age so slowly, not to fight upon past battlefields. In that, and maybe only in that, are we superior. To hold a grudge for a human lifespan, that is one thing. To hold a grudge throughout the whole of our lives, that would be an unlivable, untenable existence. So, we do not fight on past battlefields. We air our grievances as plainly as possible. We found, after centuries, we could live no other way.”
-Salter, The ChroniclerRise of One: Blood Brute, Book One, Part 1 – “Autumn”
Rise of One: Blood Brute, Book One was provided by the BookSirens for the purpose of an honest review.
Rise of One is available in paperback, hardcover and eBook from retailers, including—but not limited to—Amazon.
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Rise of One: Blood Brute – Book 1 – Dark Urban Paranormal Fantasy