For me, this is a beautifully crafted paranormal.
- Review by Kazza K
I was actually settled in to read another D J Manly book when I spied this one and thought “vampire sounds nice.” By the way the book is difficult to review without throwing in spoilers, which there are in here, sorry, or sounding like a rambling loon.
This book is primarily contemporary; it is set in and around current day Montreal, with flashbacks to pre French Revolution and France of the 1700’s. While there are historical aspects to the book it really isn’t an historical book in the truest sense of the word; the history just adds understanding and depth to the characters and it is nicely handled. It’s a hard book to review properly because it is….unusual and complex; however, the writing is not complex, it is written in an easy to read style. Battling Glass doesn’t work within the standard protagonist/antagonist formula. Emilien is the MC but it’s not just his book. There are other characters that would ordinarily be secondary characters in another book, but aren’t here, they're incredibly important. There are lesser characters but they either come later or are needed for plot development. There is role changing right to the end with a character not knowing they are working for the other side, but are, or changed allegiances.
The story follows Emilien, and those that come into his life along the way. Emilien is born in 1753 a ‘product’ of a rare mating between Nicole, a beautiful French/Spanish young peasant and Alexander, a charismatic, powerful vampire. Nicole does not know Alexander’s true nature, thinks him to be the nobleman he is presented as at the town doyenne’s soiree. Long story short, Nicole becomes pregnant with Alexander’s child, Emilien. From there it is a battle, firstly, between Alexander and Nicole’s human family, particularly Nicole’s Grandmere, who knows Alexander is something other than human. Then it escalates as the years progress with jealousies, bitterness, power plays and prophecies coming to a head as Alexander wages his final spiteful campaign against his son in present times.
Alexander has turned few humans during his existence, but all he has created are for his selfish cause, Nicole, Emilien’s mother, Francois, Emilien’s lover, and Carmen, who has been taken in by Emilien and who works the streets - not for sex but for blood. Every single one of them is to get at Emilien. All of Alexander’s creations are incredibly interesting and make this such a good read. I loved Nicole, she did not want to be vampire, and had turned into a shell; until there was a cause and that cause was fighting her mate, Alexander, and supporting her son, Emilien. She was a force to be reckoned with; a woman who started out with youthful love and ideals to a vampire and instigator of an uprising against Alexander. Her motivations were interesting, not always borne out of love, although that was still there.
Francois. Ahh….Francois. I loved him, which flies in the face of characters that I usually embrace. I don’t mind lost, flawed, gentle characters, but I’m not fond of martyrs and those that love without receiving in return. Francois was long suffering, pining for Emilien, yet I loved Francois. I know why – he was loyal, selfless and strong. He was terrified of Alexander, but when push came to shove he fought against him hard and supported Nicole and Emilien with a passion. He absolutely touched my heart in a way Emilien, Carl, and Emilien AND Carl could not. I wanted him with Emilien and I liked it when he bartered his blood for a fuck with Emilien - *happy dance, that's my boy.*
From chapter one, “Carmen,” I fell in love with Carmen. She was discarded and treated the most poorly by Alexander, which is saying something. Alexander would turn a human without showing them how to be a (decent) vampire. She loved Emilien, she loved Jean Paul and Henry, characters that helped her, and when Alexander killed Henry it broke her heart. Carmen, who didn’t know she could love, felt she was bereft of feelings, and longed for it so much, had a big, human heart (she really couldn’t bring herself to kill Tash, in spite of what it meant for her) and right ‘til the end, she was loyal and loved Emilien.
Here I will be slightly negative. I did not like the Tash storyline, I actually liked Tash, but her brother bored me. The time in the Townships was my least favourite of the book I could not get into Carl, I wanted him gone. I could not understand Emilien's great love of Carl. I mean, I get the root cause - Carl is human, Emilien loves humans, loves the idea of humanity - but there was not much else going on for Carl. To me the characters were very polarizing in this book. However, that’s what made it so interesting. There are so many good characters that you can be quite disenchanted with some, and still be captivated by others, because they are all well drawn, with the exception of Carl. Sorry, I felt nothing for Carl, perhaps would have chosen a different fate for brother and sister and maybe Francois(?) but….c’est la vie.
Emilien, what can I say. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, loved Emilien. Not one person who meets him doesn’t want him. The vampires that cling to humanity love him or deify him. Those that are walking on the darker vampire side want to possess him. Every one of them want him physically, he’s like paranormal crack. Hell, two on the council sold their souls to Alexander with the allure of possessing Emilien for a while. I am a very definite person and because of this I did not love Emilien, he sat on the fence too much for me; he expected too much of Francois and gave little in return. He who was half human and craved humanity could be the one with the least human qualities, empathy being one of those at times. Yes, he helped Tash, but he lacked empathy for his mother, didn't reach out enough until too late. He took Francois for granted too. Emilien right near the end, when he is leaving with Carl projects into Francois's mind -
Francois. I do love you. Don't lose hope. Maybe one day I can....I will need you...
There was snobbery in Emilien. He looked down on what was essentially part of him, his vampiric nature. I understood his issues – dysfunctional doesn’t do his nuclear family justice. Plus, it’s hard to be half and half when one foot is in the paranormal world and one isn’t. When one side of your nature screams humanity and the other fights it, craves human blood.
Where Emilien would do everything to deny his vampire half. Alexander did all he could to shun what he once was. Human. He thought anything human was a weakness, Emilien thought vampire was monstrous. Yet both had these parts in their nature. Alexander was, in fact, ensnared by the very thing that he ridiculed -
I feel that’s good writing and a strong point that was made by D J Manly. Battling Glass - look in the mirror and what do you see? The same but opposite staring back at me.
This book really isn’t one to be pigeonholed, but for those wanting some clarification Battling Glass is paranormal. The primary MC, Emilien, is gay; however it is not the typical M/M sex/romance-fest, but it does have erotic undertones. If you’re looking for a sex filled vampire novel you will be disappointed. There is both M/M and (one) M/F sexual encounter(s), but they are quick and are there for plot reasons, not as sex for sex’s sake. If you’re looking for an interesting paranormal read with M/M leads, and what I would also classify as sexually fluid characters, this could be your book. I have to give a shout out to Nathan he was a great character, whenever he was on page I kept thinking of him as a punk Cockney. It must have been the hair and the ‘tude.
Every chapter has a character’s name, occurrence or entity heading it up, and everything in that chapter weaved beautifully together to describe the heading and further the storyline all at once. These are the chapters - Carmen, Francois, Tash, Nicole, The Vampire Council, The Soldiers, The Hunt, Carl, Café Carmen, Emilien, Vanessa, Nathan, Dionisis, The Thirst, Reunions, For the Love of Humanity, Rebellion and Death, Mixed Emotions, Death Tunnel, Grave Thoughts, Finer Line, Epilogue. My favourite chapter in this book was “Nicole.” It was historical, it was gloriously descriptive, it was moving, it was quite beautiful; and, in my opinion, it set the tone for everything that happened in the book, irrespective of whether it was written before or after that chapter.
Battling Glass is quite the paranormal saga. I believe D J Manly poured a lot of heart and soul into all the characters in this book and therefore it was lovingly written. I do highly recommend this book if you love vampires and are up for something a bit unusual.