Monday, July 25, 2022

Mask of the Vampire by Stormy McDonald and Jason McDonald

I don't usually comment on covers because "Don't judge a book by it's cover," but I really like that one.

So here we are once again with Damage, Inc. and their world spanning adventures. It's good to be back. Seriously, Dave, Hummingbird and crew (and I'm happy to see more of Jasper this time) are up to their usual shenanigans and that  makes me happy, because I'm a native Shenaniganian. 

Or sumfin'

Listen, it's not even noon yet.

Hopefully this isn't too much of a spoiler, but in part of the end matter it is revealed that Damage Inc. started off as a gaming group. This makes a lot of sense to me because Mask of the Vampire and the other related novels do kind of remind me of a really good night around a gaming table with my friends throwing dice and arguing. Only the books come with the added bonus of not having to pick popcorn out of your hair afterward. (Don't ask, it's ugly.)

I don't mean to say that you can't enjoy the book if you're not a tabletop role player, because you totally can. I'm just saying that so much of Mask of the Vampire feels so familiar if you have. You'll recognize the tropes if you don't play, but it's so much better when you've lived them. Well, sort of.  I mean, you don't really live the things you roleplay.  Thankfully. I mean, I'm sure my players would be pretty upset at me for that time I almost TPK'ed them. 


I'm getting off topic.

Listen, just buy the book.

Mask of the Vampire is a story about friends dealing with some rough circumstances in the best manner possible, or at least the best way they can come up with. One plan, in particular, sounded a little janky to me when they hatched it. I'm not going to say what it was, or how it turned out but I wasn't wrong. Still though, that adds to the reality of the work, because people don't always come up with the best plans in situations when they're under pressure. At the end of the day, they did something when they needed to do something.

Yes, life would be simpler if they could just walk to Mordor. No, really. 

I'm fighting off the urge to make a Hardy Boys reference here, but I don't think it's going to work. There are a couple of different mysteries going on to go with the usual chaos and mayhem I expected in a Damage, Inc. novel. I detect a hint of Lord of the Rings here too, but only in a way. Let's just say that having a Mount Doom around might make things a wee bit simpler for our heroes.

I find myself liking our heroes more every time I read another installment in this series and this one is no exception. I find myself more drawn especially to the character of Hummingbird who, because reasons, seems to be easier to understand and relate to this time around. I feel like she's finally found her groove where maybe she hadn't before. There are still some things she needs to do and some obstacles she needs to overcome, but she's working here and she's moving forward. This could just be a personality thing on my part, but she seems to at least be making a better attempt to adapt to the world around her now.

Something I haven't commented on previously is the coolness of seeing characters for our planet in the books. The story takes place on a planet called Gaia (yes, I get the mythological reference) but a couple of the main characters are from the planet Terra (yep, that's us) and it's awesome. Every once in awhile you'll catch a reference back to our world and it's fun. Plus in a weird sort of way, Dave and friends are like the Vulcan/android in a Star Trek series: They exist to point out and analyze the strangeness of the people around them.  

The action sequences in Mask of the Vampire are amazing as always. Whether it's a straight up fight or something even bigger, the McDonald's deliver. I've never seen a character arc come quite so far in one fight as what happens here either, but it makes sense and was necessary. I was really impressed by that one scene and how it turned out. Something things aren't easy to do and never should be, but needs must when the devil drives. 

In short, I'd read it. I mean, I already did though. Let's just say if it's worth my time, I'd say it's worth yours. Like I just did. Or sumfin'

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Hidden Treasures

Mask of the Vampire
Stormy McDonald and Jason McDonald
Parlatheas Press, 2022

Mask of the Vampire is available for purchase at the following link. If you click the link and buy literally anything from Amazon, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you.

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