Wednesday 9 February 2011

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper

Grace and Connor Tempest become orphans when their father - the rather eccentric lighthouse keeper who teaches them a shanty about Vampirates - dies. Under threat of being taken in by the local banker, the twins run away from home on their father's boat. When a storm sweeps in the boat is capsized and the twins are separated. Connor joins a pirate ship, and soon begins learning the ropes and making friends with other pirates, while Grace ends up on an altogether stranger ship. Mysteries are uncovered as the twins try desperately to reunite on the high seas...

Vampires! And Pirates! Vampirates! Seriously, what a deeply cool mash-up for a book - I can easily imagine the pitch for this novel and how quickly agents/publishers snapped it up. But is it a concept and nothing else? That's what I wanted to know most...

The good news is that there is definitely more to Demons of the Ocean than just the opening premise of pirates who also happen to be vampires. We have some strong lead characters, a couple of entertaining fight scenes and just all-round swashbuckling fun.

Somper does very well with the pacing of the novel - once Grace and Connor have been separated, we experience virtually alternate chapters from each point of view, often with a climax that makes the reader want to continue turning the pages. This was definitely a wise move, since the simple plot might otherwise appear somewhat slight.

Somper's strength is definitely presenting concepts such as compassion, mercy, loyalty and friendship through the excitement of a rip-roaring adventure story. None of these messages are conveyed overly strongly, but give a good sense of right and wrong.

It is very, very clear that this is an opening volume in a series, apart from the fact it closes on a bit of a cliffhanger. Mostly we have an establishment of the characters, and the "rules" behind piracy and what it means to be a Vampirate - or a donor.

I think the part of the book that disappointed me the most was the fact that Somper declined to expand on the world-building. In the blurb on the back of Demons of the Ocean, we're told that it is the year 2505 and the oceans have risen. A new era of piracy is dawning. But... this novel could honestly have been written as an historical fantasy. There is very little indication that this is some sort of post-apocalyptic future - which just leaves me hoping that Somper plans to use future books in the series to explore this potentially fascinating setting.

I found the book extremely suitable for younger readers - with a couple of scares, a little blood, but altogether very family friendly. The vocabulary used is not unduly challenging, although some words might be unfamiliar. Older children might find the simplicity of the plot detracts a little from the levels of excitement.

Altogether, a very competent opening to a series that has the potential to become great. An entertaining read.


  1. The old man picked this book up on a whim. I thought it was a spoof/humor book with its title. I mean, Vampirates? Really?

    He didn't finish it, stating it was terrible, but I suspect that's because it was targeted toward younger readers. YA is not his thing. I haven't looked at it myself. It's nice to read a review a positive review on it. Maybe I'll make him give it to me. :)

  2. I've been wondering about Vampirates for a while, and I'm glad it's better than the initial “wow” factor of the concept. I thought that it was a historical fantasy, so thanks for pointing out otherwise. I'm sure someone in my family has Demons of the Ocean, I may try to take it off them for a week...

  3. I saw the Vampirates stuff in a book store ages ago and couldn't help but snort at the premise. It seems like something done purely to cash in on the YA vampire craze, mixed with the love of the PotC movies. I'm actually surprised to hear that the series might actually be decent.