Vampire Origins – Project Ichorous is the first in The Strigoi series by author Riley Banks. It centers on a teenage girl, Scarlett Fraser, her family, and the family of supernatural creatures they (unknowingly) move in with in a castle in Romania. Simon, her father and an architect, has been hired by Vlad, owner of the castle and an “original” vampire (aka, strigoi), to renovate the castle. Despite Vlad giving very specific instructions to his family that the Fraser’s and all human guests be left alone because he’s got bigger plans for them, by the end of the story, several characters have been either killed, turned, or worse. Vlad then learns something about Scarlett’s family that could threaten not only his livelihood but the existence of the race of strigoi he is a part of, forcing him to change his plans for two of the Fraser family members. However, his nephew Lachlan, who he has an antagonistic relationship with at best, has taken an interest in Scarlett as a plaything. Once he discovers that Vlad has specific ideas about her and her family’s future, he uses that to his advantage and moves ahead with plans to take out his uncle – as well as the rest of the original vampires – and become ruler of the entire strigoi race.
What I liked:
1. The story has a certain “6 degrees of separation” about it. There are a ton of characters whose lives intertwine in some way, shape, or form, which made it kind of interesting and led to a few plot twists.
2. This was much darker than your typical YA/NA vampire series. Vlad and his family are the vampires you’d read about long before the vegetarians of today’s YA genre came about. They’re evil, sadistic, have no remorse, and maintain little or none of their humanity. There was no hope that one might regain his or her humanity and fall in love with a human, abandoning their vampiric ways. It was very cut and dry – vampires are evil and will always be evil. It was kind of refreshing compared to all of the other paranormal YA series that are out there.
3. Excessive plot points aside, I got into reading this book almost immediately. It’s definitely a decent story that I could see having a really interesting path to the end. I’m curious enough about where everyone is headed to read the next one.
4. The historical aspect. Bringing in the Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, was pretty interesting. I think she could’ve gone further with it, but the idea was still worth exploring.
What I didn’t like:
1. The number of characters often made things confusing. In some cases I had to stop and try to remember what had been happening with a specific character previously because so much time had passed since I’d seen him or her. For example, I don’t think Scarlett needed to be one of a set of quadruplets. Yes, all four had their own personalities, but two of them (Nate and Max) seemed interchangeable at times, making at least one unnecessary (probably Nate, but that’s just my opinion). There were also a couple of supporting characters that didn’t really seem to have much of a purpose. They were there, but were killed off or done away with without having any real influence on the story. The only thing I can think of is that they figured out the true identities of the vampires, but why not just do a bit more memory erasing? It would seem like missing persons would be more noticeable than some fuzzy memories.
2. The humans just seemed dumb. Bizarre things would happen that they would just write off as “weird,” like the constant blood drinking, memory loss (courtesy of a mind-wiping vamp named Alex), and out-of-place mix of animals in the woods (actually lycanthropes in their animal forms). Only one thought it all odd enough to check out, and we didn’t even see him actually doing any digging until pretty late in the book.
3. The ending left little hope for any of the human characters. I’m sure (hoping) that’s not the case and that the author had good reasoning for putting them on the path she did, but it just seemed like all was lost for them.
4. Much of the book’s description is misleading. Its first lines are “From the Christian Crusades to the war in Afghanistan, the Vampire Origins series seamlessly weaves historical fact with vampire fiction.” This makes it seem as though this might be more along the lines of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter or Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, which are entirely centered around historical figures. But unfortunately that’s not the case with this series. Historical information was used, but very little was truly worked into the story. The details it provides about Scarlett are also misleading, but that could get spoilery so I won’t get into those.
This likely won’t go on my “Read it again” shelf, but I don’t feel as though I wasted my time with this one. The plot was really detailed, the vampires were more of the traditional variety, and it left me interested enough to move on to book 2 – although I’m not sure when that will be out. If you’re looking for an easy read, this isn’t for you because of all of the information you need to keep track of as you read. But if you’re looking for a decent story, it’s worth giving a look.