What a great time to for vampire literature! There are so many additions expanding vampire lore, and Rin Chupeco’s secondary-world fantasy provides a break from the urban fantasy vampire. Silver Under Nightfall is a fantasy adventure with plenty of sexual tension.
Remy Pendergast is the son of a famous but disgraced vampire hunter but also dismissed and disrespected as a “cambian,” the human child of a vampire. Whether or not this is true, Remy has to fight for every scrap of respect among the other vampire hunters in the kingdom of Aluria. With his multi-bladed killing tool Breaker, Remy has honed himself into a deadly weapon. But, things are changing in Aluria. A truce is being brokered with some of the vampire courts even while a new type of vampire is showing up in the countryside—one much harder to kill.
Even though Remy’s father, the famed Duke of Valenbonne, is unable to hunt due to his injuries and has fallen out of favor in the court due to his personality, the Duke still needs Remy to keep him informed of happenings with the other vampire hunters. From a young age, the Duke has ordered Remy to use his good looks to attract the wives of the other dukes, which has left Remy emotionally drained. One of the few people to show him friendship is Elke, a vampire that lives in hiding in the city. While Remy lives to kill vampires and avenge his mother, dead at the hands of the cruel Night Court, he also feels pity for vampires who have not lost their humanness.
This kindness is what separates Remy from the traditional gruff vampire hunter and what flavors his relationship with the other two main characters: the powerful vampire Song Xiaodan and her fiancé Zidan Malekh. Their respective courts have been working to broker peace between humans and vampires in hopes of bringing about a new age. They are building the truce with Aluria’s queen, and Remy runs into Xiaodan at a ball. They flirt, and Remy is instantly attracted to her confidence—until her fiancé joins them. Remy had already run into the equally attractive, if reserved, Zidan and tried to fight him. Of course, the nearly 900-year-old vampire defeated him easily, but that doesn’t stop Remy from trying to butt heads with him at every turn.
Except, both Xiaodan and Zidan have more in mind than fighting. The attraction that Remy and Xiaodan felt for each other continues to grow as they work together to keep the truce between the vampires while a new type of vampire is going on a killing spree in the rural areas where hunters are less prone to risk their lives. After the trio examine the bodies, it appears some sort of mutation is creating a super strong form of vampire-zombie that can’t be reasoned with. Only Xiaodan can destroy these vampires as they continue to regenerate. She holds a legendary vampire weapon, which makes her an outcast, much like Remy.
As they work to unravel the secret of the mutating vampires across Aluria, Remy’s attraction to Xiaodan grows. The two vampires are equally attracted to his good looks, but also his kindness and emotional vulnerability that so few cared to cherish about him. Not only the mystery but their interest in one another draws the three together as they must defend their homes.
Two areas make Chupeco’s book standout: the worldbuilding and the romance. Because this vampire story happens in a secondary world as opposed to our world, Chupeco opens up the possibilities around vampires. My favorite piece of worldbuilding added some of the depth we see in fairy stories by giving the vampires “courts,” such as Zidan’s more egalitarian summer court. Blending that bit of fairy lore into vampires made the world feel more expansive, and I hope they will continue to explore the different courts in the remaining book. Fans of Castlevania will enjoy the gothic details and dreary castles.
While romance and sexual tension is a staple in vampire stories, I appreciated how this polyamorous relationship included an emotional component. Remy struggles to feel loved due to the abuse from his father and people taking advantage of him as a young man. His relationship to sex was, early on, about spycraft and wheedling information from the wives of different dukes. Because Xiaodan and Zidan are not only powerful vampires but involved in the kingdom’s politics, it is at first hard for Remy to separate himself from these feelings, and much of the early romance is building up that trust while keeping up the sexual tension.
As the romance burns, Chupeco does a good job differentiating between the relationships Remy has with the kind and loving Xiaodan and the more aloof Zidan. Remy is attracted to them for different reasons,--he wants to help protect the more powerful Xiaodan while he recognizes the physical strength of Zidan will always overpower him--and this separation helps keep the romance fresh.
One place the sexual content fell flat was the balance between romance and actual, on-the-page sex scenes. Much of it is summarized, which can work great for a less intense book, but because the sexual tension is so strong and the sexual acts that are hinted at are more than the typical tryst, I either wanted more on-the-page content rather than hints or less hints and more of a cut-to-black style when describing the sex. Readers who want more spice will be disappointed, and readers who prefer less sexual content with their stories might find it to be too strong for their taste.
Overall, the first book in Chupeco’s duology is a violent, exciting romp in an epic vampiric world. The queer polyamory is refreshing addition to vampire literature, and Chupeco balances fight scenes, romance, and intrigue with characters who deeply care about each other.
Nerd Coefficient: 7/10.
Reference: Chupeco, Rin, Silver Under Nightfall. [Saga, 2022]
Posted by: Phoebe Wagner is an author, editor, and academic writing and living at the intersection of speculative fiction and ecology.