Rachmaninoff by S.L. Armstrong, K. Piet
Nineteen-year-old Aric Reynolds has spent most of his life in boarding schools, summer camps, or on tour as a prodigy with the piano. His wealthy parents have never had time for him, and after a failed year at college, they have decided on a final course of action. Aric is brought to Nikola Jovanović’s beautiful, sprawling manor in Serbia.
Nikola is known the world around as a master in music, unsurpassed by any, but terribly reclusive. For one year, Aric is to be his student, but in the modern day, it is easy for Aric to learn Nikola’s secrets. With a dark shadow lurking from Nikola’s past and Aric’s stubborn, promiscuous nature, the sexual tension between the pair simply explodes, and Aric’s very mortal life is held in the balance.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Rachmaninoff is a bit of a mixed bag. It starts so slow that I almost gave up several times. In fact if I hadn’t really forced myself to continue I wouldn’t have gotten through it. Yet the story does pick up towards the second half, but by the end all I could think was that there is so much missed opportunity to the story. I didn’t particularly enjoy reading this and while there are some brief glimpses of good moments, overall this is not a book I’d recommend sadly.
The story plays on some classical vampire themes, which I actually liked since I’m a vamp fan of old. Nikola is an ancient vampire in a spooky, creepy house in the far end of nowhere. He dresses like he did when he was turned many centuries ago and no one seems to think that’s odd. Nikola’s been obsessed with piano genius Aric for years and finally gets the boy as a student when Aric is older. After a few months Aric and Nikola become lovers, travel the world together and prepare for a future. The only question is whether Aric will remain living or become a vampire like Nikola.
Unfortunately, the plot is very slow to materialize and sort of meanders from the very start. The beginning is filled with repetitious descriptions and scenes where Aric attempts to seduce Nikola, gets rebuffed and runs off to have anonymous sex with strangers. Most of this sex is thankfully off page but the first 100 pages or so simply repeat the pattern with no real character or plot advancement. Once the two men get together sexually, there is another cyclical pattern of sex, arguments about sex, resolution and repeat. I wasn’t sure what the point of all these repetitive scenes was, especially as the dialogue feels the same each time. Perhaps this is to develop the opposites attract relationship but even that feels stalled and flat.
Part of the problem is that the writing and especially dialogue feels too stilted. Aric is a modern 19 y/o yet his speech has the same cadence, prose, and vocabulary as the 400 y/o vampire. This is both disconcerting and makes the characters blend together instead of highlight their differences. A lot of Aric’s dialogue and phrasing feel too formal and stuffy for a rebellious kid his age. He’s a cross between immature rebel kid and sophisticated young man who knows what he wants. This back and forth is very jarring and never fully resolves. Additionally neither man emerges as unique early on but instead the tone and voice of the writing tries too hard and overrides any individuality the two men could show. As the story goes on the two feel slightly more different and emerge as distinct personalities, somewhat.
Both Nikola and Aric are very melodramatic characters with strangely formal diction. While I expect that of an old vampire such as Nikola, coming from Aric this is awkward at best. Nikola never truly comes to life though and remains very two dimensional. He has so much potential and the story gives Nikola the possibility for range with his background, fears, and desires but he never strays from the preset, slightly enigmatic role. He remains seemingly ambivalent. He says all the passionate words but his actions don’t quite match the intent. The most vibrancy Nikola displays is when he’s drinking blood and those are some of the best, most energetic prose and descriptions in the story. I loved Nikola’s dream of bathing in Aric’s blood. I wish more of that kind of energy had been imbued in the rest of the story.
Unfortunately I never warmed to Aric. He comes across as a spoiled, arrogant, and totally immature young man that never changes much. There is a scene halfway through when Nikola’s makes a decision affecting Aric’s life. This could have been the turning point of the story. There is so much incredible potential there to have Aric develop, stretch, grow, and really change yet the tension is totally wasted. Instead the resolution is offered in the very next scene and I honestly felt cheated. Any development and growth takes place off page and the reader is simply told it happened. Not only did the story skip over the most dynamic tension offered but the plot returns to the repetition it mired in before. Sadly I also never saw any change to Aric’s character and he seemed exactly the same despite the characters repeated assertions that he was so different.
There are some technical issues such as really bad head hopping. Although scenes are broken up by alternating viewpoint the writing can’t seem to help throwing in the other viewpoint and head hopping. Several scenes even change the POV in the same sentence. The writing often feels very forced and manipulated. While reading I was constantly aware of being led by the story instead of the narration unfolding naturally. For example when it’s time for Aric to discover Nikola is a vampire, Aric suddenly has that knowledge. I can go along with this but at the same time it feels like a manipulated leap and without a lot of logical basis.
On the one hand I can see what the author was going for and there are a lot of interesting aspects. The traveling, steeped in history and rich luxury, is a nice backdrop without the obvious, ridiculous wealth of vampire lore. This feeds into the illusion and allure of vampires while keeping Nikola a tragic figure. At the same though, the story feels incredibly predictable and lacks any real tension. The characters repeat the same cycles and feel directionless. This lack of strong direction and driving force definitely contributes to the slow pace and feel of the story. The characters and story do have potential and some readers may be able to appreciate the subtly offered despite the issues. Especially readers that enjoy stories without clear tension but follow the course of a relationship may like this more. I personally can’t recommend it but that’s just me.
3 thoughts on “Rachmaninoff by S.L. Armstrong, K. Piet”
Thank you so much for taking the time to review Rachmaninoff. I’m sorry that you didn’t enjoy it more, but I’m still very grateful that you didn’t put the book down and saw it through to the end. I know how difficult that can be when you’re not feeling a certain book, so I really appreciate the effort and time you put in to this review.
I hope you will find future releases of ours more enjoyable!
I’m sorry you had to read a bad review (never a fun experience) but I’m always willing to read your/Armstrong’s work. You two are incredibly professional and very good to work with even if the review is negative.
Thank you for that! So far I’ve only had one negative experience so I look forward to the next release 🙂
We try our best to stay professional when it comes to reviews. In well written, ‘bad’ reviews, there is always something to be learned on our part, so we strive to take things in stride and view it as constructive criticism. Luckily, with your reviews, you’re excellent at pointing out why you didn’t like it, and that’s so very useful!
I’m glad you look forward to the next release! Catalyst will be out in March of 2011, and we’ll be sure to send that your way. ^_^