Review: Obscurati

Obscurati (Vamp Camp, #2)Obscurati by Wynn Wagner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While I quite enjoyed Vamp Camp #1, the sequel didn’t have the same entertainment factor for me. The characters are amusing with the same dry wit and tendency to tell the reader the story but unfortunately the plot meanders back and forth with no real tension and no strong purpose. Instead this feels like a bunch of scenes thrown together with the right elements: sex, romance, blood, vampires, wealth, power, fights, secret councils, and even death of major characters but it doesn’t come together in a cohesive, interesting narrative.

Obscurati begins some 100 years after the first novel. Marten is once again the narrator and right away there is an amusing back and forth with his confessor. After this scene the story jumps back and forth between past events in the characters’ lives, the events that have happened in the past 100 years and current actions. The past events are meant to give more insight into the characters and their histories, how they each came to be vampires and what it means to them. The events in between the last book and the current book are meant to help any new readers and remind old readers of what happened previously and sort of catch everyone up. Then there is the current action of the secret vampire assassin group which is the loose thread holding the book together.

Right away I had a problem with the disjointed nature of the narrative. Jumping back and forth creates an uneven texture to the story and seems to offer scenes randomly. Many of these are meant to add various elements such as a graphic sex scene, an amusing antidote, witty reparate, a dry humor about the history of vampires and so on. While these scenes do achieve those goals, they do so in a very chaotic, non linear way. This never let me get into a flow with the story and instead kept feeling like I was reading random scenes added together without a tight, focused, purpose. Part of this is that the story is almost entirely told the reader versus shown.

Marten doesn’t speak to the reader as much as he did in the first book but there are sly nods and winks quite often. He’s trying to draw the reader into the various situations to laugh along with him. Some of this works quite well and there are numerous moments of charm and entertainment. On the whole though this simply fell flat for me and didn’t contain anywhere near the same amount of enjoyment and fun the previous book had. A big problem is that the story lacks a strong plot and focus. The secret vampire assassin society is the biggest focus in the current time but this feels too weak and easy unfortunately. There is very little tension and mostly a recitation of the various jobs Marten, Oberon, and Hamlet commit as assassins.

Since all three are the best of the best, the most talented, the most skill, the richest, the fastest fliers, and so on the jobs are not daring and breath taking. Instead they’re almost mundane and boring. The best part is the brief skirmish at Menz’s compound but the story moves on incredibly fast from that scene and loses any emotional impact. In fact I found the last 40 pages after that event incredibly boring. The narration starts to list the details of the jobs and the various toys the vampires start to use from guns to planes. Marten and Oberon are so successful that really this is an over the top way of showing how great, rich, and easy life is now for them.

In a sense that’s really what you expect of typical vampires – they fly around the world in minutes, have so much money they could buy the world and never be poor, they’re gorgeous and constantly sexual, etc – and this story plays up all those tropes. This trend really made me sad since the charm of the first book is the hapless, sarcastic Marten with his dry wit and engaging manner trying to navigate a world of vampire politics that doesn’t really suit him. In this story he’s become a super powerful player in that political machine without any of the conflict or fight. We’re simply told how great everything is and how much in love everyone is.

This leads to the last issue I want to touch on – the romance between Oberon and Marten. In the first book these two fell in love from having sex constantly and that’s changed somewhat here. Oberon still screws anything that moves and the two have a very open relationship while Marten eventually falls in love with another human. It doesn’t end the main relationship but instead creates a ménage that frankly left me cold. There are some very nice emotional scenes where Marten shows the depth of his love for Oberon – again not sure what it’s based on but there is love there – but most of this is shown through sex, sex, and more sex. So the inclusion of another makes absolutely no sense to me nor does it add anything to the romance. I don’t really feel any connection or chemistry between Lonny and Marten so I don’t particularly like or appreciate the pairing.

I will say that the author knows how to write and can write some really entertaining and amusing scenes. There is a sense of wry charm and wit that is hard to come across in books. I can easily see why some readers will find the narrator engaging and so charming they forgive the flaws. It’s really up to the individual reader to decide. Although I quite liked the first novel, the second didn’t live up to that promise and I probably wouldn’t continue with the series sadly but I am interested in what else the author does.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Obscurati

  1. I started this the other night and kind of stopped around page 40, or when they first became assassins. I didn’t really care about the whole Nazi thing and how they fought in the war and how they all felt about it. I wanted to get on with the story. Obviously I haven’t got to the human part yet, but to be honest, I found Hamlet more intriguing. I’ll proably go back to it periodically and finish it because I did enjoy Vamp Camp but I really don’t care about the details of guns and weapons. That’s just blah blah that I skim. That’s my preference though and obviously some people are totally into that and will likely love it.

    • Well the human – Lonny – happens about halfway through. I’ve no clue why and there’s not really a threesome. Marten just falls in love so Oberon says he can have the human too. So very odd and strange.

      I do agree this is kind of boring though. The scenes in of themselves I found interesting but what’s the point? Trying to figure that out really annoyed me and eventually bored me to tears. I only finished this because I was so close and figured I’d review it.

      But some people don’t mind and hard to say what will attract some people.

  2. I didn’t like the first book as much as you Kassa, although the positives you say here – that of Marten being out of his element – were certainly the best parts of that first book. It’s a shame that the second book has lost that. I’d pretty much decided I wasn’t bothered about picking up this sequel and your review has only reinforced that decision. Great, insightful review as always, Kass.

    • I don’t think you’d have liked this one. I liked the first one a lot and yet got really bored with the sequel. If you don’t have the initial enjoyment this will fall pretty flat. I know sequels are tricky beasts but I wish the author had kept to what made the first one so successful.

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