Werner's Reviews > Pro Luce Habere: To Have Before the Light, Volume I

Pro Luce Habere by Krisi Keley
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's review
Apr 09, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: supernatural-fiction, vampires, books-i-own
Recommended for: Fans of vampire fiction and/or Christian supernatural fiction
Read from March 22 to April 08, 2012 , read count: 1

As noted in the Goodreads description, this is the first volume of a two-part prequel to the author's outstanding debut novel, On the Soul of a Vampire. As such, it fleshes out the 800-year-old background to the events of the first book, answers questions that might be raised by it, and further develops the characters and the author's spiritual and psychological themes. Theoretically, it could be read first, as it's chronologically first in terms of plot events; but I believe the reader's experience would be better, in terms of perspective in understanding the characters and situation, if the books are read in the order they were written. (Without reading the first book, it would also be hard to understand the brief prologue and epilogue, both of which flash back directly to that book's ending.) Much of what I wrote in my review of the earlier book (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... ) is relevant here, too, though I won't recapitulate it. The same strongly positive features of the author's vision and style are markedly present; unlike some second-in-a series novels, this one doesn't disappoint!

Our chronological scope here ranges from 1212 to ca. 1370, and the settings extend from Western Europe to the Holy Land and Eastern Europe. We meet some secondary characters from the first book (and some new ones), but our central focus, again, is Valery and his story; and it's a dark story indeed, and played out against the grim backdrop of the tragic insanity of the Children's Crusade, the genocidal atrocities of the 13th-century "holy war" to exterminate the Catharist heresy, the horrors of the Black Death, and the bloody beginnings of the popular fear epidemic that would become the witch hysteria of the following centuries. Keley doesn't wallow in gore for its own sake, and spares us a lot of grisly detail; but there are definitely some scenes of grisly-gory violence here that she has to include to tell her tale (sometimes wrought by vampires, but the worst horrors here, as in real life, are the things human beings are capable of doing to other humans). The outward events of the plot, though, only make up a part of the novel's content, which is why I don't think this series would translate well to dramatic adaptation; a filmed version would miss the interior reflections (and the head games of some of the older vampires) that add so much to the experience. This is very much a novel of serious and deep ideas, grappling with issues like theodicy, the existence of God, the nature of right and wrong, the status of human life, the possible extent of the grace and mercy of God. And they aren't just abstractions; they're questions wrenched up from the depths of Catholic-educated souls faced with the necessity of taking human life --and doing so fairly frequently-- to ensure their own continued existence. True, one in this situation can sometimes make death a mercy killing of the terminally ill, or try to prey on the guilty rather than the innocent; but the latter option is more problematic when, in the moment of death, you know the victim's whole mind and soul and all its possibly extenuating handicaps and circumstances, and when you question how you can distinguish the hopelessly evil from those who might, given time, come to repent. An option the author doesn't dwell on, but which is constantly in the mind of the reader (and no doubt of the characters) is passive suicide by self-starvation; but the natural instinct for self-preservation resists this. (For beings raised as Catholics, too, even passive suicide may well raise a mental block as "unforgiveable sin.") And it would cause terrible grief to the surviving vampiric loved ones --because these vampires CAN honestly love and care about each other; they're not blood-thirsting automatons, but beings with hearts, consciences and compassionate feelings. Even though they're deadly killers (albeit reluctant ones) they're not out-and-out evil; they hurt inside for their victims, and hate what they have to do. My recommendation to any of them (I think --though it's hard to know what you'd say to someone in that situation face-to-face) would still be self-starvation; but when you know them the way Keley makes you know them, it's impossible to make that recommendation casually or glibly.

One caveat that's worth mentioning here: there's no explicit sex in either of Keley's books, but there are several references here to sexual desire on the part of teenage boys for pre-teen or barely teen girls (acted on, in one case --with a resulting death of both mother and child in a pregnancy the girl's body couldn't physically handle.) Apparently, the medieval culture in which they were raised did not clearly view this sort of thing as the kind of kinky perversion that it actually is (Valery mentions in passing that when his parents were married, his mother was 11 and his father, I believe, 28!!!), and you have to make allowances for kids whose upbringing is defective and who honestly don't know any better; but for some readers this might be very off-putting. (It would be for me, too; but it's a tribute to Keley's skill as a writer that she eases you over this without making it a deal-breaker for the book!)

This series is one that I predict will stand the test of time as a serious, significant contribution to the tradition of vampire fiction. I'm glad to have the privilege of being among the first readers; and I'm looking forward eagerly to the continuation of this prequel!
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message 1: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie interesting review Werner, you've piqued my interest in "Christian supernatural fiction"

Werner Thanks, Bonnie!

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