"Jay woke in terror."
So begins Donna Fernstrom's "Sorrows".
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a novel that explores a truly unique society of vampires and shapechangers (rael-shaa) that also involves what I found to be an extremely intriguing concept of alternate realities (if a bit mind-boggling if you try to imagine the sheer magnitude of how many dimensions would exist if they split off with every single decision made or branch in evolution that could be taken!)
The story starts with Jay, a youth freshly turned into a vampire, wandering the street hungry for blood and disoriented, only half realizing what he's craving and not sure if he can control it or not.
Before he can find out, he's whisked off the street by a group of people who know what he is, and they take him in.
What follows is Jay's emotional journey as he comes to terms with what he is, what happened to him and tries to determine how he can cope with his new future.
As the story unfolds, you gradually find out tidbits of what exactly happened to him, how precisely this society works, how biologically the relationship between the vampires and not-quite-vampires called donors works (explained more fully in the book), how travel between realities works, how the full transformation from donor to vampire works, and an amazing amount of other information. And of course, along the way Jay meets and is befriended by a rael-shaa (a shapechanging wolf that can turn into a human), gets a temperamental mentor, hops realities a few times, and (toward the end) falls in love. And we meet a mage! I loved Kel! :-)
I think the strengths (and definitely the focuses) of this book are the complexity of Jay's personal emotional journey and the inner workings of the society which he is now a part of. In ways, it almost feels like Donna has put us in Jay's head while telling us, "Okay, learn what you can because I'm not going to stop and explain later" - and I mean that in a good way, as in "take a breather, orient yourself, and get ready for more really good stuff to come!", since she has more books set in this world that I think will follow different characters (though I might be wrong, so don't quote me on that). This book has the feel of an introduction into the world.
Admittedly, there is a lot of info-dumping in the book, but this is because there is just so much that needs to be explained, and even so, not all of it is. A few times I was left perplexed by something and I'm still not quite sure if this is because I wasn't following it, read it wrong, or because I'm not meant to understand fully yet.
Also, I personally got frustrated with Jay because it seemed to me he could have asked more about what was going on (which is a good thing because it means I was intrigued and wanted to find out more!), but he was too afraid to. He also breaks down in tears a lot, but I also haven't experienced the depth of trauma that Jay has (held for months in an underground torture chamber), so while others like me might become impatient with his breakdowns, anyone who has experienced that scope of trauma will find his reactions spot on and fully comprehend what all he has to overcome.
So, in conclusion, this is definitely worth a read if you love finding out the squishy workings of a truly unique system of vampires and following the journey of a tortured character who has to work hard to find his way again.
And I leave you with my favorite quote, just because this still cracks me up!
"My breakfast is having breakfast, Jay thought, and grimaced. She's going to love that, when you're sharing each other's thoughts..." - Sorrows, Donna Fernstrom