This story opens with Shori Matthews awakening in a cave, very injured, with no memory of who or what she is. As the story continues, we find out that even though she appears to be around ten years of age, she's actually a 53-year-old genetically altered vampire, and that she is the only one to survive a massacre against her family. The rest of the novel is not only about Shori trying to relearn the ways of her people, but also about Shori trying to get justice against the people who killed her family.
[synopsis in my words]
Fledgling is the first novel I've read by Octavia E. Butler. I've been meaning to check out some of her work for a while, so on my last trip to the local library, I picked up Fledgling. I'm glad I did. It proved to be a very good story, with strong characters. It ended on a good note, but I do wish there had been more stories about Shori and the people she grew close to.
Butler had a very interesting take on vampires. The Ina were very different from the classic view of how vampires should be. I have seen some of the ideas in other novels, such as vampires have venom in their saliva that makes their bites pleasurable, but in other stories it sometimes seems unrealistic or just plain weird. But it works in this novel. Everything Butler writes about the Ina community and people is realistic. Never once did I think, "Now, that couldn't happen," like I have in other books concerning vampires in the past. She delves into more scientific explanations without it being overly confusing. It all just works nicely together.
Shori was a strong lead character. I liked how some of the themes of the story were learning how to live with your differences, joining and living in a community, relearning who you are, etc. These are very human struggles that many people can probably relate to, which helped make Shori a likeable character.
There were also strong secondary characters. I like Wright, Brook, Celia, Joel, Martin, Daniel, and Theodora. There wasn't an overload of information on their backgrounds, but enough to make them good, rounded characters. Even the villains were well rounded because they had a motive for doing what they did, and it's a motive that is another human struggle many of us could relate to. I really liked that Butler didn't just make them bad for the sake of being bad; their motive was clear and defined.
There were a couple things I could see as being offensive to some people, especially the fact that Shori has sexual partners and she appears to be just a young girl. So, I wouldn't recommend this to someone who wouldn't be able to get past that. There is also some violence, so people who aren't fans of any gruesome details (such as having someone's legs sawed off completely as a punishment) might not like it.
While the book was easy to read, there were some parts that didn't necessarily drag, but they weren't very action orientated. I think there was a pretty good mixture of action and information, but sometimes it just felt like you were getting the same information over and over again (which, in one case, you were, but that was intentional).
All in all, I was really pleased with the novel. It was written well (there were some errors I caught, but not enough to completely throw me from the flow of the book as I read) and had a strong narration by Shori. I'll definitely be checking out more of Butler's novels.
Overall rating: 8/10