Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Akaoni: Contract with a Vampire
Novel 1 (eBook)
Azusa thinks she's just a normal high school girl until the day she's kidnapped by thugs at the behest of vampires. Much to her surprise, it turns out that she's a test-tube baby engineered to preserve the dying vampire race – and she's been born with the blood of the Ancient, the original vampire. Warring vampire factions have different ideas about what to do with her, but Azusa finds herself under the care of the Reds, who seek a way to turn vampires human. As Azusa begins her new life among them, she finds herself growing ever more involved with Kou, the so-called “akaoni” feared by the rest of the community. Is he really as bad as they say?
Although light novels have really taken off in English recently, there's still a dearth of books targeted at a specifically female readership. That's a gap that Cross Infinite World looks to fill, and Akaoni: Contract with a Vampire represents their third light novel offering aimed explicitly at women. It's also their first that isn't an isekai story; Akaoni is a modern-day vampire story that blends fantasy and romance, like a less gloomy Vampire Knight.
That comparison holds more water if you apply it to the first half of Hino Matsuri's series. Like early Yuki, Azusa is just an ordinary girl who finds herself thrown into a group of superhuman vampires. Azusa's no damsel in distress about her situation – right from the first page, even when she realizes she's been kidnapped, she calms down and takes time to assess the situation. She takes stock of how her body feels, where she is, how her bonds are fastened, and the sounds she can hear before using whatever she can to her advantage. When she's rescued and learns the truth of what's going on – that her engineered existence makes her valuable to three warring factions of vampires – she once again thinks logically about her new situation. She's not happy about these revelations, particularly that her father is actually the scientist who facilitated her test-tube conception rather than her biological dad, but she copes with her anger before pulling herself back together. Azusa is a heroine that's easy to get behind because she's so willing to work with the story she's found herself in. Her reactions aren't over-the-top, but her logic also doesn't feel unnatural; she's a fairly normal person even in an abnormal situation. This is nice on several levels, both because the cheap melodrama potential of the premise is drastically reduced and more importantly, because she's a heroine that readers can truly see as a real regular girl rather than a blank slate. Her fancy blood doesn't really give her powers, and she reacts based on her thoughts and feelings rather than according to prophecy or romantic needs. Azusa plays more as an everygirl than a Chosen One.
That makes her developing romance with Kou, the so-called Akaoni (red demon), a little more grounded as well. Neither Kou nor Azusa are truly aware of the feelings they're developing for each other, Kou perhaps willfully and Azusa out of basic innocence. The story could easily have gone down the Twilight route with Kou's need to protect Azusa from both the predatory Blue vampires and Tsukiharu, a semi-villainous character who appears midway through the novel, but the fact that he's not alone in his protection duties stems the potential creepiness of their bond. The fact that Azusa develops friendships with the other vampires in her vicinity also helps, as does the way that author Hiroro builds her version of the vampire mythology – they're much more like super-strong humans who happen to require blood at times than monsters. The fact that they can be just as nourished by another vampire's blood as a human's is an interesting touch; the writing also makes it clear that Kou's attraction to Azusa isn't because her blood is “special.”
While the book itself is interesting and a good read overall, it's clear that this is Hiroro's first novel. She hasn't quite figured out pacing yet, so events either happen too quickly or not fast enough. This only becomes a distracting toward the latter quarter of the novel, when Azusa starts school in the Red vampire town; Tsukiharu's character seems to go through too abrupt a shift from when we first encountered him. Likewise, Tsukiharu's ally feels like he wasn't properly developed, although the truth of his role in the problems plaguing the town are interesting and stand to be important going forward. Hiroro also deserves credit for the most believable use of the “using bugs to control people and animals” power – fleas make much more sense than the usual spiders while still being sufficiently gross. It doesn't seem entirely clear how each vampire's powers work, but given how the novel is progressing, I'm hopeful that will become clearer going forward. The translation isn't quite up to Cross Infinite World's usual standards of fluidity, but this could also be attributed to the author's own writing issues.
Akaoni: Contract with a Vampire's first novel is an interesting story about a girl who isn't going to be anyone's doormat, even if those anybodies are vampires. The plot progression suffers somewhat from an inexperienced writer, but the overall volume is an entertaining read that combines action, romance, and a touch of angst well. If you're looking for a female-oriented light novel or just something different from the majority of what's on offer, this is worth checking out.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Azusa is grounded without being bland, action scenes move well, nice blend of action and romance
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