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The Media Man Reviews: The Solitale Vampires: The Killer

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Remember how I reviewed a book published by my friend The Wandering Fox? Well, he's back with a sequel and I'm here to review it.


Published on Amazon for the Kindle and Kindle app on January the 16th 2024, The Solitale Vampires: The Killer is the second installment in R.M. Walls's flagship series and after enjoying the first one, I was looking forward to this one, especially with how it sees Helena going after a serial killer.


So without further ado, let's dive in. Is this a sequel that is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor or should we let Helena and Jackson hunt this book down? I'll tell you all about it...


Section 1: The Story


Helena and Jackson continue their work as vampire detectives working for The Foundation and ever since the mission with The Child, Helena has found herself growing closer to humanity and also becoming a more efficient agent. But that gets put to the test when a killer in a mouse mask is bringing terror to the streets of South Hamwicson. Can Helena catch this killer? And how about her growing feelings for Ben Crolt? Will that work out between them...?


One word to describe The Killer in comparison to its predecessor is BIGGER. While the first book was around 12 chapters long, this one is 18 chapters long and I feel that plays to the story's strengths as it means we have more time for character development and establishing the relationships of the cast with one another while also weaving in this narrative of finding a dangerous serial killer. R.M. Walls actually talked to me how he worried that Ben's plot was taking away from the main plot with the serial killer but I didn't agree with him and assured him this wasn't the case. No, these two plots of finding the killer and Helena's growing relationship with Ben actually coalesce together pretty seamlessly and I don't feel that either plot interfered with another.


If anything, the story's greatest strength was how these two plots compliment each other. The story isn't just about Helena trying to stop a serial killer, but it's also about her growing interest in humanity that was established in the previous novel and it carries over here with her continuing to be interested in humans to the point she actually falls in love with one. This only ends up making the climax feel more intense and nerve-racking to read when the killer ends up targeting Ben at the end. Without the romance plot, the climax just wouldn't have worked and would've felt hollow if Ben was just some guy Helena had to save at the end so devoting so much time to the romance between Helena and Ben added to the story, it didn't detract from it at all. So if you're reading this R.M. Walls, don't worry, you did great in tying these two plots together.


When it comes to the two plots, I feel the romance plot is the stronger half as that's where most of the character development comes in and as mentioned earlier, it made the climax more personal for Helena when Ben ends up targeted by the killer. It also gives us much of the story's sweeter and calmer moments to help us recover from the more violent moments in the story so it doesn't feel like such a depressing or heavy read. The detective half is still great too, don't get me wrong, I just found the romance plot more engaging. However, the detective half deserves credit too for some clever twists in how the killer managed to avoid suspicion and how it shows Helena's growth from a mischievous vampire to a more level-headed person who proves to have a good head on her shoulders. We can see Helena's grown a lot since the first book but I'll cover more of that in the characters section. Also the detective story does expand more on the world and its history so that's interesting to read too. We learn more about the Foundation and see a bit more of South Hamwicson, especially the place Helena and Ben go for their date. We also meet more characters and get to see new sides of the old ones, ESPECIALLY with Ben but more on that later.


I also like how in this story that despite how powerful Helena is what with being a vampire and all, she's still fallible and doesn't just immediately end the conflict whenever she gets involved. There's a lot of media nowadays that mistakenly believes being a strong independent woman means being able to kick ass, never struggle in what you do and essentially be perfect in every way with Mulan 2020, Captain Marvel and modern Star Wars being ESPECIALLY guilty of this. Here, Helena is able to lose and get outwitted and it only makes the story more engaging as a result as we know she won't always win and there's a chance she could lose everything. Even in the climax she comes so close to losing Ben because the killer outwitted her. Whether your media stars a woman or a man, the struggles they go through is what makes the story engaging and this story succeeds with flying colours in that regard.


Are there any criticisms I have with this story? Honestly, not really. I feel like any problems I may have could be chalked up to nitpicks if I tried to find anything wrong with the story. Aside from the killer's motivation being a bit weak, which I'll cover in the characters section, I don't really have any complaints with the story here.


Like with The Child however, this is a horror story so if you're not too keen on gore, you may not want to read this one. I feel this story isn't quite as graphic as The Child is but still, readers discretion is advised.


The Killer does what a good sequel should do: it expands on what came before, evolves the characters and takes them to new places, stays true to what came before and feels bigger than last time with its extended plot and more character development on display here. A fine example of a good sequel I say...


Section 2: The Characters


When reading the sequel, the main thing I was looking forward to was seeing Helena and her supporting cast again and I was not disappointed with their return.


We have our vampire heroine again, Helena Hawker, and it shouldn't surprise you that she's as great as she was last time. While still as impish and mischievous as before, Helena has definitely matured after the events of The Child and is already proving herself to be a worthy agent of The Foundation. She uses her brains more in this story and shows she's quite an effective detective when she puts her mind to it. Her interest in humanity also grows when she starts falling in love with Ben and the two have some wonderful chemistry together that makes for a sweet romance. It also adds a slightly tragic side to Helena's character since she's in love with this human but she knows that as a vampire, she will outlive him and that could make things hard for her, same for the possibility Ben could reject her if he ever found out she was a vampire. I also love that character quirk she has where she walks on the ceiling when she's thinking, that's so funny and adorable. XD


And next we have Ben Crolt, whom is greatly expanded upon after last time and is shown more layers to his character. Ben really gets the lion's share of new developments for we meet his mother, Chas, and her husband Lance, whom she ditched him and his father for. Seeing this side of Ben not only makes Helena very sympathetic towards him, but to the reader as well. He's had it hard and we can see why he's such a hard-working guy, he has to make things work for him and his father living as they are because Chas and Lance are no help to him. And yet he still retains his kind nature, which is what else draws Helena to him. Ben I feel shows what it truly means to be strong: going through a lot and still remaining a good person on top of it all. It's no wonder Helena's attracted to him. That and she sees him with his shirt off, I think that helped too. XD And as mentioned earlier, Ben works in making the conflict with the killer more personal for Helena given she and him get together and he becomes a target by the end. I enjoyed Ben's development here and the romance between him and Helena, it's so sweet and you'll love it too.


Jackson Hawker is back again and while he's not as important as he was in The Child, he still helps in keeping Helena's head in the game and making sure to bring her up when she's down. He works so well as the wise old mentor in these books, and we can see that he's starting to rub off on Helena as she begins to mature over time, and at the same time Helena's rubbing off on him too as he's becoming more mellow the more time they spend together on their missions and such.


Remember how in my review of The Child that I hoped to see more of the Governor? Well we actually see him in person in this story and I find it rather amusing that he's not particularly that impressive when Helena sees him for real. He's still as mysterious as he is before, even if we do meet him in person this time, and is very much the benevolent boss that makes him worthy of leading this organization. I'm still interested to learn more about this guy but I'll have to wait and see what any future sequels have in store for him...


We meet a new character, a teenage girl named Celina who hopes to become a member of the Foundation. Her role is pretty small, but she does help in the end by being the one to direct Helena to the person she needs to meet at some point and given she passed a test and Helena said she can join the foundation, that'll suggest Celina may have a bigger role to play in future stories. It is mostly set up for her, but that's OK and now she's set up, we can see what she'll do in the future. Also, I don't mean to sound vain, but I appreciate how she seems to be a fan of this blog for she was reading it while following Helena in one chapter. No really. XD


As mentioned earlier, we meet Ben's mother, Chas, and her second husband Lance. They're just rich assholes whom we're meant to hate, nothing worth mentioning here. Ben punching Lance and making it clear he's not taking their crap seriously was very satisfying though. XD


And then there's the killer. If there's one thing this book does better than last time, it's having a proper villain in the form of the killer. I can't tell you much about them without major spoilers to their identity, but I can tell you, the twist behind their identity is pretty clever. What's a downside for me is that their motivation isn't as strong as I thought it was going to be. I'm not even grossly oversimplifying it when I tell you their motivation is literally killing people...because they said no to them and gave their shop a bad review. I'm not kidding, that's LITERALLY the reason they're killing people! But to give credit to the author, there ARE killers in real life who have killed for extremely petty reasons, so the villain is at least realistic and believable since there is some basis in reality for them. I still felt it was too childish to be taken seriously but talking with R.M. Walls did help me understand what he was going with for them and given how petty the villain is, it DOES make their eventual demise all the more satisfying, so it really worked in that regard. The motivation may be weak, but it was at least effective in making a really despicable villain that you wanted to see dead in the end.


Overall, the cast is pretty solid in this book and the new developments for Helena and Ben are especially big highlights that make this book a worthwhile read. Add in a villain who's so pathetically petty that their death feels very satisfying in the end and you have a worthwhile cast to carry this story...


Section 3: The Writing


Much like its predecessor, you can tell this is a self-published eBook but I don't want to be overly harsh here so I'll try not to dwell on it too much.


The only thing I'll say is that it feels like this is a first draft and the book could've done with more proof-reading before it was published. The final result has a few spelling and grammar errors in places and there are even cases where some words are missing apostrophes in them. I recall seeing at least one case where the word "can't" was spelt without an apostrophe. Also I feel the word "gulped" was used too many times in this book. I would suggest trying to find more alternatives to show a character is nervous than making them gulp so much. Maybe saying "swallowed nervously" or "swallowed heavily" would make it less repetitive or even writing a different description altogether like "he whimpered feebly" or "she stared at Helena, her heart racing madly".


With that out the way, let's get to the good stuff with the prose. First of all, it stays true to the prose of the original story in how it's mostly simple and easy to read with not too many descriptions but it does have paragraphs devoted to explaining how the characters think and feel to make you feel more connected to them and add further context to the scenes. Backgrounds are given simple and vague descriptions so we can use our imaginations more and we're not bogged down with too much detail and the characters are given a clear description so we can envision what they look like. I like how Helena's costume is given an upgrade to show how seriously she's taking her detective life and how Chas is given an unflattering description to show she's unattractive both on the inside and out. What's funnier is that R.M. Walls tells me he based Chas on a character he saw in a soap opera one time, duck lips and all. XD


The book does have some graphic scenes and like in The Child, the author spares no expense in making the fights as bloody and violent as possible, especially whenever Helena's involved. It's a little toned down compared to last time I feel but it's still there and depending on the reader, they may be uncomfortable with those moments. Also we have a sex scene between Helena and Ben in one chapter but for those who might be grossed out at that, don't worry, the prose doesn't go overly explicit in that scene and keeps it tame enough so you can read it without being grossed out if you're not up for that kind of stuff. I feel the prose got the point across enough on how they're being intimate without going to pornographic levels, which made it a more pleasant read if you ask me.


The romance plot of course brings out much of the sweetest parts to read and I like how Helena and Ben's feelings are described to us as they begin to fall in love. Their date was a wonderful read especially and I give R.M. Walls credit for going the extra mile by even including a couple of song moments where Ben sings for Helena. Songwriting isn't easy and I imagine it might've been a challenge for the author so kudos for pulling it off. It also just made the romance plot even sweeter by including those songs.


There are some errors, but I feel the prose is for the most part well done and does make for a good read in spite of them. I do feel it is improved from last time but a couple of proof-reads would've made it even better. R.M. Walls, I do hope I'm not upsetting you by pointing all this out, that is NOT my intention whatsoever. It's the grammar nut in me that can't help but spot those errors. ^^; I hope what I've said here can help you out for the future...


Conclusion


The Solitale Vampires: The Child was a good start but The Killer is a great follow up and an improvement on its predecessor. The story is engaging, the two plots weave together seamlessly, the characters get expanded upon, the tone is well-balanced and it was overall a thrilling read beginning to end. I would only really suggest that it needed proof-reading a few more times before it got published to fix a lot of the mistakes I spotted but otherwise, I had a good time reading this and I congratulate R.M. Walls for keeping his series going like so. I really hope it grows in popularity and more people start to notice it, which is one reason I'm doing these reviews in the first place. If I can interest you guys in reading The Solitale Vampires books, then I consider that a job well done. I look forward to seeing what he has in store for the third book when that comes out...


And that's it for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and I invite you all to share your thoughts down below? Do you like this book? Do you not like it? Are you interested in this series? Do tell me.


Next week I'll be doing a Vs. essay where I compare the book and film of Kiki's Delivery Service to see which one is superior. See you then media fans!


Buy The Solitale Vampires: The Killer on Amazon.co.uk for the Kindle and Kindle app.

Buy The Solitale Vampires: The Child on Amazon.co.uk for the Kindle and Kindle app.

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Thank you so much for the review :)

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You're welcome as always my mate. :)

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