Penny White is embarking on a new phase in her life: With her wedding to Peter looms on the horizon, Lloegyr sends a vampire curate to her parish, and her various charges begin growing up and moving beyond complete dependence; however, the whiskey-loving reverend struggles with her increasingly strained religious convictions, plus the more practical tasks of keeping Lloegyr’s residents from crossing through the thin places into her backyard. (A manticore finds her weeds quite enticing.) When Sue Harkness requests her help in investigating the migration of vampires into England, Penny jumps at the opportunity to deal with a problem that doesn’t affect her personal life. But, will the answers she finds serve as another reminder of how cruel the world can be and how heartfelt beliefs can’t provide complete protection?
I spent several hours thinking about my main takeaway from The Vexation of Vampires, book five in Chrys Cymri’s Penny White series. At this point, the books have grown beyond just one theme, but I think that compromise best reflects what the cast faces throughout the story. Whether they face personal or community issues, each individual or group learns which concerns need to be faced head on and which ones can be given up for the greater good.
Vampires have mostly been tangential in the first four Penny White books, but book five proves that Chrys Cymri has thought about their society and customs in her fictional world. (Hint: It’s not just Vampire: The Masquerade or Anne Rice.) In some ways, their position in Lloegyr reminded me of Roma or Travelers in Europe, and the delicate situation of moving between worlds hit a nerve with me given the current debates on immigration. Penny’s personal journey in her engagement with Peter and Raven’s mysterious illness grabbed my heart strings more, but the final resolutions aren’t possible without our heroine’s desire to help everyone in need, regardless of species.
Cymri tackled Penny’s feelings about children head on in book five, and I can safely say that child-free readers will not be disappointed. Other aspects of the resolution broke my heart, but the author stayed true to the heart of her protagonist. I still don’t know any more about Penny’s lack of desire for children, but it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that she knows herself well enough to not have a child she will not or cannot commit herself to fully.
Each installment in Penny White’s story adds depth to a fantasy story about a vicar who learns that fantasy creatures are real, and The Vexation of Vampires is no exception. From the plight of refugees to possessions to heartbreaking personal choices, I rode an emotional tidal wave through the entire 200-plus pages. I was left saddened, but there was a silver lining: Penny accepts herself more fully and takes a step towards realizing what she truly needs. Besides, James and Clyde get some moments of almost adulthood, and who can stay sad when this pair seems poised to embark on new adventures?
4.5 Grocery Carts of Chicken for the Snail Sharks out of 5
Creative Team: Chrys Cymri (author)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, LLC
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