Honor at Stake by Declan Finn

Honor at Stake by Declan Finn

Reviewed by T.F. Sloan

Warning- some minor spoilers for the book, but just ones about twists that happen in the first few chapters.

Declan Finn is proving himself to be the go-to guy for the campy fun adventure book that is just smart enough to completely subvert your expectations in ways that never fail to delight.

Marco, son of Dr. Robert Catalano, is a leader of Brooklyn street kids fighting against drug dealers and muggers and studying to be a Physician’s Assistant at Greenpoint College, New York City. One day, he and his girlfriend get ambushed at night by a mugger in a dark alley and Marco murders him in self-defense. In that moment though, he relishes in it. Overcome with fear, his girlfriend breaks up with him. From then on he can’t deny the truth about himself, he is a monster.

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Then in fencing class, he meets a beautiful Russian girl named Amanda who turns out to be a vampire. It’s okay, though, because she’s a good vampire. Devout Catholic, as a matter of fact. They discuss it on their third date that’s totally not a date, citing Aquinas for their imitation platonic dialogue about vampires. Vampires are just simply shadows of newly resurrected people, meaning the unity between their bodies and their souls is that much tighter. If a vampire sins, it shows up in their bodies and as limitations to their movement. But if a vampire remains virtuous, they might pass and be able to live almost imperceptibly in human society. It is this kind of dichotomy as a Catholic and a vampire that Amanda lives in every day. It’s this familiar darkness, along with her high IQ, beauty, and great conversational skills, that cause Marco to fall in love. But he doesn’t let himself find out whether she loves him back because he can’t let her see how much darker is the evil in his own soul.

Further complicating matters, dead bodies with strange bite marks on their necks start showing up in the street of Brooklyn. Which, honestly, probably isn’t that unusual, except for its concurrence with the strange men badly-dressed like Anne Rice characters attacking everyone. Marco and Amanda have to find who’s sending them and stop them with the help of anybody they can find, including Vatican ninjas and magicians in the FBI, before the evil vampires take over New York, and who knows where else.

One of the strongest features of the novel and one of the most Catholic is how it establishes a sense of reality by a great balance of sincerity and dramatic irony. Finn has a way of making things look one way, and then revealing things to be exactly the opposite. For example, most of the introductory chapters, Marco appears much more vampire-like than Amanda. But Marco just happens to hold himself so ‘freakishly,’ as he would phrase it, he appears more vampire-like than the real main vampire of the book. And Finn uses this technique throughout the novel. It reminds me of Jesus saying he came to turn the world upside-down, and in a way, Finn seeks to do just that for Brooklyn via the lenses of vampire romance action horror (with light sci-fi and espionage elements). I loved its masterful use of dramatic irony and it’s a great portrayal of a young masculine perspective.

On a more technical level, the novel’s action scenes are well-thought out and epically described. The dialogue is sharp and witty, almost Whedon-esque. And throughout the novel, Finn takes any chance he can get to make fun of anything and everything about vampires, old books, and the strange, otherworldly, nearly undead world that is the culture of Brooklyn.

There are places in the novel that may be uncomfortable for young female readers, as Marco deals with sexual frustration and the psychological aftermath of murder at the same time, meaning the parts that deal with the dark parts of Marco’s mind could be uncomfortable for some people to a level that may not make the read enjoyable.

Marco does learn to channel his aggression in a saintly way by the end, learning the lesson all strong men must absorb into their heart: a good man’s aggression is meant to go towards aggressors who have been lost so far down the path they would without a thought take the lives and innocence of another.

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Genre: Horror Espionage Vampire Action Rom-Comedy

Themes: Young Love, Male Aggression, Team Work

Author: Catholic

Published: 2015

Audience: Young Adult (particularly end of high school to college age)

Author’s Website: http://www.declanfinn.com