Those Who Hunger
by Owen Banner
released June 13, 2020
On Kindle

Overall, an engaging and fresh take on vampire fiction recommended for fans of monster horror.

With a book like this that doesn't rely on familiar tropes, it is difficult to describe the plot in a way that doesn't detract from the experience of discovering things via reading. In sum: vampirism, in this case, is a recessive disease in which the vampire has a "hunger" for blood and violence and is stronger, faster, and more long-lived than a typical person. And they are still persons -- husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters -- who must struggle against this nature to live a good life. To control their baser instincts, they cloister away in different insular people groups -- including the Amish.

The protagonist, Haddie, is a respectable young Amish woman in her late teens who lives in one such community, where a small handful of citizens harbor dark urges they keep at bay through a regimented lifestyle of hard work, religious rites, and avoiding temptation. When a young adult is baptized into the community, they learn about this reality and which of their neighbors struggle with this other nature, but their neighbors treat them the same as everyone else. However, when a series of brutal vampire-style murders begins, that peace frays.

What I know about the Amish could fit on a single fortune cookie paper, so I can't attest to whether or not the author fairly portrays what an Amish community would look like when faced with a series of gruesome vampire attacks, or how an Amish community would behave when it knows that many of its upright citizens struggle with an urge to kill and chase their dinner with a shot of deer blood. But I did identify well with Haddie, the main character, and her parents and siblings, and especially found the dynamic between her parents interesting.

The mystery was intriguing, and I found myself wanting to know more about the world that was built inside this story, and wanting to know more about the side characters. I read it in a single day in two sittings.

There were a few issues I had with the plot, but I'm not sure they could have been tied up without making the book even longer. (It's already pretty long -- I'm a speed reader and it took me about six hours.) For one, a few fascinating characters are introduced, then sort of disappear after a while. Also, the resolution to the murders sort of pops up suddenly and is quickly sorted out.

However, the lore of this world is well explained, and the characters are well-rounded and developed, especially for a novel with so many of them.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this, and would happily read another.

arc received from the publisher for review