Usually a master of suspense, Caroline B. Cooney is perhaps most famous for her book, The Face on the Milk Carton, which she wrote back in the mid 90s (and I LOVED). Around that same period, she wrote three separate vampire novels (Deadly Offer, Evil Returns, and Fatal Bargain) that are now available in one volume as The Vampire’s Promise. Unfortunately, these vampire novels are anything but thrilling and are a big disappointment.
To be fair, these vampire stories were written before the huge vampire craze hit the country. We’re talking pre-Twilight, pre-Vampire Diaries, pre-“True Blood” days. The vampires in this novel are not flashy, or sexy, or fun to read about. They have no romantic relationships with the female characters. Actually, they don’t really even have bodies.
No, these vampires are presented as true evil, with no lighter shades of gray that hint at underlying worthy human traits. There is nothing human about these vampires. In fact, there’s not even anything vampire-ish about these vampires. They are more like genies that (at least in the first two stories) grant human wishes in return for human flesh. If this sounds confusing, that’s because it often is in the story.
In the first tale, Deadly Offer, Althea dreams of being popular. In a fit of curiosity, she opens the shutters of the tower to her family’s old mansion (although her family never appears in the story), and somehow this act awakens a vampire. He promises her all the popularity she can dream of if she brings him his victims. Why he doesn’t just drink her blood is not exactly clear; it has something to do with not being able to leave the house and needing her to continuously feed him. Of course, Althea does what he asks and finds the popularity she has dreamed about.
In Evil Returns, Althea has moved away from the house and Devnee has moved in. And guess what? Devnee has dreams too, of being beautiful! Her bedroom is in the haunted tower and so of course she meets the vampire. Same plot structure ensues: he promises her beauty and more (yup, she becomes smart too!) in exchange for feeding the vampire (which we never see).
Finally, in Fatal Bargain, the big haunted mansion is empty and about to be demolished for a mall. So a group of six teenagers decide to go there and party, and surprise! They awaken the vampire. He doesn’t promise them any wishes, however, he just tells them that they must decide which one of them can live. However, from this point forward, the story includes so many sub-plots and secondary characters (including a second vampire, who is [I think] the one from the previous two stories) that it’s just a bit ridiculous.
One of the big problems with all of the stories is that there’s no character development. The first two stories would have been far more interesting if I knew why Althea and Devnee were so focused on their wishes. Instead, they just seem rather shallow and uninteresting; so much so, that I started to wish that one of them would secretly turn out to be a sociopath who would become a lifelong partner of the vampire to get whatever she wanted in the world.
Sadly, that was not the case. All the characters manage to overcome the vampire in truly uninspiring endings. Separately, these stories are undeveloped; as a single novel, they seem thrown together last-minute. These aren’t stories for people who love vampires, or for people who love suspense, or even for people who love to read. Maybe they’re stories for evil vampire-genies; but, having never met one, I guess we’ll never know.
Blythe Robbins, a Californian living in New York City, is a geeky editor by day. At night, she can be found reading or writing YA fiction.