TOR Books,Price: $10.98
Review by Darkeva
Lara Parker, the actress who played the original Angelique on Dark Shadows, the popular Gothic soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971 and introduced the world to enigmatic and brooding vampire Barnabas Collins, began writing a series of novels set in the Dark Shadows universe, starting with Angelique’s Descent, originally published in 1998, and reprinted by Canvas this year to coincide with the star-studded big screen adaptation that starred Johnny Depp and Eva Green as Barnabas and Angelique. The actress, who holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, delivered a two-day workshop at New York University titled “Heart of Horror,” which discussed the process of horror writing.
I didn’t encounter the show growing up, but heard of it through other vampire fans and knew of its popularity. Still, I had enough familiarity with the characters to know that the central storyline revolves around Barnabas, a centuries-old vampire, cursed by his former lover, the witch Angelique, and his return to the Collins estate in the 1970s.
In Angelique’s Descent, things start off with Barnabas waking up frightened after a nightmare, but he says he has been cured of his vampirism and that he’s human with the help of Julia, who he has decided to marry because of her devotion to him and not because he’s particularly nuts about her. That honor belongs to the girl he loved, Josette, and her maidservant who he had a fling with and subsequently ruined his life, Angelique. He’s in the new Collinwood estate but has a view into the old one, and freaks out when he sees a woman in the window there.
He has always been conflicted about his feelings for her, convinced she put him under a spell, because he started out being in love with Josette, a purer love, but that’s not how it went down according to Angelique. He inadvertently starts a fire in the old Collinwood manor but finds Angelique’s diary among the ruins, and the novel becomes a prequel, giving us the first look at how Angelique grew up in Martinique and became the powerful and fearsome witch she did.
The principle that best sums this novel up is hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Barnabas made a lethal mistake when he spurned Angelique in favor of her mistress, Josette, and although she fought hard to convince Barnabas that everything she did was motivated by her deep love for him, in his mind they had a fling that was fun while it lasted, but he wasn’t ever in love with her like she thought he was.
The parts about Angelique’s upbringing in her diary are fascinating as they integrate the Haitian vodou beliefs of the locals, who are convinced that Angelique is the the living incarnation of the spirit Erzulie. The narrative is quite rich and Angelique is fleshed out well. Any fan of the soap opera owes it to him or herself to read this history of arguably the show’s most interesting character apart from Barnabas Collins himself. Angelique’s background only gets more interesting as the novel goes on, and although the reader will come to understand what motivated her to act as she did, I thought the author gave the character a compelling and creative backstory.
Even if you’ve never watched the Dark Shadows series (which you should), you’ll be able to enjoy and follow along with this paranormal romance tale, which I would argue is even more enjoyable than the TV show.