Gidion’s Hunt: Gidion Keep, Vampire Hunter Book One
Writer: Bill Blume
Publisher: Diversion Books
Genre: Young adult supernatural thriller
A review by Amelia Wellman
There’s a lot of vampire media out in the world already, so there’s a lot of mythos to pick and choose from for new vampire stories. You can stay more traditional to the lore (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or you can use whatever stupid idea comes to mind because it sounded good at the time (Twilight). Gidion’s Hunt took a third route, one that goes somewhere in between mixing old lore with new ideas. After years of Twilight, the route that involves dissecting vampire lore had me hesitant. But Blume does a good job of keeping everything classically vampiric enough to satisfy the decades of lore that have already been created. Hell, as long as they don’t sparkle I’m pleased as punch!
Hunting vampires is a Keep family tradition. Gidion has been taught, in secret, by his grandpa to take up the hunt. He’s only sixteen but he’s good at what he does. One night while hunting, he runs into a nomadic vampire that has a connection to someone in his life. While piecing together the hows and whys, he begins to close in on the local coven and discovers the hits they’re putting out on seemingly random people. To complicate matters, the vampires know they’re being hunted and they’re determined to kill Gidion and everyone he’s protecting, no matter what it takes.
The story of Gidion’s Hunt is one that’s been seen before: vampire hunter hunting vampires. Pretty basic stuff, but with original spins here and there that make this vampire universe original to others. The biggest one (in my opinion) is the matriarchal vampire society. There are covens, seemingly spread out one to a major city, and they’re ruled over by women. Blume, in a stroke of genius, looked to the animal world for inspiration on how a coven might function and based their structure on hyenas where the women are bigger, tougher, and rule the pack. It’s a small touch, but one that a lot of people wouldn’t have thought of and it adds real life to the supernatural society that the vamps have built. There are also nomadic vampires that live out of their cars and go from city to city. The covens don’t allow them in (at least not often) but there are safe houses around for them to use for a night. Those safe houses are cleaned by feeders, people that willingly let vampires feed from them for a couple drops of their blood. It won’t make you a vampire but will give you a good high. The vampires in this universe are a lot more cautious than some others. They’ve built up a system that keeps the coven safe, the nomadic vamps from out staying their welcomes, and a network of junkies addicted to their blood that will willingly let themselves be fed on.
The vampires are physically also different from what I’ve seen before. They’re not superhuman strong or fast, they don’t turn to dust from a stake to the heart, and they prefer a mid-size sedan to that of turning into a bat. To kill a vampire in Blume’s universe, you’ve got go for major arteries with a box cutter and then cut off their heads to make sure they’re finished off once and for all. It makes for some beautifully gory and tense action scenes.
Told through third person, the story focuses on Gidion Keep, the sixteen year old vampire hunter who is the main protagonist. His grandfather has trained him as a vampire hunter, just like his father before him. Though his father gave it up after his wife (Gidion’s mother) died in a vampire attack. Gidion sneaks around in secret now, cutting down bloodsuckers where he finds them and taking them back to his grandfather’s funeral home for an unceremonious cremation. Compared to Buffy, who can dust them and walk away, having to haul a corpse around adds some anxious and surprisingly humorous moments to the story as Gidion describes his corpse hauling technique as dragging around a drunk friend.
What makes Gidion such a good character is that he talks and behaves like a real teenage boy. He’s down to Earth and likable too. It’s tough to make a teenage boy likable, let’s face it, most of them are more pain than they’re worth! He’s cool and calm in the face of slaughtering vamps, but he becomes a bumbling klutz in the company of pretty girl. He’s sarcastic and a little angsty, but not over the top mellow dramatic like most adults think teenagers are. It’s almost as if Blume understands that teenagers are people and deserve to be treated as such! What a crazy idea, huh?
The side characters, Gidion’s father, grandfather, and friends, are written to varying degrees of success. His grandfather is written as part of the old guard. Gruff, a little sexist, drinks too much and then points a rifle at anyone who’s on his land. Gidion’s father is like his father, in terms of how closed off he can be to emotions and the past, but he clearly cares about his son and wants to do well by him. The grandfather cares too, but in the way that men in their seventies care. They’re a close-knit trio and it really adds to their relationships that they get together for football and grilled steaks every Sunday.
Gidion also spends time with his two best friends Pete and Seth. Pete is a pretty fleshed out character as he’s got a bigger role in the ongoing story. Seth though is there by proxy as the friend that’s oblivious to what his friends are up to and to have the girlfriend that leads Gidion to connect all the pieces of his mystery together through the power of gossip. There’s also Miss Aldgate who is a sort of mother stand-in for Gidion while also being a damsel in distress, and Tamara who is a damsel in distress 99% of the time. While there are two semi-main female characters and the big baddie of the coven ends up being a woman, I wish there’d been more depth to the ladies. Miss Aldgate gets quite a bit of time dedicated to her, but Tamara is there for a pretty face and there’s no history that goes along with Elizabeth (the coven leader). I would have loved just having a page or two dedicated to having her monologue about her three hundred year old life. The villain monologue is a trope, but it’s one that’s endlessly entertaining and helps finish up the story but tying everything together.
The setting of this story is Richmond, Virginia. Knowing absolutely nothing about Richmond going into this book, I might as well have been reading a story that created its own city. Right up there with the lady characters, location is something I wish were a little more expanded. There were park names and highway routes but nothing really screamed ‘real-life place’ to me. I did a little bit of research concerning a curfew that minors can’t be out by themselves between 11pm and 5am that was mentioned in the book and was surprised to learn that it’s a real thing! There’s no back story to the curfew though and it’s used as a minor hindrance that Gidion has to work around once or twice. The insertion of the curfew felt like Blume thought that it’s a common practice that the rest of the world would understand. It misses its mark with some of its international audience (I’m Canadian and curfew laws don’t extend past one or two small towns here) but it’s interesting in the context of the story. Just a little more expansion (back story, consequences, etc.) with it would be good to see in any future Gidion Keep stories.
Gidion’s Hunt is an old story told in a new way. The changes made to vampire lore fit the tone and pacing throughout and Blume created a well-rounded main character to hunt them. While some characters take a backseat that limits what we’re able to learn about them, there’s not anyone that feels out of place or like they aren’t a real person you could meet. There are a few details, like the curfew, that are never fully explained that leave the story feeling a little less real than Blume probably wanted it to, but there are also a fair amount of loose ends that offer a lot of leeway for however many sequels he wants to write (which is hopefully at least a trilogy because he’s got a great style and voice). Written to appeal to young adult readers, there’s still a lot to be found in these vampire stories for any age.
Gidion’s Hunt is available now, as is Gidion’s Blood, book two in the Gidion Keep: Vampire Hunter series.
And you can find Bill Blume at any of the following online places: