Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Dark Shadows: Angelique's Descent by: Lara Parker

Dark Shadows was a soap opera which ran for five years between 1966 and 1971, being one of the few examples of the genre to essentially overcome it’s status as a soap opera and earn a place as a cult classic.  It received a revival in 1991 which ran for one season and a film adaptation from Tim Burton in 2012, but what I’m covering today is one of two continuations from the main soap opera, the other being the successful line of Big Finish audio dramas (which was how I first heard of and got into the show).  This review is of the first of four Dark Shadows novels published by Tor Books and written by series star Lara Parker, this one exploring the origins of her own character, the immortal witch Angelique Bouchard, scorned by Barnabas Collins whom she cursed with vampirism.  Yes, this show was still very much a soap opera with all the dramatics the genre involves.  Angelique’s Descent is basically the origin story for a comic book villain, chronicling the unhappy childhood and adulthood of Angelique, retelling an entire story arc from the television show from her perspective.  As a novel, one of the greatest criticisms you can apply is that this is clearly Parker’s first novel.  The writing style is often a very generic series of events, especially in early chapters making the portions of the novel describing Angelique’s childhood become pretty tedious as similar developments repeat for several chapters.

That being said, the first half dedicated to Angelique’s childhood and upbringing sheds some interesting lights on the character.  The novel does a good job of showing the character in a state of grace, living initially with her mother in poverty on the island of Martinique, yet still happy, before being essentially kidnapped by Thomas Bouchard to be used in pagan rituals, exploiting the innate magical abilities of his assumed daughter.  Angelique is convinced she is the conduit for a goddess, so is repeatedly drugged, forced to partake in these rituals, and locked in a tower with nobody really for company for much of her childhood.  The highlight here is really getting into the head of the witch, as she develops her own, clearly dark, powers, yet still has an outlook of wanting to do good.  The Dark One/Diabolos/whatever demon Angelique eventually becomes servant to is responsible for granting these powers, but is toying with her, allowing her the idea that she is free throughout and that the power is her own.  She also has to endure the death of her only friend at the hands of her father, and is only saved by a revolution on the island allowing her to go back to her mother.  Thomas Bouchard serves as an excellent villain for the first half of the novel: written with a domineering presence and presented as truly cruel, treating his own daughter as a slave.  The slight issue is the pacing here, as after Angelique escapes him there really isn’t another threat to replace him as the book enters territory covered by the television series and Angelique began the descent into villainy.

The relationship between Angelique and a young Barnabas Collins is incredibly interesting in the way that it is presented here.  One important thing to note about Barnabas is on the show while he is a protagonist on the show, he is not a good person.  He is presented as taking advantage of Angelique before moving on to his one true love, which is in line with the way it is presented here.  Angelique truly believes that Barnabas cares for her and there truly is an innocence, which makes her fall seem all the more grave, as Parker also does an excellent job of setting up the friendship between Angelique and Josette, which was kind of lacking on television.  It makes the point where Angelique has to hurt Josette have a more emotional impact.  Though Parker doesn’t actually have to do much than just retell the 1795 story arc from the point where she entered and exited, with one major exception: the time travel aspect is completely ignored.  This is actually a missed opportunity as Phyllis Wick, the character who was replaced on television by Victoria Winters, only gets some background mentions with nothing changing.

Outside of the retelling, Angelique’s Descent also features a present day framing story which seems to be mostly setup for future novels which is fun to read, but really has little impact on the plot.  The Old House burns down and someone who is probably Angelique buys the property which just may lead into something interesting.  That being said the book on a whole is a pretty fun read for fans, though if you’re unfamiliar it may not be the best for you.  7/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment