Gritty & dark, RELUCTANT IMMORTALS consumed me from the first page to the very last. The horrors of being irrevocably changed by someone without your consent. Of trying to regain a sense of agency and make our own choices free from what was done to us. It asks: are we doomed to be monsters if we come from one?
About Reluctant Immortals
Publisher: Saga Press • Release Date: August 23, 2022 • Pages: 320
Age Range: Adult • Genre: Horror/Historical Fiction • Format: ARC • Source: Giveaway
Reluctant Immortals is a historical horror novel that looks at two men of classic literature, Dracula and Mr. Rochester, and the two women who survived them, Bertha and Lucy, who are now undead immortals residing in Los Angeles in 1967 when Dracula and Rochester make a shocking return in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.
Combining elements of historical and gothic fiction with a modern perspective, in a tale of love and betrayal and coercion, Reluctant Immortals is the lyrical and harrowing journey of two women from classic literature as they bravely claim their own destiny in a man’s world.
🔋 Women regaining power
🕸️ Good for Spooky Season
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Read An Excerpt
✨ You can read an excerpt from the book over at Tor Nightfire’s website!
My Review of Reluctant Immortals
Friends, this book sunk its teeth into me and didn’t let go. I’ve been thinking about it since I finished almost a week ago: this is a book that will stay with you long after reading and worm its way slowly into the recesses of your mind, changing you irrevocably. I want to re-read and annotate as this is a book that both entertains and makes you think deeply about the world.
Reluctant Immortals follows the immortal afterlives of Lucy and Bee, forgotten women of history who were irrevocably changed by the monstrous men in their lives: Dracula and Mr. Rochester. I love retellings that take characters who play a small role in fiction to explore the work through their lens, and Kiste does an excellent job with Lucy (Dracula) and Bee (the wife in the attic, Jane Eyre). It’s worth mentioning that no knowledge is necessary of the original books to enjoy this novel. Sidenote but I am now horrified that I viewed Jane Eyre as a romance and want to re-read it through the gothic lens of Rochester’s wife standing in the way of his happiness with Jane.
“There are tales about Rochester and Dracula, books and movies, ones where Bee and I have been mostly written out, deleted from our own story, our own lives.”
It’s 1967, and Lucy and Bee have lived in Los Angeles for about ten years, doing their best to live the quiet afterlives forced upon them. The friendship and support Lucy and Bee give each other, including giving space to not discuss traumatic events of their respective pasts, is so sweet and I found myself happy they found one another. Their nightly routine of going to the local drive-in? Yes. This book largely centers their friendship and I love that.
This is not your typical Gothic Horror novel. Reluctant Immortals is fast paced with a sense of wry humor oozing from Lucy’s narrative, giving the book the feel of reading Urban Fantasy. Where the gothic comes through is in the themes: the confinement and isolation our characters escaped when they found each other, the exploration of power, and decay; but this is not a book where tension slowly builds. It’s there from the first paragraph and mounts as the story progresses. This would be an excellent read for anyone who enjoys the back third of gothic books (“where all the action happens”) like Mexican Gothic but may have struggled with the slow pace.
The theme of decay is tied to the horrors of abusive men and their lasting effect, changing the women and destroying who they were Before. Trauma permanently changes a person’s brain, and decay is an representation for that. This theme extends beyond our protagonists and their home, though. The drive-in theatre itself is experiencing a form of decay as the once thriving business has lost patronage for years and is a husk of what it once was. The setting of Los Angeles is perfect for this story because of how it’s a place romanticized, much like immortal life, but the harsh realities are much worse than we care to notice.
“This is a glittering city haunted by the ghosts of dead girls and dead dreams.”
Los Angeles is famous for Hollywood and countless people flock there to “make it big,” only to be consumed by a brutal — and at times abusive — industry. Just as Lucy and Bee were consumed by Dracula and Rochester, these nameless and faceless Hollywood hopefuls had their lives irrevocably changed by the power wielded by others, making the city a perfect setting for Lucy and Bee to call home. I could honestly write essays about the use of decay in Reluctant Immortals!
“All their necks cracking as they lurch forward, their mouths gaping open like beached carp.”
I would be remiss not to mention the masterful horror writing and descriptions, because they surely paint a picture in the mind. I loved the way Reluctant Immortals expands on vampire lore in unexpected ways, particularly how sunlight actually affects them. Since the book is told from the perspective of someone who had essentially been written out of history, Kiste was able to play around with other omissions of history or things that were just plain wrong. And seriously, Lucy and Bee’s daily routine of racing around their house to clean up the decay is the sweetest part of this whole book. (Oh no, I am about to write more about the decay, abort! Abort!)
Overall, just WOW. Reluctant Immortals is a feat of genre-bending, retelling Gothic novels Jane Erye and Dracula in 1967 California through the lens of two forgotten side characters who today are relegated to a footnote. It’s poignant and hopeful, beautiful and macabre. This is a book that will consume you while reading and won’t let you go, a book that has a lot there to analyze if you’re so inclined but also stands on its own as a powerful and feminist tale of two girls trying to regain some agency over their lives and be free of the trauma they experienced at the hands of men. Kiste is absolutely a horror author to watch and I look forward to checking out her backlist immediately.
I received an ARC in a Twitter giveaway hosted by the author. This does not affect my opinions of the book or the contents of my review. Quotations are from an unfinished proof and are subject to change upon final publication.
Highly recommended to readers who enjoy fast-paced fiction that centers female friendship and gothic explorations of power and trauma.
Recommended if you enjoyed…
No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read Reluctant Immortals yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What Gothic Horror books would you recommend?
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Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy says
Excellent review. This is on my TBR, and in fact I’m moving it closer to the top since you loved it so much😁
Thank you Tammy, and I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!
Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits says
I hadn’t heard of this one before! Granted, that’s probably because I don’t usually look at upcoming horror novels. Gothic horror, though, is something I can handle and enjoy (as long as it doesn’t get too gory or have much body horror, that is). I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one!
Sidenote, I’m glad I read Jane Eyre as an adult and saw it as a Gothic classic, and not a romance. It seems all of my friends who first read it when they were young think it’s such a romantic book while I can only think how creepy Mr. Rochester is.
I hadn’t heard of it until a friend shared a picture of the ARC on Twitter and I fell in love with the cover! I think this one is fairly light in terms of gore and body horror, though, so you definitely should keep an eye out!
THIS???? Like all I have been thinking about for the past 2 weeks is how we were taught this book in high school and I literally have no recollection of anything beyond the “string between ribs” romance thing. I kind of want to re-read it with an adult lens now.
Celeste | A Literary Escape says
Fantastic review. This book wasn’t on my radar until I saw you mention it on Twitter. I haven’t read much gothic fiction at all, and you make me want to give this one a try one day.
Your side note of once upon a time thinking Jane Eyre was a romance made me remember seeing some other similar commentary over the past week or two about it…my point is I guess I didn’t know up until recently some viewed it as a romance. I remember reading it senior year of high school (for English class, why else, lol), but def don’t remember thinking it was romantic…I thought it was kind of boring haha. But now that I’m older I wonder what other things I’d pick up on that you touched on in your review.
Thank you, Celeste! I think in terms of OH YM GOD THE HORROR setting and pace, Reluctant Immortals is an excellent book to read to dip your toes into the genre. It has the beats and themes of the genre so you get the gyst, but it is in no way nearly as horrifying as Mexican Gothic’s end is (but still as impactful).
It is so weird to me that literally the ONLY THING I remember about the book is Jane’s line about the ribs being tied together by string. Like?? I am quite confident we discussed Gothic themes and everything but why is ~romance~ what stuck in my head all these years later?!
Lover of Romance says
This one sounds so amazing! I just think its incredible when an author is able to capitalize on the atmospheric paranormal vibes. I love those books that just pull you in and just create such an intense experience that keeps you with it afterwards. Definitely one I need to look into.
Thank you for your lovely comment, and I was seriously so entranced by everything about this book! Atmospheric paranormal vibes are my JAM and I definitely recommend this one!
Kate @ Bitch Bookshelf says
I haven’t heard of this and it sounds awesome!! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up! (Also just a note but it appears the blog url broke in your jetpack profile, it’s just showing “http”)
You put this book on my radar and now I must have it. It just sounds so good. I need to re-enter my vampire era.
IT IS SO GOOD, BIANCA! Reenter your vampire era with me!
ahaana @ Windows to Worlds says
oh my god this sounds SO good??? and can we talk about how gorgeous the cover is??? love your review and so excited to pick reluctant immortals up!! ❤️
AHAANA THE BOOK IS INCREDIBLE?!?!? like it’s been 3 months and I still think about it kind of incredible. And I love the cover, too! I hope you enjoy(ed) the book when you pick it up
Sarah Ames-Foley says
great review, I’m so excited to read this! you may be interested in Wide Sargasso Sea, it was written as a prequel to Jane Eyre and is from the POV of Rochester’s wife!
Thank you for your comment and that recommendation, Wide Sargasso Sea is right up my alley and I will be hunting it down immediately!