The 90’s ’90’s Point Horror Summer (I really have to think of a better title for this) kicks off with The Vampire’s Promise Omnibus by Caroline B. Cooney. The omnibus consists of Deadly Offer, Evil Returns, and Fatal Bargain.
First off, this is the blandest, least descriptive cover imaginable. And it kind of makes me wonder a bit since this edition came out after Twilight. It makes me wonder if the current generation of Point Horror People saw ‘vampire’ and slapped this generic cover on it. Because, trust me, the vampire in this is not sexy. He’s described as being mostly made up of shadows with foil-like fingernails and mushroom coloured skin. Sexy, no?
Second of all. These titles confused me. So much so that I actually thought when I first bought it that it was a continuation of the Vampire’s Promise series. The first book in the original series is The Cheerleader (now called Deadly Offer), the second book was originally called Return of the Vampire (now Evil Returns), and the third was called The Vampire’s Promise, now changed to Fatal Bargain.
I have to wonder why they took very descriptive covers and titles and changed them. It also strikes me as a bit sneaky, as well. And I have not seen this with any of the other books that I have. If I do come across it I’ll let you know if they did. If anyone has an explanation that makes sense feel free to share it with me because I’m totally lost.
Ok, so, the books themselves.
Deadly Offer kicks off the series with Althea being tired of being a nobody at school. In the tower room the vampire waits for someone to free it. Althea has moved on from middle school to high school and is tired of being ignored and unheard. So she makes a deal. She trades a classmate, Celeste, for popularity. And another girl, and another.
As Althea gains in popularity she discovers that to keep it she must feed the Vampire. The victims don’t die, they just get very, very tired. Drained, you might say. The story itself is kind of rinse and repeat. Althea makes the promise, feels a bit guilty about it, decides it’s worth it until the end. There’s also lots of her hanging out with friends, throwing parties and all that good stuff. Deadly Offer stands out a little bit from the second one in that most of the people Althea decides to hand over are not really awful humans. They’re not outright mean to Althea or rude so her indecision and guilt are more understandable. Her waffling back and forth is generally realistic. The end is kind of a letdown since she pretty much triumphs over the vampire by willpower alone.
Evil Returns was very similar to Deadly Offer. Devnee is the new girl in school and tired of being plain. After hearing two ‘friends’ talk about her behind her back she makes a deal to hand one of them over to be beautiful. And be able to date the other dick who thinks having to hang around her makes him want to puke. Why she would want this dude is beyond me. The victims this time around are a bit more varied. The first is a girl who is friendly to her but is only trying to use her to pass a class. The second is friendlier but Devnee wants to be smart so off she goes to the vampire. Devnee really only decides to undo what she’s done when her mother is threatened.
Weirdly, this time around the vampire seems to be more wish oriented. And in the first book Althea makes the choices (albeit one of them accidentally). The Vampire here demands certain people. In Evil Returns the protagonist is more unlikable. She’s far more whiny and much more willing to display how selfish and greedy she is. There’s not much more to it than that. As I said, it’s very similar to the first book.
Fatal Bargain takes a different approach and I’m glad it did because, honestly, I would have skimmed the hell out of it if it had been like the first two. In Fatal Bargain, six friends (sort of) decide to party at the old spooky house. Always a good idea. The Vampire crashes their party and tells them they must choose a victim to stay. Most of the story goes through the different character’s thoughts and how Randy invited them there. Thrilling. It was a bit different and apparently the house is a nest to multiple vampires now. Despite the attempts to make it interesting Fatal Bargain was the worst one of them, writing-wise. The characters were very much stock characters without any of the minimal depth of the first two books. I had very little patience with any of them.
Fatal Bargain just felt lazy. A way to round it out to a trilogy for sales. I also have the feeling it went through a modernization at one point since cell phones are mentioned and the original book came out in 1993.
How Do They Hold Up?
I’ve never been a big fan of Caroline B. Cooney’s writing so I wasn’t too awfully surprised that I wasn’t impressed this time around, either. If I were to rewrite it for our time I would definitely add a more diverse cast. There is one female type and one male type and they’re all pretty much interchangeable. No characters of colour showed up at all (surprise, surprise), nor any LGBT+ characters. Again, are we surprised? Fatal Bargain, in particular, leans super heavily into the “dumb girl likes boys” trope to a disturbing and insulting degree. In the first book it is revealed that Celeste is fourteen and dating a seventeen-year-old which made me raise my eyebrows pretty high. While I can’t say that it doesn’t happen it still gave me a little pause.
I won’t be revisiting the Vampire’s Promise series any time soon.
Come back next week when I take a look at April Fool’s Day by Richie Tankersley Cusick!
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.
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