My rating: 4 of 5 stars
To relegate Camdeboo Nights to being a mere gothic romance would be unfair and inaccurate, although a romance between a vampire and a young woman is at the center of this tale. Despite its misleading cover, Camdeboo Nights is an urban fantasy novel mixing western superstitions with the more native folklore set in the South African Karoo, written by one of South Africa’s best dark fantasists, Nerine Dorman.
The story centers around a young woman name Helen Ashfield, whose life in the Cape has been uprooted due to her parents going their separate ways. She, her brother and her seriously depressed mother have relocated to Niue Bethesda, home to Helen’s enigmatic grandmother, a clan of Wiccans and a vampire named Trystan who is in hiding from his own kind. What Helen doesn’t realise is that she has an untapped source of ‘Essence’ within her that is like an open flame attracting every dark creature out there to her, including Trystan, who instantly becomes completely obsessed with her. Thinks come to a head when Arwen, one of Helen’s new friends, unwittingly ignites the Essence within Helen during an unsanctioned ritual in a local grave yard and suddenly every vampire within a hundred miles is out hunting for Helen. If that wasn’t bad enough, older and far more dangerous forces are stirring and taking an interest in Helen too.
Dorman’s writing reflects her work as a travel writer as she is quickly becoming a master of recreating environs full of sensory descriptions that place the reader within the lustrous, dark settings of her novels. The plot, whilst slow to start with, gradually picks up pace drawing together a range of well-realised characters together.
Dorman is clearly a leading (dark)light in the South African horror circles and it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world discovers her engaging dark musings.