Vintage Soul by David Niall Wilson is a well-written short novel billed as the first in The DeChance Chronicles. Wilson is the winner of the Bram Stoker award for his horror stories, and it’s clear from the start that Vintage Soul was written by a master wordsmith. I particularly enjoyed reading the indulgent setting of the opening party scene in which a powerful vampire is kidnapped right in front of her guests. The vampires call upon mage and investigator DeChance, an excellent gumshoe character who — through a series of adventures and with help from a small cast of interesting friends — solves the crime.
What’s not to like? Two things made me rate this novel lower than it would otherwise have merited on the strength of the writing and characters. First, I figured out the villain long before he was revealed, and once I suspected the villain, there was nothing to throw me off the trail. (The shortness of the novel may have contributed to this.) Explaining the second flaw would be a spoiler, so highlight the following text if you want to read it:
At the end of the novel, the rescued vampire offers DeChance a few drops of her blood, which we are told will extend DeChance’s lifespan by a few centuries without any vampiric side effects. Since the whole crime (which was exceedingly risky and complex) was conducted to help a rogue mage gain immortality without the drawbacks of being a vampire, this ending (the ease of extending a lifespan so significantly) left a sour taste in my mouth. It seemed to undermine the villain’s motives a bit, needlessly making the entire story less credible.
Despite these two drawbacks, I enjoyed reading Vintage Soul and plan to seek out other works by Wilson. He is a sure hand, and I fully expect The DeChance Chronicles to be an outstanding series. I recommend it to fans of all fantasy, except possibly those for whom the mystery itself is the key.