In August, 1943, millionaire vampire John English informs President Roosevelt that Nazi-aligned vampires intend to assassinate Winston Churchill and the principal Allied generals before they can complete plans for the D-Day invasion of France. In exchange for safe passage across the Atlantic, English volunteers to raise a group of his fellow vampires to prevent that from happening.
Roosevelt responds to English’s request by providing an OSS operative, Lieutenant Edwina Kelly, to act as liaison between them. At first resistant to working with the undead because of her family’s troubled history with vampires, Edwina gradually yields to the mysterious John English’s charisma. In time he reveals to her his own dark past, his ties to the evil Longchamps, leader of the Nazi vampires, and his real reason for aiding the Allies.
More than a simple adventure, V-Squad explores themes of loyalty, sacrifice, trust, betrayal, love—and most of all, vengeance. At its heart this is a story of a centuries-long yearning for revenge and its companion, justice, in stubborn defiance of an equally implacable evil.
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As much of a cliche as it may seem, you can never judge a book by its cover. In regards to the book, V-Squad, I am actually speaking of the characters. Just as in Pam Marcantel’s previous book, An Army of Angels, the protagonist Joan of Arc was underestimated or misunderstood by others around her; the protagonists of V-Squad are underestimated because they are misunderstood. Even if the characters that surround them don’t believe in them, the protagonists believe in their mission and this is what moves the action in each book. As readers, we are rooting for the protagonist to see their mission accomplished, so we remain engaged in the story. Besides the careful development of her characters, Ms. Marcantel’s greatest gift as a writer is to create a story that we can believe in and want to see resolved by the characters.
The novel begins by introducing us to our main protagonist, John English. Just as in the popular film noir genre of the time where our story takes place, English is wrapped in mystery. It is obvious that Ms. Marcantel has an affection for the time period in which the story takes place, but it does not come across as romanticized. Although the story is not told from John’s point of view, Ms. Marcantel gets us as close to him as she possibly can through the exposition. In a humorous scene concerning John’s viewing of the popular vampire movie, Dracula, Ms. Marcantel describes John’s bemused reaction to humanity’s perception of his race. That’s right, John English is a vampire. However, as the novel progresses, we learn that John is not superficial or shallow, but is almost menacing at times in his seriousness of carrying out his mission. In the scene that follows, we see the more menacing side, the vampire nature of John English. However, since the character of John English has already been developed beyond a superficial level, we learn through the progression of the novel that the motivation behind revealing his vampire nature is more complex than just feeding some hunger borne out of survival instinct.
In the chapters that follow, we are introduced to the other characters, the conflicts they individually face, and we learn of their mission and what brings the group together. They intend to help thwart the assassination attempt upon Winston Churchill and the Allied Generals on the eve of D-Day by a group of vampires allied with the Nazis. We come to learn through the progression of the novel that the mission itself is as complex as the characters. Just as we come to believe in the characters, we come to believe in the mission. Because we believe in the characters and what they stand for, we want to see the mission resolved in a successful way for our heroes. I would recommend that you take the time to read this book and get to know John English and his companions in V-Squad better for yourselves.