TAGS: Rashid Darden, Old Gold Soul Press, vampires, Africa, transatlantic slave trade, Washington, DC
Birth of a Dark Nation is the first book in what will ultimately be a series about the Razadi (an ancient sect of African day-walking vampires) and their infiltration into American society. In this first book we are introduced to Justin Kena, a seemingly ordinary human, but who is thought to be “The Key.” A member of the Razadi, who is currently known as Dante to humans but Aragbaye to his brothers, is entrusted with making sure that Justin is kept safe. He does this by ultimately befriending and then seducing him. The book goes on to detail the history of the Razadi, their uneasy truce with the Anubis Society (vampires who were complicit in the Razadi’s original capture and departure from Africa), and also briefly introduces us to the djinn (evil fire spirits).
Overall, it was an interesting, engaging read. The historical sections were very strong; the time in Africa, the time on the island, and the time in New Orleans were all very good. The scenes in Washington, DC were clearly written from the perspective of a native as well, and added local color to the story.
However, some of the dialogue was problematic. The author really liked the term “let me be great” and used it too many times. In one particular instance, the usage was absurd: When the middle-aged female fundraiser at the non-profit finally quit in frustration, the author has her saying “I just can’t do it anymore…he just won’t let any of us be great…” The shifts in character perspectives are also confusing, as they seemed to occur without warning and there didn’t always seem to be a reason for them.
The two sex scenes between Dante and Justin seemed excessively explicit, jarringly so, especially the first one. The story didn’t need that level of detail to communicate the nature of their relationship. That attention to sexual detail was also where the story seemed to slide off the tracks. Up until that point, it was a tight, well-written story, but then it got sort of wordy. There was a lot of filler involved from the consummation of Justin and Dante’s relationship, until Justin is made the head of the non-profit; that part should have taken up less space. The elapsed time between the major events in Justin’s life to the “initiation” was too long, leaving little time to build up to the final confrontation.
The aggression in Justin’s voice was completely unrealistic at times; for example, when he confronted Victor and Dante about being day-walking vampires. It’s not to say that Justin would have let them run all over him, per se, but he certainly wouldn’t have challenged them in that way. Justin also accepted the whole existence of vampires (and his lover being one of them) far more calmly then he should have. At times, the book read like a gay, black episode of True Blood, with Justin playing the role of Sookie Stackhouse.
All that being said, it was an entertaining read and the book was hard to put down once started. Had the middle section of the book been shorter, or more efficiently written, the story would have been even more enjoyable. This reviewer looks forward to reading more about the “Jackal”, the Djinn, and to what exactly Justin is the “Key.” It would also be interesting to see a book about the lost members of the Razadi (the ones who were buried on the shores of Africa).
Karriem L. is a married father of two who has been a voracious reader since the first grade, when his mother used to make him read to the family after dinner every night. He is a member of American MENSA, and is a graduate of The Hotchkiss School.