Book Review | Vampires of Portlandia by Jason Tanamor

Author : Jason Tanamor
Published on : September 29, 2020
Publisher : Parliament House Press
Genre : Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal
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When Marcella Leones relocates her family of aswang vampires from the Philippines to Portland, Oregon, she raises her grandchildren under strict rules so humans will not expose them. Her only wish is to give them a peaceful life, far away from the hunters and the Filipino government that attempted to exterminate them.

Before she dies, she passes on the power to her eldest grandchild, Percival. He vows to uphold the rules set forth by Leones, allowing his family to roam freely without notice. After all, they are aswangs.

However, when the aswang covenant is broken, the murder rate in Portland rises drastically. Who is behind the murders? And who is behind the broken covenant? Along with sensie Penelope Jane, Percival must find the truth.

It’s then they discover that there are other breeds of aswangs—werebeasts, witches, ghouls, and viscera—who have been residing in Portland for years.

I was so thrilled when I saw this book on NetGalley that I requested it immediately. A book written by a Fil-Am author featuring Filipino characters, myth and folklore. We don’t see this kind of story/book being published internationally a lot. So you can imagine how disappointed I am during and after reading this book. I tried my best to love it. I was so close to not finishing it but I had hopes that it would get better or entertaining at least.

I’ll start with things I genuinely liked in this book. The family values, the backstory (inaccuracies aside), the hanging coffins, and glimpse of Capiz. There’s also a brief introduction to different kinds of aswangs which I wished were more fleshed out.

Now let’s continue with little things that were forgiveable for me. Going to Baguio from Samar by land (driving) is not possible. Sure you can bring your car but you and your car have to take a ferry. Next is being respectful to the elders. Using „po/opo“ and „ate/kuya“. This is a very distinct and important tradition in Filipino families. I understand that their Lola is from Capiz and I’m aware that „po/opo“ is not commonly used in Visayas (where Capiz is) and Mindanao but I’m sure they have their own terms/names for older people (like Manang/Manong). They grew up in the U.S. so maybe it wasn’t practice in their family. Lastly, peddling (which was used in this book) and pedaling are totally two different things. I have the e-arc so I hope it was corrected in the final copy.

So what’s left are the disappointments. First, is the writing. I struggled a lot. I’m totally okay with simple and straight-forward writing style. But this book has a strange style that didn’t work out for me. It’s written in third person perspective and on some instances, the author/narrator is directly talking to the reader. There’s not a lot of dialogues as well. The characters are one-dimensional and I had a hard time connecting with them with the exception of Geena, Percival’s younger sister. She’s the only character that I liked. There’s romance in this book. If you can call it that.

There were some plotholes in the story and lots of things that don’t make sense to me. For example, their Lola is the head of the vampires and when she dies Percival will inherit the amulet and the legacy. For their own protection, she doesn’t tell them that there are other types of aswangs who are also living in Portland. She also hides about the Covenant which I think was the most important thing for them to know. Is it much better if she tells them about everything so they’re aware and prepared just in case?

It didn’t sit well with me how the homeless people and elderlies were treated (or represented) throughout the story. They were killed because they have little contribution to the society. The issue was left unresolved. What bothered me as well was that the aswangs are not from America and for them it’s justifiable to murder the homeless and elderlies.

The ending. I still had hopes despite of everything. See how patient and hopeful I was. I personally thought that the „twist“ and the fight scene were… ridiculous. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. I really appreciated what the author was trying to do but unfortunately it didn’t work out for me.

This book was supposed to be a mixed of dark, comedy/humor, and mystery but sadly, it fell flat in all these aspects. It broke my heart because it has really great potential. I will not recommend it but I will also not stop you from reading it. Just let me know your thoughts once you’re done.

My Rating : ★★☆☆☆

Disclaimer: Huge thanks to XpressoBookTours and NetGalley for my free e-arc. This did not affect my overall opinion of the book.

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