Review: Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

Review by Eliza Jo Brandt

Lucy and Bee have been on the run for several lifetimes, trying to stay one step ahead of their abusive exes. For Bee, that means evading, lifetime after lifetime of hiding. For Lucy, that means decades of guarding the urns that hold her ex’s remains. Oh, he won’t stay dead, and when Bee’s ex hatches a plan, it has devastating consequences for Lucy that may just lead to a final death for both Bee and Lucy. 

Title: Reluctant Immortals | Publisher: Saga Press | Pub Date:2022-08023 | Pages: 320 | ISBN13/ASIN: 978-1982172350 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Source: NetGalley | Starred Review

Reluctant Immortals Review

Gwendolyn Kiste is one of the most consistent writers in the horror genre today. Every book goes to great lengths to ensure the character’s motivations and personal challenges are clearly defined. The stakes are clear and the protagonist’s characteristics often play a role in complicating matters. This helps build and maintain the tension throughout.

Reluctant Immortals starts a little more on the cerebral side than plot-centered. This is to say that the emphasis involves grounding the reader in Lucy’s mindset. We get to know her and her issues and her goals, and that sets the stage for the complications to follow.

And the book may start with a focus on character, but the core plot quickly kicks into high gear. A steady stream of obstacles and unwelcome developments push the story in different directions, making it hard to see how Lucy and Bee might finally gain the upper hand and deal with their abusive exes once and for all.

Kiste excels at sleight of hand with plot and character, making you think things will go one direction and serving up an entirely different response. It’s this skill that keeps you on your toes and keeps Kiste’s stories from being anything but predictable. 

It should be noted that this story involves some famous literary characters, including Dracula (Lucy’s ex), Edward Rochester (Bee’s ex), and Jane Eyre. Readers must divorce themselves from previous presentations of Rochester, Bee (Bertha), and Jane Eyre to fully live in the world presented in Reluctant Immortals. On a purely personal note, I found this difficult. I’m not a big fan of vampire stories. I am a huge fan of Jane Eyre and have read it dozens of times (although not for some time now). Perhaps a re-read would open my eyes to a different interpretation than the one I’ve carried for so long, but I did find it challenging to embrace Kiste’s re-telling because of my pre-established views of these characters.

Ultimately, it’s a testament to Kiste’s skill that I did find myself immersed in the narrative and invested in the outcome and, overall, enjoyed this book. I think whether the book works for others may also hinge on their ability to embrace the retellings Reluctant Immortal contains. Like all of Kiste’s stories, this is a feminist story that centers on the way men abuse and manipulate women, and how women can assert control over their own stories. 

I had a few lingering questions in the end. Overall, however, this is a story I think most Kiste fans will thoroughly enjoy. ⅘ stars. 

Reluctant Immortals (Book, 2022) –

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