All That Glitters by Aislinn Kerry – review

Rating: 3/10 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Title: All that Glitters
Author: Aislinn Kerry
Genre: Gay Romance / Paranormal
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Price: US$3.50
Warnings: Graphic m/m sex, violence
Summary (from the publisher): Running from a nightmare…falling into the arms of a monster…

Kynan Pritchard has come to Paris to start a new life, one free from the gruesome nightmares—and the accusations of insanity—that have plagued him from childhood. He’s used to a hard-luck existence, but when a stranger comes to his aid, he thinks maybe that luck is changing. Aneirin is strong and brave, everything that Kynan wants to be. And Kynan falls for him. Hard.

But Kynan’s nightmares are about to become reality, and not even Aneirin can protect him from the monster who’s stalked him across the continent. The gwrach-y-rhibyn threatens everything—Kynan’s life, his sanity, even his love for Aneirin.

To defeat her, Kynan will have to risk becoming the very creature he hates.

My Review: Coming primarily from a horror background, I can tell you one thing: vampires are a hard sell to any market. The thinking behind that is that the subject has been done to death, pardon the expression, and unless there is some new take, publishers are pre-disposed not to like it before they’ve even read word one. I, on the other hand, have never really subscribed to that concept. I’ve seen authors take really interesting spins and breathe new life into an old, old literary staple, and so I tend to seek out vampire stories. So, when “All the Glitters” became available for review, I wasn’t hesitant in the least to read it and was actually looking forward to it.

Well, it turns out, it isn’t a vampire story at all. It is a gwrach-y-rhibyn story, the gwrach not really being a vampire, but rather a monstrous Welsh spirit more in the Banshee family. Not knowing much about this particular piece of folklore, I was even more intrigued and dove in.

We meet Kynan as he sits in a seedy Paris pub and is stabbed by those ruffians who have even less than he and who are more than willing to take what little he has left. Coming to his aid is an enigmatic stranger in the form of Aneirin, strong and apparently fearless as he tosses the roughs about as if they were rage dolls. Kynan is awed by him, and when he awakens later he find himself in Aneirin’s bed, his wounds having been dressed, he is not displeased at the thought of sharing the company of such an alluring man. The two become lovers, though they hardly know one another, and over the weeks a bond grows between them. But Kynan’s nightmares of a past horror haunt him, ultimately leading to confessions from Anerin and an encounter with the gwrach that threatens to destroy everything.

“All that Glitters” starts out on a promising note, with a distinctive, appealing rhythm, an easy, fluid style, and an atmospheric setting in the dark underbelly of the Parisian world. The author has a good eye for the details of the surroundings in which she has placed her protagonists and has created two distinctly different characters with a lot of appeal. Throw in an over-abundance of sex and you would think you have all the ingredients for as sure fire, darkly erotic romp.

For me, however, after the initial introduction of the character and the brief action scene, the Author’s choice of first-person point-of-view and the use of the present tense to tell the story began to unravel the intriguing set-up. Very quickly into the piece, we become embroiled in Kynan’s inner monologue and, unfortunately, the story and Kynan’s character suffer for it. Now, I actually am a fan of inner monologue in literature as it can often serve to draw the reader more fully into the story. In the case of this novella, so much of the story becomes Kynan pondering on how he feels and how Aneirin makes him feel and how he thinks Aneirin feels, the story becomes more tell than show, and a down-on-his-luck character quickly begins to overstay his welcome. The present tense doesn’t help this problem, keeping us embroiled in his inner turmoil to such a degree that instead of drawing us closer to empathy, we are pushed away as his initially appealing character becomes terribly effete.

A large portion of the story also relies on the non-communication of characters. Non-communication is a very tricky thing to pull off for any author. Do it right and it can build suspense and passion and an emotional connection, not only with the reader, but between the characters, as well. Let it go on just a little too long, and the readers will find themselves drawn out of the story. Initially, the author handles it well, but in time, the non-communication starts to wear thin and we wonder what it is – other than sex – that keeps these two people together. By the time I got to the revelations of what has brought both of these characters to their respective points in their lives, I found myself no longer able to sympathize with either of them.

I do think this author – and this piece – have great potential, and there are a number of turns of the word I found appealing and intriguing. Unfortunately, the basic premise of the piece is undercut by a structure and POV that actively works against the story. Kerry’s passion for these characters is clear, and I have no doubt that she has created a full world and background for each of them. I just wish I had seen more of it on the page.