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Reviewed by Robin Goodfellow for Readers' Favorite
Parasite Life by Victoria Dalpe is a dark, gothic novel about the destruction love can bring. The book is separated into four parts. The first part, Ars Moriendi, introduces a girl named Jane, who has to care for her sickly mother. She meets a girl named Sabrina, and while she begins to slowly build up a vestige of happiness, she discovers that she is something not wholly human. In Imago, both Jane and Sabrina must find her father in order to determine how she could coexist with normal society. In Momento Mori, Jane realizes just how deep a mother’s love can really be, as well as what it means to finally let go. Finally, in the Epilogue, Jane understands who she is, and accepts herself, despite the death that will come with it.
More often than not, I was perplexed by Jane’s mother. She was ruined by Hugh, who considered her little more than a plaything to him, and yet through it all she still decided to have his child. She knew Jane was a half-vampire, and although killing the child would be a kinder fate, in the end she still chose to care for her. The things she did for Jane were confounding, as if saying she was indifferent to her daughter was just empty words. Sabrina, on the other hand, was a bit purer than that, almost naive. She was childlike in a sense, in that when she discovered what Jane was, she wasn’t harsh with Jane. She kept Jane human. She prevented Jane from drifting off into what was essentially damning her.
Finally, there’s Jane herself, who, at first, appeared to be an endearing wallflower. But the more I found out about her, the more I realized that this story could very well be her fall from grace. I enjoyed reading about her struggle to retain her humanity, as well as her shifting paradigm of the world around her. What's more, I loved the dark themes, the conflicted characters, as well as the intoxicating relationships that stem from two creatures. From a mother’s love, to the manipulation of lust and affection, Dalpe wields that darkness like a brush, as she dyes the otherwise tragic beauty of romance into black.