Review by Brennan LaFaro
Gathering my thoughts on this book, it was tempting to say O’Regan explores an oft-overlooked trope in desperate need of more stories, but that’s not exactly true. See, Celeste is a vampire story, and I didn’t realize that until after it was over. Comparing it to vampire horror fiction may be a slight in the eyes of some, but when an author tells the story of an immortal being who survives by feeding off of others (adoration in place of blood here) and manages to avoid falling into the age-old clichés every reader associates with a vampire tale? That’s a feat.
The titular Celeste has lived about 200 years, first in America, now in the UK, replenishing her youth by enchanting the lives of men, feeding off their desire of her ageless beauty. Complicit and reaping the benefits of immortality is Celeste’s familiar/servant, Clive. The two share a symbiotic, if abusive, relationship that O’Regan explores in bits and pieces throughout the story. It makes for some of the more complex and intriguing characterization in the book.
The two men who experience different sides of Celeste’s wrath/indifference are Paul and Sam. While Paul is painted as a sympathetic love interest, Sam and his girlfriend Marianne exemplify the type of victimization Celeste imparts over the years to retain her youth. The storytelling is effective in providing modern day examples of the cost of living. This setup pays off in dividends toward the end of the story.
O’Regan focuses more on Celeste’s abuse of power than the origins of the villainess. While the source of her immortality is explained, I would’ve liked to spend a little more time there. Of course, that is personal preference and ultimately doesn’t impact the resolution or create any plot holes.
Clive Barker calls O’Regan’s work “beautifully-crafted” and “elegant”. Celeste fits into that mold wonderfully. Marie O’Regan has crafted a story that dances across time and plays on our fears of helplessness in a way that might remind readers of Dan Simmons’ Carrion Comfort. A picturesque example of power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely.