‘Garkain’ rewrites the vampire rule book

A simple DNA test may uncover a very surprising family history.

After sending in her little test tube of saliva, Amelia, an orphan left at the door of a Texas hospital 25 years ago, gets the call she’s been waiting for all her life: a voice on the phone that says, “I’m your mother.”

“Garkain: Book One of the Uluru Legacy” by Anna J. Walner (Silver Dawn Publishing) is a young adult fantasy novel and paranormal romance that changes the vampire rulebook and gives a new meaning to tracing bloodlines.

Amelia learns she has a whole community of relatives anxious to meet her in Australia. Plans are made, a plane ticket is purchased, and she’s off. She’ll finally get the chance to ask, “Why did you abandon me?” But families are never ... uncomplicated.

Arriving in Australia, Amelia discovers that her mother is apparently very rich, and some kind of royalty as well. “With a word she can get what she came for,” as Led Zeppelin sings in “Stairway to Heaven.” In her mother’s case, however, it’s not words; it’s a subtle kind of mind control with the ability to silently convince people to do whatever she wants.

BACKSTORY OF BROKEN RULES

After two nights in an expensive city hotel with lavish room service, at no charge, of course, a private plane is summoned to take Amelia and her mother to meet the folks in the Australian outback. On the way, Amelia learns what kind of royal blood she is. Her mother is a princess of the Garkain family of vampires driven out of Europe, and her father is a prince of the Larougo clan (or is that pack?) of lycanthropes, also hounded to the land down under.

Breaking their families’ interbreeding taboos, they fell in love and conceived a child who had been allowed to live, but only because they were privileged royalty. Amelia had to be sent away, however, and her father was killed for his transgression.

Amelia is given a choice: marry the son of the Larougo leader and bear children that will unite the two secret, supernatural societies, or go back to Texas and forget — literally — everything she’s learned.

After years of flitting between foster families until she found one willing to take a chance on her, Amelia is hungry to find the place where she truly belongs. Her half-sister Michelle (all Garkain) has immediately become her best friend. And Amelia’s Larougo husband-to-be turns out to be smart, kind and very, very attractive — his Tinder profile would be perfect for her.

But what kind of hybrid is she? Her father was human during the night and a dingo (this is Australia, after all) by day. Her mother is a vampire all of the time with a tendency to tan quickly in sunlight. (The Garkains have adapted to life down under as well.) Is Amelia a vampire with retractable, poisonous claws?

DYING TO LIVE

Amelia learns that she must die to find out. Her Garkain colony has gathered in a vast underground cavern beneath Ayers Rock, the red sandstone formation in the middle of nowhere known to the Aboriginal people as Uluru. Here the Garkains will perform the Unbinding, the ceremony that transforms young adults into full-blooded members of their forever family with a transfusion of unbound Garkain blood after a brief interlude of lifelessness.

“Everyone dies once in this life,” says her mother. “You just have to do it once when you’re young, then you live forever.” If Amelia agrees to undergo the ceremony, however, she may become something unexpected; she may become a new kind of monster.

In Aboriginal mythology, a garkain is a batlike creature that overpowers its victims and wraps them in its fetid wings to devour them. Garkain takes ancient myths such as these and moves them into the modern age.

Walner has created a new twist on the genre: a vampire tale without the passages of fear, dread and repulsion associated with the Gothic style, but creepy nonetheless. Vampires shop a lot — Amelia’s mother is quite the fashionista — and mingle in broad daylight. Blood meals are as casual as coffee breaks. The effect is eerie and unsettling, and once readers finally tear themselves from the pages, their return to the real world comes with a jolt.

The second book in Walner’s series, “Larougo,” promises to deliver the same. “Garkain” is currently available for preorder and will be published on June 22.

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