I was lucky enough to be offered an advance copy of Jessica Lévai‘s The Night Library of Sternendach, and I mean it when I say I’ve truly never read anything like it. This vampire novella written in poetic verse seems to blend Shakespearean dramatics with a fantasy-infused contemporary vampiric mythos. Necessarily, the verse-based structure prompts Jessica to waste no time in the required world building for such a tale – no mean feat considering it’s not impossible to imagine the same tale retold over the course of a thousand-page epic.
The prose sings through a Romanticist lens, unafraid to take its time when necessary to describe the nuances of some strain of emotional resonance between two main players. Despite my initial struggles to mentally hang onto the elaborate names, the ‘Dramatis Personae’ in the opening pages helped cement the characters in my mind. Once the novella was fully underway, and once I was tuned into the swinging melody of the poetry-infused stanzas, there was no putting the thing down.
The Night Library of Sternendach is a prime example of what the horror genre needs: experimentation, bold melding with other genres and other formats of writing, and passion that seeps off the page.
Jessica Lévai, qualified Egyptologist and professor of anthropology, is one of those infuriating individuals that seems to be hogging more than her fair share of talent. But we can forgive her for this transgression in light of where she’s directed a portion of said talent: this strikingly beautiful novella-in-verse.
Yes, so long as she keeps blessing us with her words, we can forgive her.