Review of "State of Grace," short story by Tara Fox Hall

It's true that few of us would choose the life of a zombie, mindlessly consuming every moving thing in sight as we rot and shrivel with decay. It's also true that few of us would choose to become a ghost, dolefully watching the comings and goings of the living, unable to touch, to breathe, to feel them in a physical way. But, if given the chance to become a vampire, I think most of us would bite. Vampires make our pulses quicken: whether they are the velveteen figures of Anne Rice or Bram Stoker, or the violent monsters of Stephen King, we don't care. Not the hunters. Not the hopefuls. The real, blood-drinking, neck-biting fiends. Vampires are timeless because they are immortal. And the vampires in these pages may just come back to bite you in the end. These are stories you can really sink your teeth into. Promise.

In “State of Grace,” Tara Fox Hall writes about a rebel vampire and his human compatriot as they rail against the practices of the local vampire brethren. Thankfully, Hall avoids the cliche “forbidden love” angle between her main characters and focuses instead on her daring duo’s attempt to stick it to The (Undead) Man.

Hall’s vampire hero is a teenager and the author is successful in making him feel and sound as such to the reader. Likewise, her human heroine is young and acts accordingly. Sadly, she vacillates wildly between being a tough, spunky broad and a hopelessly inept girl in need of saving. This type of female character, brash enough to run the show but weak enough to constantly need the help of a male companion, has always been a pet peeve of mine. Still, Hall gives her main players enough personality to be interesting and slips the reader just enough background for us to see them as complicated, believable characters.

Stories like “State of Grace” walk a fine line. Right now, vampire stories are incredibly popular. The upside is that people want to read vampire literature. The downside is that it’s hard to write a good one that will set itself apart from the crowd. While Hall’s “State of Grace” is entertaining enough, there is no sophistication to Hall’s writing. The transitions between scenes are often disjointed, even confusing at times, and the author’s writing style seems parroted from what she thinks fantasy fiction should look and sound like.

Though the story is sprinkled liberally with scenes of violence, they feel so forced they fail to have much impact. The author clearly wants to show the brutal nature of her characters’ world, but the scenes read like the violent content descriptions on IMDB: man is stabbed and blood gushes forth, man is beaten with a chain, etc. Likewise, Hall makes a few anemic efforts at creating romantic tension, but they are oddly placed and feel like an afterthought.

In all, the story is amateurish and awkward but not un-entertaining. It has elements of originality and character development that are promising, and for lovers of vampire short stories may be worth a look.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet

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  1. I haven't read this particular story, but I am a big fan of Tara Fox Hall - it is HALL, by the way, not HILL - and am amazed that anyone can find her writing amateurish. I think she is an accomplished writer with considerable talent. I'm going to track this story down now and try to ascertain why you gave it such a mean review.

  2. All,

    I am familiar with Tara Fox Hall as an author and very much apologize to her and all our readers for munging her last name. Please accept my sincere apologies!

  3. Hi Aubrey. Apology accepted, in regards to my name. Please find my comment below. Sincerely, Tara Fox Hall


    It’s a given fact that all writers will get bad reviews in their lifetime. Some of those will be deserved; a work unpolished, a first effort not reworked sufficiently, or simply bad grammar, etc. But some of those won’t be. The crux hangs, of course, on the reviewer. It is their opinion which flavors the review, making it either praise or condemnation. That is as it should be. Yet I make this plea on behalf of all writers, everywhere: Take one last look, and make sure that you meant all that you said.
    There is no age limit I know of to be a reviewer for most review sites. If you run your own blog, there is no criterion at all that must be met. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that blog sites are less than qualified to judge what books are worth reading, or that they aren’t entitled to speak their views. I’m saying that anyone and everyone can be a reviewer, or post a review. This is not a bad thing, in and of itself. The more reviews any item has, the more information those looking to buy have at their fingertips. But when anyone can say anything about anything with a few clicks, it makes for almost no responsibility on what is said, or the fallout that will follow because of the review that is written.
    I admit to being guilty of “passionate reviews” in the past. I have read books that were awful; who hasn’t? I have been angry at writers that wasted my time, or led me up to a climax that fell flat. Not all books are of five star quality. Part of the reason I began writing was because I longed for a story that no current writer provided. But there is a fine line between being honest, and being cruel, just because you can. Please know the difference.
    No writer I have thus met throws together a piece, and sends it off. Some writers spend years perfecting a novel, or just a short story. We attend workshops, we join critique groups, we do whatever we can to hone our talent, to make what we produce the best it can be. We are always trying to improve, to write a better story with each new idea. Why then, is there so little respect given to an author who has spend countless hours giving you that book you have spent, at most, several hours reading?
    Publisher writers are not amateurs in any sense of the word. I haven’t chosen this often grueling career with the sole intent to get rich. My goal is to give you, the reader, a tale to hopefully make your life a little more exciting, a little more romantic, or a little more thrilling. If I disappoint in that lofty goal, I apologize. It certainly wasn’t my intention.
    This is my plea, dear reviewer: take one last look, before you hit enter and seal my success or my doom with your words. Think about how you would feel as you read the words you have written, if they were aimed at your work. I’m not asking for you to give me a five star review, or change your opinion. Just give one last look. There are ways to critique that encourage, not discourage. If your goal is simply to warn potential readers concerning inadequacies in my work, push send. If your aim is to not only give your opinion, but also to motivate me to do better, then take one last look. Give me not just correction, but inspiration.

  4. I have not read this particular story. But please do know that Aubrey and I are very careful when reviewing. We do take the time to examine each story individually. I, personally, have given both low and high ratings to the same author but different works on this very blog.

    Aubrey does specifically point out with examples what she likes and doesn't like. Her comments are consistently directed at this particular story, not the author's work as a whole.


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