“. . . Lash is a paranormal Scarface—one can see a definite parallel between Tony Montana and the protagonist here, Trystan Valeras . . .”
It’s the second decade of the 20th century with its headlines dominated by gang brutality and urban blight, establishing the context of the plot in real historical events, making Lash even more relatable despite its fantastical overtones.
The book begins with a common enough story: a fatherless boy and his mother struggle to survive in a backwater Florida swamp. But Trystan Valeras is no ordinary eight year old, and his story is no ordinary tale, for Trystan is a weresnake—swamp adder, to be exact—and he’s already been thrust into a world of violence and death to which he adapts much too easily.
With so many vampires and werewolf stories around these days, the idea of a human who can change into a snake may seem derivative at best or run of the mill at worst. Yet it becomes apparent as the story progresses that this shapeshifting skill is anything but.
Trystan can’t exactly be called a hero and often commits villainous acts, making him neither and both at the same time. But by telling the story from his point of view, the author allows the reader to develop empathy with her protagonist, ultimately tipping the scales in his favor and making him a character worthy of an ancient heroic drama.
Running from the murder of the man who tried to rape his mother, Tryst and his brother work odd jobs while Rachel makes a living as a maid. It’s a lonely life since the humans they live among shun them without really understanding why. The story becomes even better when Jared Valeras, Tryst’s father and an enforcer for a local mob boss, returns and takes Rachel and his son away to what will, in retrospect, become the best days of Tryst’s existence.
Soon Jared grooms Tryst to follow in his illegal footsteps. At age 16, the boy is taught how to kill, initiated into the elaborate rules of weresnake sex, and taught above all to avoid human females.
Tryst ignores that last rule, and the first of his many ill-fated affairs ends in tragedy, setting off a chain of events eventually turning the teenager into Lash, the deadly killer, a man with a whip and a full-body tattoo of a snake.
One by one, Tryst’s family is killed in a gang war: brother Franco and his wife, Rachel, the other children Rachel and Jared have, and finally Jared himself.
Now Tryst’s only purpose in life is to protect his surviving sisters. Taking them to New Orleans, he allows his desire for revenge to simmer as he offers his newly acquired skills to Abraham, vampire ruler of the French Quarter, in exchange for his siblings’ protection.
Soon Trystan is immersed in the supernaturals’ turf wars, carrying out Abraham’s orders and wading into a midnight life involving beautiful but faithless women, rival vampires, and vicious weres eager to prove they’re stronger and more deadly than he.
Lash survives it all, aiming for a rise to power few humans, much less weres, ever attain. It’s a lonely struggle to the top and once he reaches it, he’ll find the only way out is straight down . . . but through it all, he continues to seek the one thing he never expects to find . . . love.
To say this is a good book is like calling the Taj Mahal a pretty building. Beyond the supernatural legends lies a paranormal version of the American Dream: the poor boy from the sticks escaping the circumstances of his birth by using his wits and abilities to become a deadly force in his chosen profession. It’s apparent Ms. Hall spent a great deal of time researching and building the world her protagonist inhabits, and that’s one of the reasons this story is so believable—even with such an implausible main character.
Lash is a paranormal Scarface—one can see a definite parallel between Tony Montana and the protagonist here, Trystan Valeras: the powerless rising from pond scum to become an enviable societal figure, the character’s taste for control, the strong familial ties superseding those of marriage and social unity, etc.
Lash is the first in this new series by Tara Fox Hall. Can’t wait for the sequel!