25 Feb 2013

The Farm by Emily McKay [book review]

The Farm by Emily McKay
Written by Emily McKay
Published by Berkeley UK
Paperback - 432 pages
Published February 2013
Copy provided by publisher
Before you roll your eyes at yet another vampire urban fantasy, you've less to worry about. The Farm doesn't deal with sparkles and lovelorn undead (something it makes a very firm point about). The vamps in this book are cold, calculating predators who are slaves to their own hunger. I like this.

The Farm is a post-apocalyptic, modern take on the vampire myth. Genetically modified humans, or 'Ticks' as they're known, have taken over, forcing the youth of the US into camps (the raised hormones of teenagers makes their blood more appetising to the Ticks).

Lily and her autistic twin sister Mel are in one of these camps when they're busted out because it's believed Lily has the power to turn the tide of the war against the vampires.

What I really enjoyed about The Farm was the perspective shifts, and McKay writes each character with a distinctive flair that gets you into their heads straight away. Carter is written in 3rd limited so there's always a sense of detachment but also of the bigger picture. Lily is first person so you're with her with every tear and shout. Mel's is also first person, but McKay uses musical language to show her thoughts as an autistic person. I don't know how accurate her portrayal of autism is, but it is used effectively.

There were a few romantic elements to The Farm, but they were put in the right place and weren't there for the sake of it (Lily has the right attitude and when she gets close to acting like every other female lead in a vampire story, she clears her head and carries on fighting).

My biggest gripe with the book is the mish-mash of vampire myths that were cobbled together. The Ticks are genetically engineered humans, and a lot of their behaviours are explained in a realistic manner. When it comes to the whole 'not crossing holy ground' thing, the realistic approach falls apart and the answer is just "it's something old and mysterious". Mixing the old myths and this modern approach doesn't gel well, and kind of threw me off balance.

Also, the big reveal towards the end of the book was completely spoiled for me blurb at the back of the book. The book spends quite a while building up the tension and mystery behind this power to change the world, but you know the twist so far in advance you're just waiting for it to happen. There's another, smaller turn of events at the climax that was surprising, which made up for it a little.

The Farm by Emily McKay is a breath of fresh air for those who like modern vampire stories. It's fast-paced, tense and has a great selection of well rounded characters. Just, for the love of reading, don't read the back cover beforehand and keep the twist a surprise.


  1. Why would they place a blurb on the back that reveals the big twist? What a shame.

    1. It was very odd, and it's the first book I've read that has done it.

  2. That's too bad about revealing the big twist. Most people wouldn't want to know that, and most blurbs only reveal twists that are in the first quarter of the book. And that's kind of the problem with big twists, that you have to have tension other than just the novel-long buildup to the big twist. :(

    Other than that, this sounds like a really interesting book. I like vampires as a complication in novels, but I generally don't care for the erotic path most of them take. It's so hard to find books that treat vampires as monsters, anymore.

    1. Then give this book a shot :) So long as you avoid the blurb it'll still surprise you :)

  3. Nice reveiew Jamie. I found it fair and you pointed out the good and the bad without skewing either way.

    Nice work and the book sounds pretty interesting.

    1. Thanks Mark; I'm glad that the reviews are balanced :)


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