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Book Review: The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

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As I've become older, I think I've become more jaded. Rarely does something come along that surprises me in fiction. Susan Hubbard's The Society of S surprised me.

In The Society of S, writer Susan Hubbard took me into the mind of a 13-year-old girl. Not just any 13-year-old girl either. Ariella Montero lives in a Victorian mansion in Saratoga Springs, New York. Isolated by her father, Raphael, she gains a classical education mixed with the natural sciences. She is tended to by their housekeeper and cook, Mrs. McGarritt, who isn't a very good cook at all but takes good care of Ari. And she wonders about her mother, who left them when Ari was a baby.

Now casually toss in the concept of Raphael being a vampire and Ari possibly being at least half a vampire, and you begin to get a bit more appreciation for what Hubbard has done with this book. As a less than normal teenage girl, Ari wants to see more of the world and feel more like she fits in somewhere. Though her father resists, Mrs. McGarritt finds ways to get Ari out of the mansion and to the McGarritt family home for the occasional visit, dinner, or sleepover. That's where Ari meets Katherine McGarritt and gains her first real childhood friend.

It was the little details that sucked me in. I felt as though I was inside Ari's head as she wrote the words of the book as a journal. The conversations with her father, with Katherine, with Michael who becomes Ari's first boyfriend… all written with an elegance that makes you feel a part of the story. Even when Ari hits the road Keroauc-style to find her mother — whom she's never met except through the stories told by her father — you take part in her journey from New York south to Florida as she discovers her vampire nature and talents through trial and error.

The Society of S evokes some aspects of Anne Rice's vampires, but from the perspective of a child as a young woman and not as the child vampire Claudia with the lusts of an adult woman trapped in a child's body. We're not there yet in this book with Ari. She is 13. Older and wiser than Claudia and not thrust into the world of Lestat and Louis. I have not yet read any of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series of books, nor seen the movies, but they seem to deal with a more teenage angst approach to the intersection between the mortal world and that of the supernatural. So far, though there has been some angst, it has not been quite as dramatic as a Twilight movie trailer.

The writing, story, and characters within this book work beautifully. Hubbard has done an amazing job crafting The Society of S into a compelling narrative — enough so that I now must read the 2nd book in the series, The Year of Disappearances. Be sure to check them out before the next book — The Season of Risks is released in July 2010.

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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!
  • Good review! I finally got around to reading this one when a friend told me that I was mentioned in it by name…which turned out to be true, to my great surprise. They’re intriguing books, although I find the mature-beyond-her-years Ariella to be not entirely convincing. I’m pleased to hear that there will be a third book, though, and I will certainly read it!

  • @Inanna Arthen – That’s funny you were mentioned in the book – I saw your name and did a brief double-take. 🙂 Personally I was spellbound by the writing, which was amazingly well done. And with the first book we’re introduced to a different world of vampires and mortals than we’ve seen before. We’ll hope that Hubbard’s writing stays this strong through the 2nd and third books.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Just stumbled upon these reviews. Wow. Thank you!

  • @Susan Hubbard – Thanks for stopping by. 🙂 It’s easy to say nice things when the material is great!