Fledgling has one of the best opening chapters I’ve read in years. I was hooked on the spot as the mysterious narrator tried to figure out what had been done to her. And why. From her descriptions of her injuries (a smushy head with the skull shattered), I knew immediately someone had tried to kill her. I also wondered how she’d survived such a thing, but I chalked that up to the willing suspension of disbelief required of a reader.
But then things got seriously weird.
Given the mystery of who had tried to kill her, I was suddenly confronted with the even deeper, richer mystery of who this mysterious narrator was. And what she was. Because she definitely wasn’t human. I knew that at once from the injuries. When she ran down and killed a deer with her bare hands and ate it raw, I was even more convinced.
Besides having a killer opening, Fledgling also serves to open a whole new world of vampirism that readers will truly never get to see the rest of. As it turns out, the novel was award-winning science fiction writer Octavia Butler’s last book before her death.
Butler was the author of several science fiction books that focused on the relationships humans might have with alien cultures. Her world-building skills were sharp and keenly directed at the social problems that might crop up, as well as the individual’s struggle to remain alive against desperate odds.
Fledgling maintained Butler’s story interests as she explored the world of vampires she created. Obviously from all the backstory she included in the novel, there were plenty of other stories to tell.
Shori Matthews, the first-person narrator of the book, is a stand-out character. Her voice rings true from the first page to last. One of Butler’s gifts as an author was the ability to focus entirely on the character and bring the world to life through that character’s eyes. She did that again with Shori.