Book Review : Jennifer Loring - Those of My Kind (2015)
"If I give you all the answers, you will have learned nothing. Everything is within you."
The twenty-first century has been kind to supernatural creatures in entertainment. And why wouldn't it be? People need to escape a world that's been gradually more inescapable with every new technological evolution. Invisible realms are interesting because they're both self-admitted fantasies and plausible explanations for the ills of the world. Therefore, it's pleasant to think of them as truths. This is what Jennifer Loring's novel Those of My Kind's ultimately does: remythologizing the world through fiction. I thought the novel was uneven and derivative at times, but it ultimately got the essential of its genre right.
After unexpectedly falling ill, Tristan is told the secrets of her origins at the hospital by her grandmother and is ushered into an underworld populated with otherworldly creatures and hunters, in charge of protecting humans against this invisible threat. Her new friend Blessing helps her understand and control her new condition as they begin hunting for a resurrected demon named Anasztaizia. Tristan is barely starting to settle in her new reality when she meets Mira, a beautiful dancer who reminds her of her pasts and forces her to choose between a new life or power or the quiet bliss she once had.
Jennifer Loring is working really hard at crafting an original mythology for her characters at the beginning of Those of My Kind. I liked how she tied Tristan's Romanian origins to Gypsy folklore and Transylvanian legends. It helped giving the novel a strong identity. Only problem is that it kind of falls flat once Tristan and Blessing start prowling the underworld. Not that Those of My Kind is poorly written or executed, but it gets a little derivative. I understand what Jennifer Loring tried to do. She wanted to write both a character-driven dark fantasy novel, but the characters stop connecting to their supernatural fate at some point. They're just quarreling teenagers who happen to be demon chasers too and I ended up caring about the teenagers more than I did about the demon chasers.
Because this is what I believe Those of My Kind is: a dark fantasy YA novel that strongly emphasizes the YA part. The writing of Jennifer Loring shines when she uses her novel's supernatural setting to introduce themes such as: family abuse, cycles of violence, moral responsibility and identity. The dilemmas Tristan is facing all stem from the revelation of her true nature which is an allegory of the passage to adulthood: you gain powers you only could dream about, but you become the captain of your own ship. After finding out her nature as a hunter, Tristan finds herself alone managing her powers, her bloodlust and more important, her feelings for Mira.
This is what I mean by remythologizing the world. Of course nobody will finish Those of My Kind and believe there are demons roaming the world, but allegories are (and always have been) reflections of real lives to project ourselves in. It doesn't matter if the story isn't true as long as readers recognize themselves in Tristan's dilemmas and her strong moral compass helps them take good decisions. This is what fiction is for and while I believe Those of My Kind was aesthetically derivative and could've been more engaging overall, it ended up being a sound YA novel anyway. I went into Those of My Kind without expectations and I would say it was a mistake. It's the kind of novel you need to read knowing what you're looking for. Then you'll fully appreciate it for what it is.