★★★★ I am Simon is the fifth entry in Bridget McGowan’s Dark Faery series. The story centers on returning character Simon Mallow, expanding on his history prior to being turned into a Vampyre. After a mysterious plague strikes Simon’s Faery clan, numerous families are left with lost loved ones, including the chief druid, Kimbredon, whose daughter had a fledgling relationship with Simon. In his grief, Kimbredon seeks to blame Simon for all the death and ultimately murder him, but a dark Faery named Malory intercedes on Simon’s behalf and spirits him away. Now among the Vampyres, Simon embarks on a new path that is greater than dark versus light, or good versus evil. His music and leadership could very well be the bridge that the dark Faery need to finally find peace with their light brethren.
As always, McGowan’s work is striking in its originality. While the well of folklore from which McGowan draws inspiration has been drawn from again and again over the years, here the author tempers familiar tropes with her own personal creative touches. Vampyres, for instance, are members of the Faery, meaning they appear as diminutive figures rather than the hulking monsters so ubiquitous among urban legends. The characterization is brilliant as well, showing how Simon’s motivations evolve over time, shaping his new life as a Vampyre as well as the people around the him. Truthfully, the story can feel a bit unmoored at times. For one thing, it is difficult to picture where the story’s events take place, as the Faery are described as inhabiting multiple islands, but there geographic relation to each other is a bit hazy. Still, for a story as sprawling as this one, readers will find plenty of quality worth sinking their teeth into.