The Heartbeat Thief by AJ Krafton
Published: September 18th, 2015 as a self-published novel
Genres: New adult, paranormal, romance, historical fiction, gothic
Trigger Warnings: death (duh), gore, murder, sex (fade to black)
Pages: 329 pgs.
I received a copy of this book from the author and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Haunted by a crushing fear of death, a young Victorian woman discovers the secret of eternal youth—she must surrender her life to attain it, and steal heartbeats to keep it.
In 1860 Surrey, a young woman has only one occupation: to marry. Senza Fyne is beautiful, intelligent, and lacks neither wealth nor connections. Finding a husband shouldn’t be difficult, not when she has her entire life before her.
But it’s not life that preoccupies her thoughts. It’s death—and that shadowy spectre haunts her every step.
So does Mr. Knell. Heart-thumpingly attractive, obviously eligible—he’d be her perfect match if only he wasn’t so macabre. All his talk about death, all that teasing about knowing how to avoid it…
When her mother arranges a courtship with another man, Senza is desperate for escape from a dull prescripted destiny. Impulsively, she takes Knell up on his offer. He casts a spell that frees her from the cruelty of time and the threat of death—but at a steep price. In order to maintain eternal youth, she must feed on the heartbeats of others.
It’s a little bit Jane Austen, a little bit Edgar Allen Poe, and a whole lot of stealing heartbeats in order to stay young and beautiful forever. From the posh London season to the back alleys of Whitechapel, across the Channel, across the Pond, across the seas of Time…
How far will Senza Fyne go to avoid Death?
If you felt you were invincible, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to stay that way? What if the cost for invincibility was a bit more unsettling? In AJ Krafton’s The Hearbeat Thief, readers are treated to a darkly intriguing story with just enough paranormal romance to keep things fascinating. It’s been a few months since I read this book and I’ve had issues finding the words to express my feelings, but maybe it’s because it so thoroughly took my breath away.
The Heartbeat Thief follows Constance — Senza — Fyne, a young woman of English high society who is this season’s most desired debutante. She’s got almost everything — looks, charm, intelligence, and a witty streak a mile long. What she doesn’t have, however, is a grasp on her mortality. After losing both her grandmother and her best friend, Senza realizes that life is too short and she falls into the arms of the mysterious Mr. Knell. This dark stranger steals her heart — literally and figuratively — in order to give her the immortality she so desires. Once he disappears, it’s up to Senza to figure things out: is she truly okay with living forever if it means living alone?
While, usually, I’m not one for enjoying stories all about pining after “the one that got away,” but the way that Krafton chose to relay this story makes it more than your average romantic tale. Even though, yes, initially Senza chose to join immortality through her deep attraction toward a mysterious stranger, she ultimately takes charge of her life. Given that this book takes place from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, what she ends up achieving is great for a woman of that time. After growing up in the lap of ultimate opulence, through her experiences of being immortal, Senza is finally able to learn the error of her ways in being deliberately ignorant of those around her in her adolescence.
Only after all of the self-actualization does she get to be with Knell…but not in the way one would expect. (But I’m not going to spoil that for you.)
Furthermore, I think that this is a nicely inventive take on the typical vampire tale. Instead of having to take blood from others to keep herself alive, Senza has been tasked with occasionally flicking away the heartbeats of unsuspecting people around her. This twist brings a whole new level of intimacy and intrigue into the mix when it’s time for her to start collecting for her life force.
Additionally, I feel that Krafton did a wonderful job in moving the story through large spans of time effortlessly in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a chore. Often books tend to get very clunky when it comes to the passage of time, as if the author really doesn’t know how to show anything but sequential events. At no point during these long time skips in The Heartbeat Thief did I feel like I was missing something or lost.
Ultimately, Krafton is a master of her craft(on), which resulted in a beautiful and gripping twist on the paranormal tropes we know and love. I was enthralled by the character development within our heroine from start to finish. The author’s skill in showing the reader what’s happening, not plainly telling us, made what should have been a difficult concept to write feel easy and natural. I feel as if Senza has stolen not only my heartbeats, but also my heart.
Amazing Pug Scale: