Tuesday, April 23, 2024

V. Castro’s Immortal Pleasures Has Heart But Leaves Much Desired

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V. Castro’s newest novel, Immortal Pleasures, follows Malinalli—better known as La Malinche. This historical figure has a controversial reputation and Castro does not shy from that. Liberties are taken with her story, though. Namely (as far as I know) the real-life La Malinche was not a vampire. Malinalli has lived a long time, and she’s ready to tell her story. You can hear it yourself starting April 16, 2024, when it arrives from Del Ray.

Okay, I’m going to start with the good. I think the heart of this novel is really strong. Malinalli is striving to reclaim the artifacts of her people. It has been her mission for centuries by the time this novel begins. In this, Immortal Pleasures is deeply anti-colonialist. The pride she has in her culture and her people is a strong thread through the story. And it is made more poignant by the woman Castro chose to reimagine for this tale. 

La Malinche’s history is explored throughout the novel, so if you don’t remember (or never learned) this particular lesson, you won’t be missing context. For better or worse, Castro makes sure her point is driven home. And that point is largely that the things you are forced to do to survive are not who you are. Yes, La Malinche is famous for being a traitor to her people due to her forced role as translator. But Malinalli—the woman behind the infamy—was a woman in bondage. Another special touch: Castro did not use the name the Spanish gave her. 

So yes, at its core, Immortal Pleasures is a powerful story. My problems with it reside in what is around that center. This book is a romance. A very explicit one. And some of those descriptions… I really could not take them seriously. The vulgarity, I am sure, will feel empowering to other readers. I am simply not that reader. And the more.. aquatic imagery was a choice. A choice that took me by such surprise I won’t forget those particular sentences for some time. So in that way, it was pretty effective. 

Immortal Pleasures by V. Castro
Immortal Pleasures by V. Castro

Outside of that, though, the romance arc was not one I particularly vibed with. This is not really a spoiler, as it is in the description, but there are two love interests. I wouldn’t classify this as a love triangle, though. I believe I see the personal growth arc that I assume was the intent. But the execution of it felt rushed and made it seem a little cheap. They just don’t play off each other well. I think an arc like this could work in romance, but only if the first relationship was already in the past. That would create less of a repetitive feeling, and at least to me, not cause the value to be lost based on the direct comparison to what comes after.

The last thing I want to address circles back to the historical aspect of this novel. Malinalli is not the only real-life figure re-imagined for this tale. Unsurprisingly, Hernán Cortés is present in these pages. He is pivotal in our heroine’s story, after all. And as established earlier, so is her culture. Certain heroes and deities from the Aztec Empire also make an appearance. And so do a few other recognizable names. One in particular really caught me off guard. Again, I do see why. I just was not a fan of the execution or the inclusion. It was an interesting turn of events, to say the least. 

This book may not have been for me, but it might be for you! If you have enjoyed V. Castro’s work before, I definitely recommend you check it out. This book does have a lot to say, and Malinalli’s history is not one to forget.

Photo courtesy of publisher.

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