Book Reviews

The Truants by Lee Markham Book Review

hell no book review

  • The Truants.
  • Lee Markham.
  • 251 pages.
  • Horror / Vampire / Fiction.
  • My Rating: Hell No Book Review.


Book Blurb:

Contorting the conventional vampire narrative into a startling tale of immortality, blood lust, and rage contaminating London’s inner-city youth like a virus, The Truants tells the story of the last of the old-ones—creatures afflicted with a condition not unlike vampirism: ancient, bloodthirsty, and unable to withstand sunlight.

The last old-one has decided to end his life, but before he can act he is held up at knifepoint. His assailant disappears, the knife in his pocket, the blood of the old-one seared into its sharpened edge. The knife trades hands, drawing blood again, and the old-one is resurrected through his victims’ consciousness and divided, spreading through the infected. With his horde of infected youth, the old-one must reclaim the knife to regain control of his soul. But someone is out to stop him…

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

!!!Spoiler warning!!! Whilst I try my best to always stay away from spoilers, this review will contain a couple. I’m a fantasy fan, particularly the grimdark sub-genre and as such, I like dark, visceral, violent, grim and bloody tales. I have become accustomed to them and nothing much really bothers me while I’m reading, gaming or watching TV/film. Saying that however, there are a couple of instances in The Truants, near to the very start that unsettled me and I feel need mention.

Firstly, I abhor cruelty to animals in real-life and it’s one of the things that I don’t like reading about or watching, in The Truants there’s a part with a pet dog, the owner, a drug-addled hoody wearing crackhead chav by the name of Ste kicks the dog twice during the course of a couple of pages, it’s only a very small thing and the dog is a vicious and nasty canine but I immediately thought ‘piece of scum/bastard/filth‘ it served no purpose other than to show the lowlife as the thug he is and it was unnecessary violence. You might be questioning how something so trivial can be an issue for me when I read books with battles full of visceral combat and decapitation. Simple, fantasy is not real, cruelty to animals is and I’m a believer that anyone who hits a pet deserves it back tenfold. I guess we all have things that we disagree with and don’t like to read about when reading and this is one of my only triggers.

Secondly, and this was the major issue for me, that same drug-addled chav crackhead has a girlfriend and child (Donna and Peter). Living in a flat that resembles a den of depravity, the child is neglected and abused, the poor two-year-old is left dirty, soiled and alone in his squalid room whilst the adults get high and watch porn, I guess my thought that these sort of people watch Jeremy Kyle was wrong! Sadly, just like the abuse of pets it’s something that occurs regularly in reality, especially in the type of settings depicted in The Truants, a lower class, tenement style council estate full of scum (no offence is meant as the residents in The Truants regardless of their station and whether they live in multi-million pound mansions or a council flat are not decent and upstanding citizens, they are the dregs of society and the social underclass).

From the blurb you will have read the mention of the knife that the old-one wants to get back, the hoody (yes, another drug addled smackhead) who stabbed him goes to the flat with the child to get a hit of drugs from Ste, his supplier. Unbeknownst to the adults, the child ‘Peter‘ creeps out of his room and cuts himself on the knife which has fallen out of the chavs pocket. Peter starts to cry, making a noise and disrupting the adults, especially Ste who’s cooking up the other chavs hit of drugs. Due to the interruption and just because he’s a bastard Ste hits him in the stomach, Markham describes how Peter toddles back to the room, realising that something inside is damaged, broken and that he can’t breathe, then laying down to die. Ste murders his two-year-old, let’s not bandy words and use terms like ‘accidental death‘ or shit like that a grown man punching a two-year-old, the outcome is sadly inevitable. It’s an integral part of the story as the knife cut and subsequent death allows the old one to enter and take over Peter but damn, it was uncomfortable reading!

I’m fully aware that a story about vampires is going to be dark and that there will be unsettling moments and that is my point about me being a grimdark fan, I read gritty and grim books ,often containing copious amounts of grisly bloodshed and death on an epic scale and yet these two occurrences in The Truants, especially the death of Peter made me feel really uncomfortable. If they make someone like myself uneasy who is accustomed to violence and harsh events in books, then those of a more delicate disposition would find it even harder and upsetting to read.

I’ve found The Truants a hard book to review and that’s why this resembles more a collection of my thoughts than a coherent well-structured review. I have to admit that I considered not finishing the actual book after Peter’s death, it unsettled me, it was uncomfortable to read and I stepped away from the book for a few days while I considered whether or not to continue reading, putting the book down and asking myself do I want to read any more? The book itself is only around 250 pages and I’d read the first 50 pages which is one of the main reasons why I continued and finished the book, due to its short length and I decided that I wanted to see where the story went, I also doubted that there would be any further scenes that were quite so chilling than the murder of Peter and I was right. If The Truants had been 400 or more pages in length then I can’t say that I’d have completed the book, it would have been too long and too many pages to get through after the heinous events at the start. As it was, with The Truants I will steal an apt phrase from Magnus Magnusson and say it was a case of ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish‘.

When you get to the end of a book, if the book has been great throughout and you find the ending to be a disappointment, it somewhat sours the whole experience of the book as it’s what you are left with, the poor last impression. Likewise, if a book isn’t particularly great but the ending really pulls it all together, it improves your thoughts overall on the book as the last thing you read about, you enjoyed. With The Truants the ending for me was irrelevant, it could have been the best book ever written but I couldn’t shake what had happened back in a few paragraphs in the initial 50 pages. When I got to the ending and had finished it was still the beginning that was playing on my mind.

I’m being negative with this review, I know that, but I’m just being honest and I’m also trying my best to not be needlessly negative. I always try to look for the positive aspects in a book I didn’t like, to counterbalance the negative and there is some good ideas in The Truants. The very beginning is an interesting concept that is written well. The old-one sat on the bench waiting to die, Markham does a good job of depicting the thought that it’s a simple thing to kill yourself and die but it’s far harder to work up the courage to actually do it. It’s after the old one has been stabbed that for me things went down hill, those two events I’ve mentioned soured my reading experience and are my lasting impression of the book, harsh but unfortunately, it’s true.

I kept the scar though. Scars are sacred.

Markham is a decent writer, I liked his style, the pacing in The Truants is fast and the story flows well. As you follow the knife’s journey, trading hands from one person to another you find that Markham is good at describing the lower class society of the UK and evoking a bleak setting and tale. The old-one refers to humans as ‘rats‘ and with Markham’s writing you can’t help but think that it’s a valid view of the present-day state of humanity and the gutter it dwells in.

The Truants is also deep, it’s not just a vampire novel but it is a very interesting take on the whole vampire mythology, a Twilight sparkly vampire the ancient old-one is not and I enjoyed the dialogue and outcome between the old-one and the original vampire late on. At times the whole vampire part is very understated, playing a secondary role to the books more harrowing aspects and about halfway through you realise that the book isn’t a vampire book, it’s a dissection of the poverty, neglect, teen gangs and knife crime culture that are rampant and rife within the UK.

Burn the world to the ground? Why ask ‘why’, when the real question is ‘why not’?

The characters featured are not a likeable bunch, though The Truants isn’t the type of book with good guys to root for and villains to hate where you should at least find some characters to like. On the whole, I couldn’t empathise or even sympathise with any of them, if the book was meant to make me question whether it is societies fault for how they turn out, does that make me bad that I didn’t feel for them? The only character I felt anything slight for was Danny, an unsuspecting young victim of knife crime but even he wanted revenge on the youth who stabbed him (he was stabbed with the knife that contained the old one’s essence, so was turned into a vampire). We are told in real-life by everyone in every type of media that revenge is wrong, it’s not a good thing to want and it isn’t innocent. If Markham really wanted us to care for Danny and see the good in him he should have considered changing that Danny wanted revenge and had him forgive the youth. Maybe I’m reading too much into it and he only wanted revenge due to the influence of the old-one, but I think it would have worked better for the story and the character if Danny had simply forgiven the youth. Markham could have shown the old-one that not every human is a worthless rat and both the old-one and us readers that there is forgiveness in the world, a small bit of light in the dark. Something along the lines of ‘every day for the rest of your life, you will have to live with what you did to me, you took my life, make yours count, I forgive you‘ I just think it would have shown the goodness and innocence in Danny better than him wanting revenge, just letting it go, which he does in the end. I just think a conversation between Danny and the youth who stabbed him would have had that emotional pull, that for me, the book had been sorely lacking throughout. Though the ending does bring us a little hope to the forefront after the darkness of the near entirety of the book.

With Pokemon you’ve ‘gotta catch’ em all‘ and with books you ‘can’t like them all‘ and this is one I couldn’t like due to the events at the beginning. They stayed with me throughout the reading and even as I write this Peter’s death still makes me uneasy with part of me thinking I should have stopped reading after that, going on to something that I’d have enjoyed more instead of spending a week struggling through the following 200 pages. But, a small part is also glad that I endured to the end of The Truants as it’s an informative and unique if somewhat disturbing look into the degradation and underbelly of modern society.

Remember, this review is only my own opinion, The Truants currently has 12 reviews on Amazon UK that are all 4 or 5 stars and what one person dislikes, another might enjoy. I appear to be the odd one out, so maybe it’s just me! If anyone else does read/has read the book then I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts!

Markham, I do think that you are a talented author who knows how to tell a story and I will wish you well with future books, unfortunately, The Truants just wasn’t for me.

Purchase The Truants:

Amazon UK  /  Amazon US

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33 thoughts on “The Truants by Lee Markham Book Review

  1. I’m going to be reading this soon, so I’m glad for the heads up about the animal cruelty. I’m a huge animal lover so that doesn’t sit too well with me. But I am curious to see if I enjoy this more than you did:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you do enjoy it more than me, most people going on other reviews have so it could just have been me!

      I just found the animal cruelty unnecessary, it was a flat of drug addled chavs, obviously the dog wasn’t going to be well looked after and mistreated, just didn’t need to be written about, it didn’t even have the effect of making the character unlikeable as I already thought that, just pointless to me.

      The author does have a decent story to tell though and is a good writer but this just wasn’t for me, as I said at the beginning of the comment, I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Outstanding review! I am often asked why I won’t read/review thrillers/grip lit etc when I’m happy to read all the fire and murder that comes with fantasy and you hit it here, there is a big difference between the real world and a fantasy world. I’ve seen and experienced things in the real world that I don’t wish to relive every time I open a book, not to mention that I completely agree with you that animals and kids are a no go and even in fantasy I would struggle with these lines being crossed. But the fantasy world the violence etc feels different because there is a definite sense of separation from the real world.

    Totally loved this review but will definitely not be reading this 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      I can’t abide violence to animals, especially dogs it’s a no no and was just unnecessary in the book, it’s wrong anyway but a few authors use animal cruelty to make you dislike a character, no need for that here as already knew the guy was a c#nt!😂

      The child scene really got to me though, it is weird with the countless deaths in every fantasy book, not to mention the visceral blood letting and dismemberment but one child, with an innocuous punch, no, it felt wrong.

      I’m glad you agree about fantasy and real-life and there being a difference between the two, it’s true and people don’t seem to get it, a fantasy world is just that, it’s fantasy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So , Lemme get this right – You are a book blogger , and you got the book for free from the author , and despite the book having good reviews elsewhere you reviewed it negatively? Damn those Facebook Anti-book-Blogger Trolls are going to be real confused now .😉😅

    Also I can totally understand the unbearable-ness of animal cruelty , I have also always struggled with the countless Horses killing in fantasy books .Luckily for me I haven’t read a book with cruelty on Dogs , coz I don’t think I can handle that .😱

    Also glad you finished it , and went with my motto of “I have started it and will finish it” 👍🏼

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, horses in fantasy, they do seem to be fodder for killing in the books!

      I’m a dog lover and can’t abide it, it was unnecessary, a council flat, drug den, chavs, it was obvious that the dog would be mistreated, no need to mention it in the book.

      Ha, yeah, I got the book from the publisher, for free and then wrote a negative review! Also going against the positive reviews!

      It’s what we do Rash, we review honestly, be it positive or negative, those trolls can do one who think otherwise, I was honest with my review, tried to find the positive to go with the negative but the book just wasn’t for me.

      Oh man, I only finished it because it was short, it it had been a 600 page fantasy book then I doubt I’d have bothered.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, it’s not a book I would really choose to read, though I can read some darker stuff, but knowing what’s there especially the animal cruelty would be a massive no for me. But great review and nothing wrong with disliking a book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I do enjoy a fresh take on the vampire legend, but I think I will be giving this one a miss most definitely. I fall into the category of having a more ‘delicate disposition’. I can totally understand why the animal and child cruelty made for an uncomfortable read. Both are very real issues in society and animals and children – fictional or not – are innocents, undeserving of the hell some sick individuals put them through. Authors hold an incredible power; they’re able to create entire universes and it makes you question why they’d want to fill such a place with the cruelty rife in the real world, more so when it’s unnecessary. So often, we’re helpless to prevent real life cruelty and reading graphic fictional accounts of it makes us feel that helplessness all over again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, both are very real issues in society and that’s why they were included in the book, lots praised it but for me, no. Sniggers at ‘delicate disposition’.😂 I don’t really have that, grimdark fan and happy to read blood and gore and countless killing but it’s fantasy and this was realistic violence and there’s a difference between the two and for me, no, it made for uncomfortable reading, we all know that stuff goes on, don’t need to read about it, I abhor cruelty to animals, especially dogs, though I don’t have one myself now I am fond of dogs – the animal, not the other sort!😂 Just wrong, maybe if it added something to the story then yeah, people would understand but it didn’t, it was obvious that the character was vile and then killing the kid a couple of pages later, just seemed to cross the line into too realistic.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, you can get a good grasp on a character’s personality without pointless violence that doesn’t aid the plot. Dialogue – the way the speak about other people or to them – can easily get that across to a reader.
        I get you. There is a difference between fantasy violence and realistic violence. I’m a massive animal lover – proud guinea pig momma right here – and find when I read books that contain graphic descriptions on animals being abused, I get upset because I think of how cute, sweet and cuddly my own pets are and how innocent and dependent on me they are. I just can’t imagine what kind of person would want to betray an innocent creature’s trust like that and books that get me thinking like that take the enjoyment out of reading, whereas with fantasy violence, you don’t really have a real life equivalent to compare it with. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a centaur get punched in the face…plus in all books I’ve read with them, they’re assholes anyway, but still. You get my point haha

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh well, obviously I can’t say I’ve seen a centaur get punched in the face now can I?? I’ll look delusional!😂 But no, I’ve seen plenty of various hags, witches, crones, goblins, boggarts, dwarves, ogres, a sarcastic ass, a veritable plethora of other fantasy creatures but never a centaur getting punched in the face!😂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful review, Drew. As you know, I’m far more of a wuss than you – and this is one I’ll be giving a miss. While I hate the idea of the dog being kicked – for me the huge problem would be the toddler sitting in its own filth… I read for enjoyment and escape – and as you mention, this is too grittily realistic:(.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, the toddler in their own filth was bad, the abuse on the toddler and his death was the worst, just no, it crossed the realm of decency for me. Add on the dog abuse, which served no purpose at all other than to show that the character was vile (which was already obvious anyway), nah, too gritty and while I’m happy to read thousands dying in visceral gore in fantasy, this innocuous little death was too gritty and realistic and felt uncomfortable reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We all draw the line somewhere – thank you for clearly defining exactly what your limits were, as it gives me an accurate insight as to whether I would enjoy it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I love your honesty, Drew. I find it hard to be honest when I review indie books because they have worked so hard to put them on the shelf, and they are wrapped up in them and in their readers. I have to agree with you about the animals and the death of Peter. Both are inexcusable. Very out of line. Thanks for visiting my blog, by the way. We all spend so much time on our blogs that it’s great when someone discovers it and likes it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’m always honest in my reviews, occasionally a bit blunt but I try my best to give both the positive and negative when reviewing, especially for a book that I didn’t enjoy, after all it’s only my opinion and would be unfair to just rant about the bad things.

      Animal cruelty is a massive no for me, it’s not something I’ll read, I deal with it in fantasy but then again I like darker fantasy, particularly grimdark with plenty of killing, visceral blood letting, etc but in this book, one child’s death, it just seemed wrong, fantasy and fantasy violence is just that, it’s fantasy but this was too realistic and some people won’t have a problem with it but I did and I can only offer my opinion on those issues.


  8. ah bummer… I was hoping this was going to be a really super duper vampire book… pity it didn’t work for you… I do like the sound of how author manages to put the real life society’ into the pages but overall- if there is nothing good in terms of emotion or relief to be taken away from the book, I’m usually disappointed as well.. not saying that everything has to be happily ever after but somewhere along the line the could be a bit of balance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I was hoping it’d be good too, the premise sold me as interesting and as you say using today’s society within the story but no, sadly just not for me, can’t like them all unfortunately and this one wasn’t for me. The first 50 pages did me in, just uncomfortable reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That was a solid review. What struck me was how often you mentioned you were uncomfortable with the story line. But the reason I won’t be picking up this book is that there were no characters to like, sympathise with or care about. I can’t be reading s book with no one at all to root for. Thanks for being an honest reviewer

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I mentioned being uncomfortable quite a few times as it was true!😂 Many many years ago back when I was a child I used to watch 18 rated films so I’m accustomed to violence in films, books, video games, don’t have an issue with it, I love grimdark fantasy and it contains copious amounts of visceral violence, etc but the child’s death just made me uncomfortable, I guess fantasy violence is fantasy violence and child abuse is realistic and that’s why it did affect me. But, it was what I took away from the book and it was what I kept asking myself, do I want to read this? I decided to finish but the book just wasn’t for me, the characters were a big part too, I need characters to pull me, care about and hate and sadly this book didn’t have them.

      I did try to offer the positive feedback to go along with the negative in the review but it was hard.

      Thanks, I am an honest reviewer.😀


  10. I really appreciate your honesty in this one! I read a ton of dark stuff that can dive into very sensitive topics, but I think this is a total pass for me. I would most likely spend my time yelling about said “drug-addled chav” and how he deserves a swift kick or two. I do not always mind disturbing content, but cannot handle such characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always honest in reviews is me, always honest.😂

      There’s sensitive topics and then there’s sensitive topics and this fell into the no no for me, damn uncomfortable reading that seemed to be used to shock the reader which it did but it could have been left out, I know it’s today’s society (especially in the UK) but nah, too realistic and I’m damn surprised that no other review mentioned it! I mean I watched 18 rated films when I was 10,I like violent films, games and grimdark has copious amounts of visceral killing so I’m accustomed to violence in reading and media and it made me uncomfortable, I guess I’m just weird as it didn’t bother anyone else.

      Can’t like all of the books and this just wasn’t for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ahhh.. sorry to hear the disappointment and all the uncomfortable moments you’ve had throughout this book. That “drug-addled chav crackhead” sounds awful and I guess I understand how his behaviour were unsettling and unnecessary to your eyes. Sucks that this book didn’t turn out as great as we’d hope it was. Thanks for sharing your super honest thoughts though. No better way to approach it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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