A small vampire child regains consciousness in a dark cave with no memory of her life beyond her current state of excruciating pain. We are introduced to Shori, a 53 year old vampire with the appearance of a 10 year old; she is badly burned, with a cracked skull, and an insatiable hunger for blood. We learn alongside Shori about the vampiric world which Octavia Butler has created. Butler’s vampires have used genetic engineering to combine vampire and human DNA to create Shori, a vampire which can remain awake during the day and tolerate sunlight due to Shori’s dark skin.
As a part human, black vampire, Shori’s very existence sets off a chain reaction resulting in the death of her entire family. Fledgling follows Shori as she re-learns what it means to be Ina (Butler’s race of vampires) and as she seeks revenge on those who have slaughtered her family. Butler has woven existing vampire culture with new characteristics of her own creation. A large portion of the novel is devoted to the relationship between Ina and humans. Each Ina has a number of human symbiots, humans which live with the Ina in a polygamous relationship of sorts. The Ina feed from their symbiots, protect them, even have a sexual relationship them.
The problem a lot of people have with this novel is Shori’s outward appearance of a child while she has multiple sexual relationships with her symbiots. I personally tended to age Shori up in my mind whenever this semi-frequent scenes occurred. I continued to read the novel because I genuinely enjoyed the world which was created and was eager to learn more despite the uncomfortable child sexuality.
I’ve read that Fledgling was intended to be the first in a series that was unable to come to fruition given Butler’s untimely death. Fledgling isn’t a cliff hanger, it certainly has a stand alone conclusion/ending (without gaping unanswered questions like some novels *cough* *Girl With The Dragon Tattoo* *cough*). I would have enjoyed this novel a lot more without the child involved sexual acts especially since vampire world Butler constructed is so interesting.