Yardam (Aurélie Wellenstein): A Dark City for a Dark History!

We liked

– Smooth writing and smooth action scenes
– A harsh and dark universe
– Kazan-Nadja-Feliks triangles

We did not like

– Some really unhealthy scenes between disgust and attraction

French-speaking author and recipient of several awards (Prix des Halléniales for The king of the wildImaginales Prize for Librarians for Dead Sea), Aurélie Wellenstein provides us with Yardam (Scrinéo 2020, Pocket 2022, the award for the 25th hour of the Book of Le Mans in 2021) a very dark, sometimes disturbing post-apo / urban fantasy novel in which harsh themes are tackled and treated, such as addiction, isolation or illness of the psyche.

A strange disease prevails in the city of Yardam … Sexually transmitted it allows you to suck the soul of people you kiss, including their memories and abilities. The emptied bodies are nothing but shells strangely attracted to the moon. On the predator side, on the other hand, one must learn to live with more people in mind.. And it is not easy, as it turns out Kazan, the protagonist of the novel, “vampire” and addicted to the siren, a drug that allows him to forget the voices in his head. They will push him to his limit and end up like others of his kind: sink into one suicide madness dragging those around him into death. When the city authorities declare quarantine to limit the disease and ban the entry and exit of Yardam, he decides to flee. But his meeting with a couple of doctors, Nadja and Feliks, who came just to cure the disease, will change his plans and convince him to stay. The goals of these three characters, poles separated from each other, without actually being totally distant, will lead them into Yardam’s twists and Kazan’s psyche for the better, and especially for the worse.

As this brief summary suggests, life in Yardam, completely isolated from the rest of the world, is not the easiest. Between his inner demons and those lurking in the city – and anyone can become what the second part of the novel demonstrates – Kazan has a lot to do. A catastrophic fate generally awaits people who deal with this often ignorant character, with a sad past and more than reprehensible actions. You never really manage to love him; in a way we hate him, just as Felix hates him: the mutual attraction and repulsion experienced by these two characters reflects the reader’s towards Kazan and more generally with many gloomy scenes (orgies, massacres, abuse, etc.). The relationships woven by Kazan, especially with Nadja and Feliks and this immersed in the darkness and human behavior of the psyche, treated without complacency and always with tact for the sake of historyare the great strengths of the novel.

Another great quality of Yardam is its rhythm. The scenes are connected one after the other, each with their own problems and conflict solutions, which lead to the development, in sometimes very different directions, of the characters. The action scenes are very visual and engagingsuch as the very jubilant manhunt in the streets of Yardam, as well as certain scenes where the psychological intensity is at its highest (sexual urges, impending self-destruction). However, this does not mean that the action is ubiquitous, and certain chapters allow you to askmost of the time in the company of the demons in Kazan.

Yardam is an original novel that, like its protagonist, can have a surprising love-hate relationship. Ingeniously told, the story sometimes makes you want to let go of this novel filled with the characters’ mistakes and outrageous actions. But the reader wants to see the result, to understand the ins and outs of this disease and see if at the end of the tunnel light awaits the city and its inhabitants. So what are you waiting for to discover it and dive right now into the heart of Yardam and its winding streets?

At the publisher

where to find it

* A big thank you to Pocket Editions and especially to the author, Aurélie Wellenstein, for the little attention at the opening of this press service.

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