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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

The Selection But Make it Vampires: A Review of The Pageant by Leigh Walker

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

Happy one-year anniversary, RHRML Blog!

The Whose Line is it Anyway? cast playing in balloons raining down on them.
Happy birthday to my blog!

Oh my goodness, this is so exciting for me. I honestly am in shock that I’ve been running this blog for a full year already. It truly doesn’t feel like it! Gosh, I don’t even know where to start.

I guess I’ll start with: hi, hello you dear reader you! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. If this is the first post you’ve come across then hello, welcome to Reading Has Ruined My Life. My name is Hannah and I am the creator and writer of RHRML; you have stumbled across my one-year anniversary post. If you are a returning reader than hi, hello; welcome to this surprise post for the blog’s birthday.

Scene from The Office where Michael is spraying champagne.
It's a celebration today!

Boy, oh boy, do I have a treat for you today. But before we get to that, I just once again want to say thank you for reading this blog. It means the world to me that someone is actually out there reading my reviews and giving me the time of day. Seriously, thank you so much!

Now that the mushy, gushy stuff is out of the way (but seriously thank you), it is once again time to descend into the madness of my mind and review another book with a healthy amount of both self-deprecating and dark humor.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby cheers-ing.
Grab a drink and buckle up for today's wild ride.

This time last year I wrote a review on Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I briefly entertained the idea of reviewing the second Percy Jackson book, but then I stumbled across a book that captured my attention and would not leave my mind.

Today I bring you a book that many of you have likely not heard of. Today I bring you a review on: The Pageant by Leigh Walker.

Book cover for The Pageant by Leigh Walker.

What is The Pageant you may ask, well my dear reader, let me tell you. The Pageant, published in 2018, is the first book in Walker’s Vampire Royals series. At this time there are seven other books in this series that have been published with another book set to be published later this year.

Now, let me just give you the official synopsis of this book. Word for word, it is as follows:

Who’s the fairest of them all?
Young women from every settlement in the land are being handpicked to enter The Pageant, a contest reminiscent of Miss Universe from the old days. Gwyneth West’s social-climbing mother wants her to compete, but Gwyn isn’t so sure…
The Pageant is government-sponsored. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen, participation is mandatory. Aggressive competition is allowed, even encouraged.
And then there’s the prize…
Dallas Black, otherwise known as The Dark Prince, will propose to the winner. Dallas is the son of King Black, who won the last world war and governs the new settlements.
The Royal Family is mysterious. Rumor has it they don’t sleep. Rumor has it they eschew the sun.
Rumor has it they’re immortal.
When Gwyn is thrust into The Pageant, she fights to survive the competitive nature of the other contestants.
But even if she wins…can she survive a vampire fiancé?
Count Dracula from Scooby Doo.

It’s basically The Selection but with vampires. Alternatively, it’s basically Twilight, but make it The Selection.

Katy Perry putting a fancy crown on her head.
Break out your tiaras, folks.

You see where my attention was grabbed. I needed to read this book right away. And now, you all get to enjoy my review on this book.

From a technical standpoint, this book is horrible. The dialogue is clunky; I haven’t read dialogue like this since I thought I was going to be an actress and author and tried to write a novel back in middle school because I thought I was amazing at everything. In short, it’s not great. It’s cheesy, the grammar isn’t great, the romantic scenes are forced, our main character goes from hating the prince to being in love with him and back again in the span of a sentence. Like I said, it’s not good.

Jonah Hill shacking his head and hand no.
Not good at all.

I’m not here to drag anyone’s grammar through the mud though. Lord knows my grammar needs a lot of help as well. Commas? We aren't friends. I’m just here to talk about the book as a whole. I’m here to state my thoughts and opinions on the book in question. But I can’t go on without mentioning the technical/grammar aspects of this book are not up to par with really any other book or short story I’ve covered on this blog.

Despite these technical issues, I couldn’t put the book down. The Pageant is a bit of a mess. It’s not a train wreck, I would say we’re a step above a train wreck. We’re certainly at a dumpster fire though.

Woman dancing in front of a dumpster on fire.
I am very familiar with dumpster fires. I'd say we're friends at this point.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order for the remainder of the post.

Let’s talk about these characters now. Our young heroine is Gwyneth “Gwyn” West, her once wealthy family is now forced to sell whatever finery they have left to survive. Her mother believes that her eldest daughter can pull the family out of poverty if she can just be selected for The Pageant and marry the prince.

Character from Gossip Girl putting a tiara on.
Sounds very familiar.

Gwyn isn’t excited about this idea, but she’s willing to go through with the plan if it means saving her family. This all sounds very familiar to me. But unlike another heroine I am thinking of, Gwyn is much more likely to follow the rules. She cares more about saving herself and those she cares about than challenging the world around her.

She believes what she’s told without question for quite some time. By quite some time I mean all 18-years of her life. Part of Gwyn's character arc is questioning everything she’s been told and what she believes in, but in the beginning of the story Gwyn just comes across as naïve and a tad stupid. She’s supposed to be 18-years-old, she’s lived through a massive war, starvation, and is living in poverty; she’s had plenty of life experiences to mature her past her years. Yet she basically lives in a bubble. Whatever her mom says goes. Rumors and gossip don’t go past the trivial affairs of the people around her. She’s not out here having any intellectual conversations.

At one point in her life, Gwyn was told that history books didn’t exist anymore and just went with it. No questions or cares given. History books don’t exist and she’s fine with that. She doesn’t feel the need to study her country’s history in any capacity. She, along with the rest of the population, also believe that the royal family just so happen to be vampires. Again, no questions asked, she just believes it; we’ll talk more on the vampire aspect of the book in a little bit, but more about our heroine first.

Anyway, Walker has created a bit of an idiot with Gwyn. I hope she gets a better character arc in the later books, but in The Pageant I can’t help but roll my eyes at her. There’s naivety, and then there is being an idiot; Gwyn certainly falls into that latter category. By the end of The Pageant, I still don’t have a positive impression of the main character.

Leo Michele giving a fake smile in Glee.
Very disappointed in our heroine.

Our other main character is the dark prince himself: Dallas Black. Basically he’s a fairytale prince but he’s a vampire. That’s it. Seriously, that’s it. He’s presented as compassionate, kind, open-minded, gentle, and an all around good person.

Prince Charming from Once Upon A Time.
He's a vampiric Prince Charming.

He’s automatically smitten with Gwyn. He’s so smitten he may as well cancel the rest of the competition because you automatically know that he’s going to choose Gwyn and not just because she’s our narrator and main character. Just kidding, you can only tell he’s going to choose Gwyn because she’s out main character. Other than one odd comment about Gwyn smelling fantastic, there really isn’t any reason given as to why Dallas is so head-over-heels for her.

As for his motivation for going through with this competition, all that’s said is he wishes to unite the country his family took over. What he’s looking for in a partner is unclear, and it is questionable if his only motivation for the competition is for the betterment of the country or not. While I’m fairly positive Dallas is a character who is true to his word and is an honest person, his niceness makes me not trust him because I’m so used to the super nice characters actually being some kind of double-agent/two-faced character.

The only other character worth mentioning is another woman in the competition by the name of Eve. She is another young woman who was chosen to be a part of the competition and is the second competitor from the settlement Gwyn is from. While Gwyn is reserved and follows the rules, Eve is out to make trouble for the royal family.

She wholeheartedly believes the royal family are vampires, and she’s not afraid to call them out. She doesn’t like the royals for many other reasons as well, and she lowkey wants to kill them. Well she’s actually not too subtle in her hatred for them, she would totally kill them the first chance she gets. Vampires, in Eve’s mind at least, are trash, they are filth, they are the scum of the Earth. Nothing can make her change her mind on them…until she gets turned into one on the first night she’s in the palace.

Female vampire showing her fangs.

Hey, I told you there was going to be spoilers ahead. But Eve’s change of mind is so sudden. Gwyn has virtually no arc in this book while Eve has an arc that would traditionally take multiple books to make.

Walker treats the vampire element like race. Humans do not understand vampires and their struggles. The public doesn’t understand the issues vampires endure nor do they understand the needs vampires have. Eve hates them because they aren’t like the majority of the population. Sure, she certainly has a change of heart, a very sudden unexpected one, when she’s changed but there is no nuance to it. Eve could have had the best character arc in the story if her arc was more than being turned into a vampire.

There should have been more internal conflict. There should have been more disgust in herself if she truly believes vampires to be the scum of the Earth. While this story is not from Eve’s POV, the scenes Gwyn shares with her friend post turning should have been full of emotional turmoil. Yet Walker gives us nothing.

Viola Davis taking her purse and leaving a room after being disappointed.
Make your character arcs better, Walker!

Stories on race are always relevant. The vampire race issues are the most interesting thing in this story. It would be even more so if this was what the focus of the story was on. Or, ya know, if the general public in this book knew for certain the royal family were vampires.

Yep, you read that right. The royal family keeps the fact that they are vampires a secret. The public seem to know that the royals are all vampires, or they at least speculate their rulers aren't human.

Like I said, the vampire race aspect of this story is the most interesting and could be really well done if treated correctly. But it’s so unclear if Walker intended for the public to wholeheartedly believe the royals were vampires without any proof or if this belief was just a widespread, wild rumor used to insult the royal family and was intended as nothing more.

Some of the side characters met in this story seemed to believe the royals are vampires; just look at Eve. And there are others who just thought the vampire thing was a massive rumor. This book could have been elevated greatly if it was made clearer what the public truly believed about the royals.

Woman rolling her eyes.
Try harder, Walker. Please, try harder.

Like I said earlier, this book needs edits; a lot of edits. The dialogue is clunky, Gwyn is very hot and cold when it comes to her feelings for Dallas, and it just in general needs a lot more streamlining.

This book was branded as a supernatural romance. I expect the romance aspect to be well done, but this one isn’t. My knowledge of the romance genre is much more limited compared to other genres, but I still know when something is working.

So far in this series, Dallas hasn’t done anything to prove to me that he truly loves Gwyn. He’s certainly interested in her, but I would say that’s in a more lustful way than a romantic one. For as much time as the two spend together there really isn’t much to suggest the pair want to be a couple.

Gwyn is incredibly hot and cold when it comes to Dallas. At some points she’s ready to marry him after knowing him for a week or two at most, and other times she’s completely disgusted in him and wants nothing to do with him. He’s saved her from harm in a few instances but that doesn’t suggest that he’s desperately in love with her; it just shows that he’s a decent person and won’t let harm befall someone around him. I need something more in this relationship.

Miriam Shore rolling her eyes.
Please, give me something! Anything!

From what I’ve learned of this series, there are two more books about Gwyn and Dallas before Walker begins writing from a different woman’s point of view. I’m sure the pair’s relationship will blossom significantly in those two books, but there isn’t anything that truly makes me want to root for these two to get together. This isn’t a star-crossed lover scenario, nothing is keeping them apart, the only issue is if the heroine really wants to be in a relationship with lead male character.

Man shaking his head.
How many eye roll and shaking head gifs can I include in this post?

I don’t want to read two more books where that’s the only conflict. I want more than that! There are promises of more issues arising. There are rebel groups trying to dethrone the royal family. The public don’t know for certain that the royal family are vampires. There is also a throw away line about werewolves. Gwyn’s father and older brother have been MIA for a few years after disappearing during the war. There are many plot points for the future books of this series. It’s just saddening that the first book isn’t as action pact as it could be.

With all that said, The Pageant is intriguing. Are there many faults in this book? Yes. Could I just be intrigued because I just enjoy the dark royalty aesthetic? Most likely. But something in this book makes me want to read more. So much so that I’ve already ordered the next two books in the series.

Dark Royalty Core Aesthetic
Look me in the eyes and tell me the dark royalty aesthetic isn't breathtaking!

This is going to be a three-part series on the blog. I ordered the next two books the day after I finished the first book. As I’m writing this my order has indeed been shipped so I’m just waiting for them to arrive; I am very excited. Expect this series to be finished by the end of the month or the beginning of February at the latest. Get ready because I can only imagine what trip we’ll be going on together.

Linda from Bob's Burgers being excited.
Get excited!

I don’t typically make predictions on what will transpire in book sequels, I’ve only done this once before on the blog, but I really want to do that for this series. I expect in the next book Gwyn will learn more about where her father and brother are and what they have been doing for the past few years. I expect one of them to be a vampire as well because why not. I specifically anticipate her older brother to be a vampire guard in the palace. I also expect Gwyn will become a vampire herself; although I imagine that won’t happen until the third book prior to the couple's marriage; she’ll still be human for the entirety of the second one.

Werewolves will also make an appearance. I get the feeling that the human population in the settlements will have to push aside their fear/dislike of their vampire rulers so they can team up to fight the werewolves. This will lead to any and all racism towards the vampires being solved. If that last point actually happens, it will be its own can of worms that we’ll discuss in a later post; hell, that might be a post in and of itself. I get the feeling my ramblings about this book series will get longer and longer the series goes on. Just be prepared, y’all.

As far as The Pageant goes, I’m going to end my review here. I’ve written six pages thus far and I’m a little scared to see how far I can go with this review. Thank you all again so much for stumbling across this blog and actually taking the time to read my reviews. Cheers to one full year!

Betty White toasting with a giant glass of red wine.


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