|Cover artist||Jon Gilbert|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Publisher||Seven Stories Press|
|Publication date||8 September 2005|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Pages||352 pp (hardcover first edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 1-58322-690-7 (hardcover first edition)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 22|
|LC Classification||PS3552.U827 F47 2005|
The novel tells the story of Shori, who appears to be a 10 or 11 year old African-American girl, but is actually a 53 year old member of a race called "Ina", or vampires. They are nocturnal, long-lived and derive sustenance from the drinking of human blood. Though they are physically superior to humans, both in strength and the ability to heal from injury, the Ina depend on humans to survive. Their relationships are symbiotic, with the Ina's venom providing significant boost to their humans' immune systems and extending their lives up to 200 years.
The story opens as Shori awakens with no knowledge of who or where she is, in the wilderness and suffering from critical injuries. Although she is burned and has major skull trauma, she kills and eats the first animal that approaches her. A construction worker named Wright picks her up on the side of the road, and they begin a vampire-human relationship.
While staying at Wright's home, Shori feeds on other inhabitants of the town, and develops a relationship with an older woman named Theodora. Shori and Wright return to a burned-out, abandoned village near where she woke up to learn more about her past. They eventually meet Iosif, Shori’s father, who tells her the burned out town was once her home, where she lived with her sisters and mothers. They also learn that Wright and Shori’s mutually beneficial relationship makes Wright Shori’s symbiont. Furthermore, Shori’s dark skin is the result of genetic modification with which the Ina were experimenting to make their kind resistant to daylight; all other Ina are white-skinned.
Later Iosif’s settlement is burned down like Shori’s home was. Shori and Wright meet the only two human symbionts who survived, Celia and Brook. Shori adopts Celia and Brook as her own symbionts, though this is initially uncomfortable for all of them as symbionts become addicted to the venom of one particular Ina. The four flee to another house that Iosif is known to keep. When they are at this new house, they are attacked by several men with gasoline and guns, but they escape.
The group travels to the Gordon family settlement, where they are welcomed and guarded by human symbionts during the day. These guards capture three new attackers alive. The Gordon family interrogates the intruders and finds that they were sent by the Silks, another Ina family. The Gordons suspect the attacks on Shori are motivated by disdain for the genetic experimentation that created Shori.
The Gordon family calls a Council of Judgment on Shori’s behalf. Thirteen Ina families and their symbionts come to the Gordon settlement to discuss the Silks attack on Shori. While the Council is happening, Katharine Dahlman sends one of her symbionts to kill Theodora, Shori’s symbiont. So in addition to issuing a punishment the Silks, the Council must also punish Katharine Dahlman. The Silks have their sons taken from them, to be adopted by other Ina families. Thus the Silk line will die out. Katharine Dahlman is sentenced to have her legs amputated. However, she refuses this punishment and is consequently executed.
- Charles, Ron. Love at First Bite at The Washington Post, October 30, 2005.
- Doctorow, Cory. Octavia Butler's "Fledgling": subtle, thrilling vampire novel at BoingBoing, January 17, 2006.
- Gates, Rob. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler at Strange Horizons, March 6, 2006.
- Cheuse, Alan. Posthumous Sci-Fi: Octavia E. Butler's 'Fledgling' at NPR, February 23, 2007.