by Stefan Petrucha
Reviewed by I.E. Lester
Vampires always used to be killing machines, blood thirsty demons who, despite a certain amount of charm when in human form, were serious bad guys. The last few decades, possibly starting with Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, have seen a change.
Vamps have become more sensual, more brooding and are viewed now as victims themselves--at least to some extent-–human beings possessed by a demon forcing them into committing brutal acts to satisfy the bloodlust. In essence they have lost the total out and out fear factor. They have gone young-adult forbidden love romance. Vampires are now officially cuddly.
For this book that’s a tremendous shame. For, had it come out in the days before Twilight (and so many, many others), it would have had a greater impact.
Jeremiah Fall is an unwilling vampire, his life as a puritan farmer, father and husband in seventeenth century Massachusetts having ended when he encountered the beast that left his family dead and him infected.
But the high morals of his religion still hold great sway over him and he struggles against the beast within him, holding off the need to feed as long as he can, all the time knowing it’s only a temporary victory. So, when he hears of a possible cure for his disease, he sets out to find it, only to be dragged into a human war and a vampire apocalypse.
Cue a country-hopping supernatural romp with plenty of violence, both mundane and demonic, magicks, legends of Atlantis-style lost cities, and romance.
Even though the author’s played the vampire mythos pretty straight (drinking blood, immortal, not being sun worshippers), there is much in this that is quite original. For one thing this is not set in the current day. Jeremiah is a soldier of fortune fighting on the Egyptian side against the invading French army of Napoleon. Petrucha’s inserted a great deal of history into his story, sometimes seamlessly but unfortunately sometimes not.
This gives the book an interrupted feel. You can imagine the characters standing around, twiddling their thumbs waiting for the history lesson to end so they can pick up the action again. But some of these historical insertions are inspired--for one the discovery of an ancient stone tablet containing spells written in Greek and Egyptian has wonderful parallels to the Rosetta Stone discovery during this same period. It’s just they are, at times, overdone.
When I first picked this book up I have to admit to having been very wary. The cover hints as Dark Fantasy or Historical Romance, a style I am no fan of. The picture of a mysterious dark warrior type complete with blood stained sword doesn’t scream Vampire novel to me. It is though, and a pretty decent one.
And it’s a great relief to not have Twilight-style vamps, the kind you could take home to meet Mom and Dad.
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