Shadows #1

THE SHADOW LORD by Tony-Paul de Vissage In de Vissage's universe, vampires (he calls them aventurieri) eat food and drink wine, they marry, have children, the children grow up, and they squabble. He makes it clear they're mortal humans who've evolved wings. Blood's nice but not that important in this book. And they're living in 1806 and utterly ignorant of the existence of firearms. Personally, I think the great attraction of vampires in fiction is showing how different they are from humans. In Bram Stoker's novel, and most vampire fiction following it, undead vampires have 'families' based on whom they turn. They might have sex but they “reproduce” asexually. It's an infection, a corr

Lost in the Middle of a Series

"THE BEAST" The Decker/Lazarus Series by Faye Kellerman, 2013 I almost didn't finish this book. About a fifth of the way in, I was utterly convinced I knew who the killer was and the motive. But I was a little vague on the exact means so I decided to finish reading the book. I almost wish I hadn't read the rest of the book, though. Despite being well-written, with an engaging plot, and appealing characters, the book is just a single chapter of an on-going series. Kellerman has been writing about these characters and the events of their lives for several books. Being new to the series, I frequently found myself lost with the subplot about Lt. Decker's adopted son and his girlfriend (inte

The Devil His Due

“THE BIG RED DEVIL” by John Huber, 2015 This story follows two men. John Harker is a psychopath, tortured by demons all his life. When he falls into a coma, he's tortured by them for five long years. They change him, making them the instrument of their desires. But Harker plans to turn the tables on his tormentors. The other man is Clint Bandosky, the most sympathetic of the doctors assigned to Harker's case. But he's also driven to study unique cases like that of Harker. And Harker's case is singularly unique, as the man awakes from a coma after five years, walks out the hospital, and goes on a quest to the Dakotas. But after following the story of John and Clint, we're suddenly dumpe

Undead Matrimony

"THE RED BRIDE" by Jeremy D. Hill , 2014 What horror story would be complete without the heroes doing something stupid? In Jeremy Hill's long short story, "The Red Bride", when the heroes realize something fishy is going on at the vampire's mansion, they wait until nightfall to investigate! The teenaged girl, told to stay safe at home, waits ten minutes and then follows them to the lair. But there's a reason for this, albeit a definitely non-European and non-historical reason. In Hill's universe, no one knows anything about vampires! It's definitely a unique vision and frankly a relief from all those stories where the supernatural is so common it's humdrum. The story of "The Red Bride" is se

Vampire Soap Opera

“THE LAST VAMPIRE STANDING” by Tony-Paul de Vissage, 2012 De Vissage and I employ a similar theme in our books, that of vampires warring against one another in hopes of achieving supremacy. So yeah, I'm down with the plot. But instead of following the victor, de Vissage's story is about the loser of the fight, one Vladislaus Chemere. Early in the Fifteenth Century, Chemere attacks the vampire lord Rigla and is buried alive for his troubles. But the heart of the tale comes six hundred years later. What follows is a light-hearted romp about Meredith, whose twin sister Valerie becomes a vampire and introduces Meredith to the denizens of the Night World. Meredith prefers to hang with another

Goth Girl Vs. Monsters

"BLOOD FEUD" by Steven A. Roman, 2011 I've read several things by Steve Roman in the past, both novels and comics. His "Blood Feud" is practically a novelization of a comic book, so here the reader can get the best of both worlds. In the past, I've chided Roman—a little—about slow beginnings in some of his stories. There's a few slow parts in "Blood Feud", but they're necessary to get a feel for the characters and their relationships. But there's nothing slow at the beginning, where we get plenty of supernatural action and several important plot points and characters are established. Still, the introduction of Sebastienne Mazarin in the current day could have been told by showing her in act

Murder Below Zero

"ICE COLD" (Rizzoli & Isles #8) by Tess Gerritsen, 2010 Before reading this book, my only familiarity with the Rizzoli & Isles series was seeing commercials for the TV show, set in Boston. So I wasn't expecting a story set in a ghost town in a frozen wilderness. I really liked the opening chapter, which was not only dramatic but horrifying. The meat of the story is more an adventure than a mystery--for a long time we're not aware of what happened, let alone who did it. I was less pleased with the last few chapters. They were well-written, but they almost seemed like a different story. The adventure in the wilderness ends and then we're shown a forensic examination. It's interesting, but

DRACULA AS LITERATURE

"THE HISTORIAN" by Elizabeth Kostova, 2005 This is more like it... "The Historian" is the tale of a father and daughter drawn together, not so much by love but by fear. It's the tale of a hidden secret, not one but two secret societies, and the danger that comes from learning about them. And the book is about Dracula, so the heroes of this book had better learn about that hidden secret before it's too late. The Dracula of this book is the Wallachian despot, Vlad III, known as the Impaler. But like the Dracula of Bram Stoker's novel, he's a vampire. The story is told primarily at three points of time: 1972-74, 1954, and 1930. These are the stories of the daughter, her father, and the father's

Dracula the Uninspiring

"DRACULA THE UNDEAD" by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt, 2009 First, how dare Dacre Stoker imply that he is the descendant of Bram Stoker? He isn't, either biologically or literally. Screenwriter Ian Holt wrote virtually the entire thing, then hit up Dacre to put his name on the book as a publicity stunt. And I wouldn't care if it was a faithful sequel. Instead, this book consists of 450 pages of pissing on the original. Every chance he can, Holt takes the events of the original "Dracula" and says they never happened. Honestly, would Bram Stoker authorize a sequel that refuted almost every detail he wrote? Not only does this book trash the events in "Dracula", but it has no respect for the c

Eternal Vampires

"THE NIGHT MAN COMETH” by Tony-Paul de Vissage, 2011 The first half of “Night-Man” is a vampire novel spanning the centuries. Beginning during the Plague the book then jumps to the reign of Vlad the Impaler, then the French Revolution, and Charleston in the days before the Civil War. Then comes a bit set in the present day. But it doesn’t stop there. Overall this is a very enjoyable and innovative book, chronicling the “life” of the vampire Damian La Croix. It does have a few technical problems, however. Two thoughts come to mind when reading this book. They frequently come to mind, when reading the works of new authors. The first is Show them, don’t tell them. Instead of having the ch

Werewolves and Warlocks and Wendigos, Oh My!

“THE HOWLER” by Vincent Varvara and Bill Young “The Howler” is a graphic novel by writer Vincent Varvara and artist Bill Young. Set in Toronto, the story follows young Chris Stevens accused of murdering his family. How could a nice boy like Chris do such a thing? It turns out he’s a werewolf—the Howler! But is he really to blame? Especially when we also have powerful warlocks, rampaging basilisks, vile Wendigos, and a scheming uncle in the wings? All these mysteries Chris must sort out—and the Howler must battle through—to discover the truth of what happened that horrible night. It’s a good idea, evoking memories of Marvel’s Werewolf By Night and DC’s The Demon, and even the old Fox TV

The New Dark Ages

"WIND OVER TROUBLED WATERS” by Francene Stanley & Edith Parzefall, 2012 The world we know has changed in a great flood. Well, that’s different from nuclear war or zombies, so I’ll go with it. Within a few generations, the world of today has been swept away and the descendants of the survivors have been thrown back into the Dark Ages. This is Corn World, the last known place on Earth. And Britland lies in its westernmost peninsula. Here we follow Cerridwen, the heroine, as she embarks on a journey across a land unknown to both her and the reader. Cerridwen is a sweet girl, good-hearted, wise in herb lore, and a gifted aura reader. Oh, and she’s the Chosen One. Of course she’s the Chosen

If Dracula Had a Bride...

“CARMILLA—PRELUDE TO DRACULA” by Timothy Baril, 2014 This book IS Le Fanu’s 1872 story, “Carmilla”, line-by-line—except those lines which Baril has changed and a few scenes of action and horror towards the end. I think it would more correct to credit Le Fanu as the author and “edited by, and with additional material by Timothy Baril”. Baril has taken “Carmilla” and modernized the language, making it more accessible for today’s reader. The problem with modernizing a story, however, is that it then loses its place in history. It no longer opens a window onto the mid-Nineteenth Century, its mores and customs. No matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine Lady Mircalla Karnstein saying, “Off to k

"DEAD ISLANDS" by Tim Moon, 2014

You can't say “Dead Islands” doesn't have action. From the opening scene in the streets of Shanghai, to a zombie attack in an airplane over the Pacific, to utter chaos in the Hawaiian Islands, “Dead Islands” keeps moving throughout. Curiously, no one in the early part of the novel seems to be aware of the spate of zombie movies flooding the theaters these days. Everyone's like, “I never heard of such a thing.” That doesn't make the book bad, it just seems odd to me. On the other hand, once the heroes land in Honolulu and get through the authorities, they kinda brush off the whole thing. They act as if tangling with zombies on airplanes is just an interruption of their mountain-climbing.

"The Unsaintly" by Lisa Vasquez

“The Unsaintly” is a work of historical fiction, but with the first portion showing a brace of disputes between God and Lucifer. The first dispute is a friendly argument; the second, a war in Heaven reminiscent of Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. And having been cast from Heaven, Lucifer vows to harm God however he can. In Jewish folklore, Satan may be the enemy of mankind, but he does so as the servant of God. It is the Christian view that Satan is the enemy of God. However, the meat of the story is not about God or Lucifer, but about Isabel, daughter of the king of France. First, her childhood friend, Marco, is attacked by another boy. When Marco kills him in self-defense, he is sent away. La

"The Island Builders" by Steve Peek, 2014

“He had a pretty good idea of where they had gone; the same place seven billion other people had gone in the last two years.” New islands appear overnight all over the world’s oceans and no one knows how they got there. Stranger still, no one can land on them… at least not at first. Then a few people begin disappearing… then more… and more. “The Island Builders” by Steve Peek certainly has a unique concept. It might seem more like fantasy then science-fiction—at first—but the people and entities in the book respond to the phenomenon in a realistic manner. The governments of the world are anxious to claim these New Lands, but the hero of the story, a physicist named Alex Gamble, must lear

Suburban Ghost

Reading Steven Jenkins’s book, “Fourteen Days”, I realized something curious. The concept of this book is that a workaholic man is forced to stay at home for two weeks and the ensuing boredom drives him crazy. To get this across to the reader, the author is required to show the boredom, the meaningless tasks the hero employs to fill time, and the repetition. In other words, to make the reader feel the boredom, the story must show the boredom. Yet Jenkins manages to show his hero’s boredom without making the reader bored. Well, maybe a few paragraphs, right at the beginning. It’s a small sacrifice for the reader and necessary to show the hero’s gradual awareness that things are not as mun

A Tale of Old Scotland

"The Flowers of the Field" is a historical novel, written by Elizabeth Byrd in 1962, and set primarily in Edinburgh, Scotland in the year 1513. The book has two protagonists, first Dame Bess Dart, a common prostitute; and second, the historical Queen Margaret Stuart, the English-born queen of Scotland. Bess is shown first as a prostitute, and then her background reveals her as an innocent country girl who, when she falls in love with the nephew of a local squire, follows him to Edinburgh. Rejected, she learns to survive on her wits and her body until she meets a man who genuinely loves her, Hugh Dart. In her section of the novel, Queen Margaret is portrayed as ambitious and vainglorious,

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