"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 set in some unnamed era reminiscent of Earth's past where people ride in carriages and such. That being the case, the dialog seems too modern. However, as this is some non-historical epoch, a parallel world, no one can say with authority how the inhabitants would speak. Still, it seems odd they have historical (indeed, Christian) names like Mathilda, Nicholas, Elizabeth, Gabriel, and Agnes.
So far as I can tell, there's no particular reason to give this story a non-historical setting. The vampire-preying-on-a-superstitious-villagers motif is well established in European fiction.
There are some nice creepy bits such as when the vampire queen awakes in her coffin and raises her growing army of the Undead. And the big chase scene at the end is dramatic.
But there are weak points as well. Hill's writing could be more refined. While there are no misspellings, the language could be tighter, less passive. The second sentence in the book reads, "The driver was wearing a large black cloak and dark helm that obscured his face." It would be so much stronger to say, "The driver wore a black cloak and helm, obscuring his face."
Or more dramatic. Hill has, "Their grandfather looked older than he ever had in that moment. He looked tired." Instead, this gets a better response, "Their grandfather looked tired; older than he ever had in that moment."
Although the lines, "Sitting in the corner a corpse sat" or "You’ll get yourself kill!" might bring unintended smiles to the reader's lips, the writing is not bad, just unrefined. With a few more stories under his belt, Hill will get over these freshman mistakes and produce some good stories.
Another thing that jars is a goodly number of sentences in which something happens with no preamble. Or they so the conclusion of an act before the act is described.
Still, for a first time story, Hill is off to a good start. With some practice, I have no doubt his next story will be better.