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 corruption.
But by presenting us with human vampires, de Vissage has the opportunity to show us their humanity—both good and bad. On one hand, the evil aventurieri nobleman Mircea Ravagiu slaughters much of the rival Strigoi clan; on the other, the noble Marek Strigoi adopts a human baby and tenderly raises it as his own.
But Marek is also the prince's assassin, charged with hunting down and slaying those who break aventurieri laws; first and foremost, the law against mating with a mere human. So, of course, Marek himself falls in love with a human woman and risks impregnating her. Actually, that's the least of the aventurieri laws to be broken.
Turns out there are more hidden secrets amongst the Strigoi clan than a soap opera. More plotting and scheming, too.
As with Count Dracula or Fu Manchu, the evil Mircea Ravagiu, is a more interesting character than the hero, the (relatively) benign Marek Strigoi. Mircea plots and schemes, he commits murder and torture, he lusts after his own daughter, all with relish.
I saw in an interview that de Vissage intends “The Shadow Lord” to be the first in a series of NINE books. Hmm... Has the first book in the series so excited my interest that I would I read eight more books about these characters?
Ouch. Maybe if Mircea was the main character. Marek is kinda mundane.
Still, this first book in the series has a good plot. Towards the end the action, the scheming, and backstabbing become very exciting. The fate of Marek is handled with relish.