Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bloodgod –review

Author: Paul Stewart Kemp

First Published: 2001

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: An archaeological expedition to a desert region uncovers both an ancient temple with strange hieroglyphics as well as an old man with a story to tell. Merricah speaks of a creature that decimated most of two tribes, and relays the whereabouts of a magical box that contains the Master of Kar’mi’shah. He has remained in isolation inside the buried temple for hundreds of years, waiting for the tribes to return, and for someone to release his Master.

Jenner Hoard is a thief recently released from prison. Montague, his benefactor, does not want him to quit working for him, and already has two lucrative jobs lined up for an anonymous customer, a deal involving the Blood of the Ancients, and the theft of a mysterious box from an apartment building in London.

Times have never been more desperate for the vampire community living in the darkest depths of London. Alexia is one such vampire who has a brutal encounter with the Howler of Westminster after a butchered corpse is found floating in the Thames.

Human vampire hunters, known as Skulkers, have become more skilful and connected over the years, and find easy prey in those demons who are too careless about their actions. Join Alexia as she struggles to survive in a dark and foreboding world, where even demons suffer anguish, and in death there is still a fight.

The review: When they say never judge a book by its cover, normally they should add or by its blurb. In this case, however, the blurb is actually quite a good précis of the story you’d read if you picked up this, book 1 of the vampire gods of Kar’mi’shah.

The prologue feels almost Lovecraftian, archaeologist in unknown temple, great demonic guardian and mysterious immortals with tales to tell. It is a nice opening but do not be fooled as the book takes on its own shape thereafter. The majority of the book takes place in London and it is a dark, gothic London recognisable and yet eerily different, and the difference is grown within the richness of the prose.

When it comes to human characters our main protagonist is Jenner and he is a well written ne’r do well that we can’t help but connect to. Yes he is a thief, newly released from prison, but within his narrative we grow to like him, almost as a loveable rogue, his dark edges are almost understandable and we can sympathise if not agree with his stance on life.

I said most of the book takes place in London for some takes place in Kar’mi’shah, this is another world altogether. Culturally like Egypt, I’d guess, but an Egypt in a lush and fertile land, it was ruled by vampires who were treated as Gods. After disaster struck, in the form of a demonic creature that decimated the vampire tribes, the vampires fled to our world. One imagines that there was previous passage between the two worlds – the Faraoh tribe are shapeshifters and often appeared to the populace as animal headed Gods, ala Egyptian religion, and Christianity travelled to Kar’mi’shah, but did not get a foothold – however after the disaster most could not return and became refugees in our world.

Other vampires have been created in our world, vampires who know nothing of Kar’mi’shah and, had these been Christian before turning, psychologically they may react to Christian icons in the traditional vampire way. Sunlight is a killer, as is beheading and vampires dust on death – unless killed by the demon creature.

Personality wise Kemp has created vampires who are aloof – they believe themselves to be Gods after all. There is a pathos drawn into their characters but mostly it is for lost Kar’mi’shah and family members and not because they want to whine about their condition.

An excellent dark fantasy, well worth your time and miles from the mainstream. 7 out of 10.

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