Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One Blood – review

Author: E. F. Watkins

First published: 2010

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Disgusted with his long, bloodthirsty existence, Jon Sharpay discovers a fresh challenge—the last living descendent of the arch-enemy who nearly destroyed him a century ago. He travels from New York City to Princeton University to hunt down Kat Van Braam, a curator at the university’s art museum.

But Sharpay is also being hunted, by two men: one determined to avenge the death of his pregnant young wife, the other a foreign agent out to recruit Sharpay’s paranormal skills for an international crime organization.

When Sharpay meets the brilliant and beautiful Kat, his plans for her expand beyond mere revenge. Kat is also drawn to “Dr. Sharpay,” the mysterious Eastern European scholar, until she learns his true nature and identity. She fights his enslavement of her will and vows to succeed where her ancestor failed—to keep this creature from ever harming anyone else.

But will Kat be undone by her own “Sympathy for the Devil”?

The Review: One Blood is a bit of an odd fish, with an entirely familiar but rebadged background and some interesting lore. You see, the background is Dracula

Imagine a world in which a book regarding a vampire was written by the hunter, Elias Van Braam – in other words Van Helsing – who led a band to try and destroy a vampire who, when human, was a voivode known for his terrible cruelty. Imagine the book was taken as fiction by most of the world and the character became a major iconic figure.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad way to build the background, and by changing the name – Sharpay is a pseudonym meaning serpent – the author almost avoided the baggage associated with using Stoker’s creation. Of course we recognise the character but I liked the main lore change. You see as much as Van Braam came close to destroying Sharpay he also got lore wrong. He assumed the strike into the heart and neck killed the vampire, when he simply dissolved into dust (as a cunning disguise) and floated off. That isn't an original concept, it has been mooted as an idea before. However, the actual lore change I liked was that he does not feed on blood, but life energy – it is just that blood is the perfect medium through which to channel that energy. It is possible, therefore, with the right donor for him to achieve a stasis where the two perpetuate each other - the human as positive and the vampire as negative.

When someone is being fed on, if they should bleed out through an accident they will turn. This can be avoided if he had released them by removing the psychic connection before they died. In Van Braam's day he released the woman he was connected to (Mina) to fool his attackers into believing he was dead. However there is an incongruity here as he takes great pains to ensure another does not taste of his blood – why is not actually explained but one suspects that it would make the relationship more permanent and yet… didn’t Mina drink of his blood? Of course one could argue that such an act did not happen in this universe and yet knowing Dracula makes it impossible not to think it, especially as the cover bore a noticable resemblance Dacre Stoker and Ian Holm's 'sequel' to Dracula, Dracula the Un-Dead, and so suggested a brand.

All that said, I have no real problems with authors making sequels to Dracula, generally, even when the original is not mentioned. The main issue I had with the book was that I felt it couldn’t make up its mind as to whether it wanted to be a book of supernatural espionage with a dose of horror or an urban romance. Certainly the two main characters seem far too perfect, something I suspect is born of the romance aspect, and the evolution of Sharpay into a tortured being who wants to do good in the world despite his condition’s making a necessity of a parasitic lifestyle sat ill at ease for me.

That is not to say that I disliked the book. It kept me reading, certainly, and I would certainly read other books by Watkins. However, I wasn’t too sure with regards the character direction in this book. Others, I am sure, will have less of a problem with the more romance orientated aspects. 5 out of 10.


Christine said...

I love good vampire romances - yes, Clarimonde and even Bram Stoker´s Dracula the Movie - but I am unsure about this. Watered down Dracula sequel? I have always been uneasy with vampire-hero-rapes-tortures-and-kills-and-you-should-sympathisize-because-he/she-is-sooo-hot storylines. Yes, yes, I´m a wimp...

Epona said...

Don't worry, Christine, this isn't one of those sadistic-romance stories. And there is an explanation for the apparent "vampire baptism"-vs.-psychic release contradiction in ONE BLOOD. Once a victim has drunk Sharpay's blood, she will become a vampire if she dies at any time under any circumstances (not just from massive blood loss). Even if he intends to release her eventually from his influence, he might not be in time. With Mina, Dracula had time to psychically release her, and found it expedient so that the men pursuing him would believe he had been destroyed.