Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ancient Blood: The Amazon (The Chronicles of Vamazonia) – review

Authors: Jack Franklin & Bob Nailor

First published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: An evil, 500 years in the making, lurks in the jungles of Brazil. Today it wants to be free.

Time has allowed evil to lurk and grow in the jungles of Brazil for over 500 years. Today that evil wants free. What can a young woman do when confronted with the reality of horror? Ana is an anthropologist and so intent on being one with a lost tribe she will do anything, even hunt human prey.

The review: Setting a vampire novel in the Amazon Rainforest makes this tome immediately unique and attractive (even if I am, admittedly, a little doubtful about the vamazonia label, which sounds a little bit off). However it has to be said that this does not entirely draw the book away from the more familiar Balkan roots of the genre, indeed the main vampire – met later in the book – is Ejup Mikić a Serbian who escapes to the new world with the conquistadors. Interestingly the native Itotia, a pale skinned warrior woman, recognises him as vrykolakas – a Greek name for vampires. How she recognised him, or knew the term, is not explored in this volume.

Ejup installs himself as the God of the matriarchal tribe, their lost society based around what appears to be the mythical city of El Dorado, and rumours abound amongst the nearby tribes and river towns of mulher morcego or 'the women who are bats'. Occasionally a body would turn up in the river, a body the wildlife would shun.

When illegal logging reveals geoglyphs and a tower with a golden roof, anthropologist Doctor Ana Carvalho is sent with a team to investigate by the United World Federation. However the UWF is a front for the Order of the High Priest of Uriel, ostensibly a Catholic order but made up of all religions. They know that Ejup is there and this is where the book stumbled a little for me.

Firstly the team seemed, well… unprofessional throughout. The authors answer this later on when Ana realises that they have not been chosen for their intellect or field prowess but their physical attributes. But mainly it is clear they have been thrown into the lion den and given that the UWF director, Gianni Rossi, is (secretly) Ana’s father we wonder why. Surely sending in trained hunters would have been more sensible? Perhaps more of the rationale will be offered in further volumes.

The vampires themselves are old fashioned balls of lust – both sexual and bloodlust. Sunlight can be too strong for them (not a huge issue under the rainforest canopy) and their society (as usurped and turned by Ejup) is matriarchal, with men (bar Ejup who has set himself up as a God) the domestic servants and stud herd. They can turn into bats, but giant man-bat types. Religious artefacts burn and immolation and staking seem to be the chosen method of despatching them. We are shown a vampire hunting kit that includes wooden stakes from the olive trees of the Mount of Olives, the hammer that killed Ejup’s sire and a crucifix that was held in the dying grasp of Saint Francis of Assisi – however it is readily admitted that a tent stake and hammer from a hardware store would do the job just as well.

This was interesting because of the setting and because of the old fashioned, evil vampires. Issues about motivation, as mentioned, aside, it was a good old yarn. 6.5 out of 10.

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