Friday, April 26, 2013
First Published: 2012
The Blurb: As his moment of death looms Dracula suffers the ultimate betrayal. The champion of the Catholic faith in Eastern Europe realises it is Lucifer who is coming to claim him. However, Lucifer does not want his soul. Instead he bites into Dracula's neck and then offers his own blood to drink. Dracula suffers his mortal death. But he re-awakens. Immortalised with Lucifer's blood coursing through his veins, the two are bound by blood for eternity. But Lucifer has groomed him for this day. He lays out the task before him. Dracula is to destroy the institution of that which he has championed for so long. By bringing down the Catholic Church he can undo the Crucifixion and turn man against God once more. If he succeeds then Lucifer will ascend again to Heaven and signal the end for all mankind.
The Review: When I looked at Volume 1 of the Dracula Chronicles: Bound by Blood I looked at it in a honourable mention article. I did so because Shane KP O'Neill is a friend on facebook. However Shane messaged me and suggested that perhaps the author being a friend shouldn’t preclude a review and, in the spirit of that conversation, I have decided to look at such books/films in review format and see how it goes. My pledge to my readers is that I intend to be honest about the product.
Bound by Blood was split into two volumes due to length and, honestly, I am glad it was. Not because I am against long books (being a veteran of authors such as Tad Williams, George RR Martin etc) but because I think this half didn’t quiet sit squarely with the first half of the book.
Historically it follows Vlad Ţepeş as a vampire through Saxony in 1517 and influencing the birth of Lutheranism, through the battle of Pavia in 1525 and on to the Court of Henry VIII and the schism between England and the Vatican.
The trouble was, I’m afraid, that where the first book was brutally violent in parts (a violence I welcomed) this volume felt more historical and less vampiric (despite the heavy influence of Vlad and his vampiric family – he has turned two sons and his wife and his granddaughter has been turned). Indeed the Pavia section had a parade of historical figures that could be overwhelming to the reader unfamiliar with that period in history. This slowed the book down comparatively, though there were still some nice gory bits (a freshly turned vampire who had been a bishop, with blessed blood that ate it from the inside until the flesh exploded was particularly nice).
Towards the end of the book, when we returned to the subject of Dracula’s nemesis the book felt more like the first volume and I welcomed the resurgence of the more fantastical element. Does this mean it was bad? Not at all, but I personally was less enamoured with this volume than the previous. The language needs to be mentioned also. Shane writes in a quite modern style (despite the historical grounding) and there is nothing wrong with that for the main, indeed the language works as a juxtaposition to the historical detail. However, the reference between a female vampire and her historically famous illicit lesbian lover as “baby” did feel much too modern. The might be hyper-critical, however, as the language did work otherwise.
I liked the vampire drones introduced in this; turned humans who have not drunk the blood of the vampire who turned them and become brain damaged creatures with distended and discoloured skin (as they had not purged their internal organs), who suffered an unquenchable thirst.
It is also interesting to note how religion is being treated. Dracula is trying to undermine the Vatican, and Lutheranism, the Church of England and Islam are all seen as forces that turn people away from God. De facto to this is the idea that the Roman Catholic faith is not simply a path to God it is the only path to God (despite, for instance, the fact that Lutheranism was born out of reaction to the corruption at the heart of the Vatican). I look forward to some further theological exploration in future volumes.
All in all this was still a good book but I enjoyed it less than the first volume. 6 out of 10.