Monday, April 08, 2013

Unholy Testament - The Beginnings – review

Author: Carole Gill

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: The day Eco first laid eyes on Rose Baines was the day she discovered (The House on Blackstone Moor) her family's savage butchery at the hands of her mad, incestuous father.

"I saw you leave the house that day, Rose, that terrible day you discovered your family butchered. I saw you..."

Eco, realizing he has fallen in love with her, pens a confession documenting all of his sins committed in the course of his immortal existence. The one request is that Rose reads his confession.

Rose, having become his captive, is forced to read this unholy testament of his.

From Ancient Egyptian vampire cults to Roman vampire brothels to The Dark Ages, The Crusades, The Black Death of 1348 to his meeting with child murderer and Satanist, Gilles de Rais, concluding with his wicked affair with the Blood Countess herself, Erzebat Bathory.

Eco is, if nothing else, frankly and brutally honest. The pages are filled with debauchery and vice and murder--yet, there is also love or what Eco swears is love.

The Review: First a disclaimer, Carole Gill is a friend on facebook but, as always, I will try and be honest and balanced in my review.

Now, I had reviewed the House on Blackstone Moor and found it to be a book of two halves, the first a gothic joy, the second a decent into hell. To a degree this is a book of two parts also (and in some respect, half of a book too).

The first half of this book places us with Rose, who is living an idyllic and vampiric family life with her lover Louis and the two vampire children Simon and Ada, who treat her like a mother. Louis is different from Rose and the children, being the child of a fallen angel – as is the evil vampire Eco. In the last review I suggested that they were the source of vampirism. This book tells us they are a source. The first half sees Louis called away and, when he sends word for Rose and the children to meet him in the Americas, they buy passage on a ship. But Eco and a group of evil vampires have taken over the ship and Rose is forced to read his journal – a confession from a being who believes himself to love Rose.

The second part of the book is, therefore, the journal – or at least part of it, which is why I said half a book as the reading of the journal continues in book 3 of the series. This takes us on a trip through Eco’s long life (or edited highlights thereof).

This worried me I must confess. Eco was drawn as thoroughly evil in book one, a little like Lestat in Interview with the Vampire was drawn as purely evil. Was Carole Gill going to make the Anne Rice mistake of falling in love with her character (to be fair Rice’s mistake was less making him the centre but more pouring power on to power until he became an untenable character)?

The answer, so far, is no. The view of Eco’s evil might be tempered by him penning his own tale but not by much. He doesn’t redeem himself and actually does offer a frank confession.

The book introduces us to other forms of vampires. A race of feline/humanoid vampires – purebred and living in the Dacia region (presumably, contemporaneously to the book, totally extinct). We also meet Erzsébet Báthory. She is drawn, interestingly, as a woman whose soul was sold to and devoured by Satan as an infant (seems a little unfair that someone can make that decision for you, but there you go) and grew to be a sociopathic woman who is described as a living vampire. We also meet Lilith (on board the ship). She is a demon and vampiric – stating that most demons are, though she denies the baby eating charges.

The range of vampiric creatures is interesting as it nods to the range of vampires available to the folkloric student if they accept a comparative mythological study.

The book itself works well. It perhaps is neither as gothic or horrific as the previous – the former does not take away from the rich prose, however, and the latter is because the majority of the book is from Eco’s viewpoint and he is the perpetrator rather than the sufferer. Occasionally there are phrase structures that seem incongruous with the time period of the portmanteau but they are only occasional and are mentioned here for balance sake as they do not damage the prose overall. The choice to look at the history of her world in small vignettes was deliberate but there is scope for return and concentrating on certain eras in more detail.

The great thing about this series is the fact that it breaks away from romance (as a genre, not in the romance of the prose or between characters) and the all too popular urban fantasy and gives us a unique world to play in. 7 out of 10.

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