Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles – review

Author: Andy Remic

First Published: 2012 (omnibus)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Falanor needs a hero

The Land of Falanor has been besieged by foul invaders, the infamous Army of Iron. The resistance is led by Kell, veteran axeman and the subject of many an epic poem. Along with his granddaughter, Nienna, and her friend Katrina, and a dandy swordsman, Saark, disgraced after his affair with the Queen, Kell must somehow battle his way from the city and warn the court.

Fighting their way south, betrayal follows battle follows deviation, and they are attacked from all quarters by deadly albino soldiers, monstrous harvesters who drain blood from their victims to feed their masters, and the twisted offspring of deviant vachine, the cankers. As the land falls under their cruel dominion, only now will the world learn the real truth about Kell – that he is anything but a hero.

The review: This omnibus is made up of three volumes; Kell’s Legend, Soul Stealers and Vampire Warlords and is the full series of the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles (though the idea rich series has plenty of scope for addition and expansion should Andy Remic chose to do so).

It is, at its very core, a fantasy book with perhaps an edge of pulp over high fantasy – and this is no bad thing as Remic pulls us into a blood thick world of swords and sorcery and clockwork.

This is the really interesting aspect of the book, especially from a genre point of view, the use of clockwork technology and a race of vampires known as the vachine, creatures who drink blood-oil – a mystically refined form of blood – and are melded with their intelligent clockwork components. Think, I guess, almost a steampunk (without the steam) version of Star Trek’s borg… with fangs.

We do get more traditional vampire types as well, as the Vampire Warlords (banished, immortal vampire creatures who are drawn back, semi-substantial – into our world) unleash a plague of vampires into Falanor.

Pitched up against these seemingly insurmountable odds is the unlikely partnership of Kell and Saark. Kell is a belligerent old man, untrustworthy when on whiskey, stinking and violent. He tries to do good, especially for his granddaughter, and is mystically bonded to an axe called Ilanna. Saark on the other hand is a swordsman, disgraced in the royal courts, who wears bright silks and perfumes and never met a women who didn’t like, or could seduce. This fantasy odd couple make the book; both as individually brilliant characters and in their inter-reactions. The fact that both of them are less than heroes makes them even better.

The book is peppered with cliff hangers (Remic admits in the foreword that he loves them, though the primary ones perhaps worked even better when the books were individually published) and is strewn with blood, gore and sex. Wild, original magics curl through the prose and make this a truly original, fantastical world.

The pace quickens through the volume and perhaps some of the last book flashes by too quickly. As you read it, however, you are carried with the current of the prose. It is afterwards that you realise that things concluded at high speed and that there are swathes of story that Remic could return to.

Vampires in a fantasy setting are to be applauded. The vachine give us a really interesting form of vampire machine/cyborg. The main characters are truly brilliant. 8 out of 10.

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