Sunday, August 04, 2013

Ancient Blood: A Novel of the Hegemony (The Order Saga) (Volume 1) – review

Author: Brian P McKinley

First Published: 2013

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Avery Doyle loves vampires; he’s read every novel, seen all the movies, and researched the folklore. When his first one-night-stand, Caroline, turns out to be a true vampire on the run, he jumps at the chance to leave his ordinary life and join her as a “child of the night.” The honeymoon ends, however, when Caroline’s brutal Creator Sebastian enslaves them on his island estate and Avery must confront the dehumanizing reality behind his dreams.

In order to survive, Caroline and Avery take their place as servants in Sebastian’s household during a gathering of the most powerful vampires on Earth, the Hegemony, and soon find themselves involved in the myriad intrigues and deceptions that form the night-to-night existence of The Order. A society of wealth, power, and inhuman decadence whose existence is protected by human complicity and disbelief, The Order is the immortal aristocracy hidden behind the giant corporations and political leaders of the world.

Sebastian, however, has a plan that will change The Order forever and shatter human civilization.

To avoid this terrible fate, Avery and Caroline will not only have to defy the most powerful creatures on Earth, but also confront the darkest aspects of themselves. For in the world of the Hegemony, even victory may cost them their souls . . .

A fast-paced thriller that both re-imagines and pays tribute to the traditional vampire, Ancient Blood is a story of love, ambition, sacrifice, and betrayal that is frighteningly human.

The review: Politics… Power... Two words that can sum up Ancient Blood. I think they sum the book up fairly, especially if you consider the corrupting, decadent traits displayed through the possession of power, but it would do McKinley a disservice to leave the review there.

His book concern the vampyr. One of several types of vampire, though we only meet two types in the book, vampyrs and Jiang-shi. The vampyrs have dominance over the world of vampires (as well as shadowy control over the human world) and have driven most other types to extinction with the exception of the human looking Jiang-shi, who fought back and control Asia. Indeed, unlike the vampyr, the Jiang-shi can daywalk and eat food. Avery and Caroline suspect that a bio-plasmic entity (or demon) animates the jiang-shi corpse and appropriates the host memories. We have evidence that they are energy/emotion eaters too.

We also meet in book the Kuang-shi, the traditional Chinese folklore vampire; white furred, savage creatures with red eyes, talons and a maw of fangs. They serve the Jiang-shi. Similar to these, in social order, are the revenants; cannibalistic vampires that are slaves to Draco – the hegemon (or vampire ruler) of Eastern Europe.

As for the vampyr, created through a virus that reprograms them at the cellular level, they lose body fat during the turning process. Once turned they have increased strength, they must hibernate during the day and have a faster metabolism than humans making them register as hotter (rather than the traditional move to make them register colder in stories). There are some powers – glamour lets a vampire appear as someone else, some can affect memory hypnotically but these powers are not constant through all the vampyrs and some, like glamour, are very rare. A vampire can become feral; the eyes become catlike (their vision becoming colour limited), talons becoming pronounced and their actions animalistic.

One thing I found interesting was that McKinley made Avery, the main voice of the book, a vampire genre fan. This allowed a lot of genre cross reference in a natural way. What he also did was write a book that involved a huge amount of political machination of the most Machiavellian and sadistic nature. That was the real strength of the book to me. Beyond the feudalistic wielding of ultimate power, these vampires craved amusement and had the power to gain that amusement through The Game – political manoeuvrings, deals and double deals. As such McKinley gave these vampires an edge that perhaps isn’t apparent in many recent genre books. It also gave us a set of characters that could not be trusted, not by Avery, not by the reader.

With strong prose and an eye for genre detail this is well worth your time. 8 out of 10.

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