Monday, July 28, 2014

Kiss of Life – review

Author: Brian L Porter

First published: 2014 (dual edition)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: A year after meeting the enigmatic Christina Radaluc during his investigation into the so-called Vampire Murders in Romania, investigative journalist Alan Dexter finds himself beset by a recurring nightmare.

Includes the prequel 'Dracula Doesnt' (sic) Live Here Anymore', also by Brian L. Porter.

Christina, he believes, is calling to him. She is in trouble and needs his help, though how she could possibly reach into his dreams is a mystery to him. On such flimsy 'evidence' Dexter enlists the help of his friend and fellow journalist Karen Bailey who, though skeptical of his story, agrees to travel to Romania with him to assist in his quest to find and solve the mystery of Christina's appearance in his nightmares. On arriving in Romania they discover that not only Christina, but her brother, a local police officer, have been missing for months, and the pair set out to find them.

Dexter retraces his steps from his previous visit to Romania, hoping to find some connection with his previous investigation and the current disappearance of the woman he realizes he has fallen in love with. What they discover, however, takes them far beyond the realms of the believable as the intrepid pair enter a dark world of long-forgotten practices and fear-filled corridors.

Do vampires really exist?

Can Dexter and Karen save the beautiful Christina and her brother from the jaws of a living nightmare far more terrible than anything Dexter's own fevered dreams could produce?

As the story moves from the city to the cold, bare, mountainous regions of Transylvania, land of myth and terrifying legend and the ancestral home of Christina's family, Kiss of Life moves ever closer to it's (sic) shattering and terrible conclusion.

The review: I picked up the kindle edition of Kiss of Life that came with the prequel short story as listed in the blurb. This was ultimately quite useful as it gave necessary background for the main story.

In Dracula Doesn’t Live Here Anymore we meet hack journalist Dexter who, due to sheer luck, is asked to report on a murder story in Romania where victims are being drained of blood. He meets Romanian journalist Christina Radaluć (shuffle the letters) and her policeman cousin (not brother as the blurb says, though his familial status does change in the book at one point) named Alex. The story is a short and that is a shame as we don’t really delve into an investigation as such. We do delve into a love affair between Dexter and Christina and vampire lore. This is where things go wrong.

Did you shuffle the letters? Yes, Christina is a descendent of the Dracula family and tying Prince Vlad and Count Dracula is not necessarily a bad thing – if the author is accurate within the boundaries of the novel. So when Christina tells him that the folklore of the Romanian vampire says they can walk in daylight “contrary to Stoker” I inwardly groaned as, as we know, Stoker had the Count active in daylight in the novel. Such a thing may be little but is very annoying. We are told that Christina’s family owned a guesthouse in Whitby “just as the fictional character… …had done” – assuming this to be the Count then all the English property owned by the Count was in London, not Whitby.

There is an inaccurate pop-culture history of Prince Vlad III – we are told the family is one of the oldest in Transylvania (they were Walachian), that his name was Prince Vlad Draculea (use of that spelling making me wonder why the “e” was missing in the anagram) son of the original Prince who bore the name Dracula (Prince Vlad II was Dracul – not Dracula). To be fair the nationality of the family does seem to switch to Wallachia in the main story at one point but then switches back, making it seem that the two Principalities are interchangeable. Prince Vlad is also demoted to Count in a passage in that book (where it was referring to the historical persona).

They were the main errors surrounding Dracula (book and historical) but if you know Stoker it serves to diminish the work in hand. When it came to folklore we are told that Greeks called vampires Vrykolakas (fair enough) and they were known as Chupacabra in Central and South America – this made me start, due to the fact that the Chupacabra legend is very modern – dating only to 1995.

There were errors in type also. Three times Christina becomes Christian. There is a section where they eat, go to Dexter's room for a nightcap and then leave the bar (not his room) to go and eat again – it is a muddled section, which I re-read several times to check it wasn't me, and I am sure that the author changed locations in one of the drafts and hadn’t tidied the draft. The stories are rather short (the first is a short the second probably at novella length) and very occasionally the language shows a need of an edit but the dialogue probably needed a bit more work as it feels forced at times.

All that said I was very taken by the main plot twist, which was nice. To me the author needs to give the draft a re-proof and also to get his geography, historical detail and Stoker orientated commentary accurate. The first story could stand expanding, taking us into the investigation, but ultimately keeping the neat ending of the main piece. 4 out of 10.

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