Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vampire Wars – review

Author: Perry Lake

First published: 2014

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: For thousands of years, ancient vampire lords ruled the Night. Their queen, the coldly beautiful, immortal, and all-powerful Lilith, ruled them distantly, ignoring their squabbles over territory and victims. Then came Vlad the Impaler, once history's most bloodthirsty fiend, now reanimated as an undead creature of the Night. Facing the vampire legions of the brutish Vardalekos, the loathsome Viy, the diabolical Jhiang-Shi, the monstrous Mmbyu, the cunning Erlik, and the seductive Nycea, Vlad Dracula seeks out allies, be they undead or lycanthropic or mortal.

You've read Bram Stoker's “Dracula”. Now see how Vlad the Impaler fought and struggled to become Dracula, the King-Vampire. A part of THE LEGEND OF DRACULA trilogy, this book is a collection of twenty short stories about the infamous Count and his undead legions as he strives for the ultimate goal—the throne of the supreme King of the Vampires!

The Review: It’s frustrating when I read a book like Perry Lake’s Vampire Wars. In the first instance I have to say it was filled with fantastic ideas but I also felt it a little lacking in the prose style – though I trust my criticisms are constructive.

The book itself is made up of vignettes, shorts if you will, which cover an expanse of time from Dracula’s resurrection through to the nineteenth century. Being shorts (and the book being one of three, which I am assured can be read in any order) there is some degree of narrative repetition but that is to be expected.

It runs on the ‘Vlad Ţepeş was Count Dracula’ premise (calling the castle “Castelui de Vlad Ţepeş” jarred as the man wouldn’t have referred to himself by the sobriquet Ţepeş) but how did he become a vampire? The beginning of the book suggests he was resurrected by Faust and held as a slave for over a decade until he seduced Gretchen, turned her and became dominant over Faust who was turned also. I liked the idea, and I do like drawing Faust into the vampire realm – a trend (I believe) begun by Paul Féval in the book the Vampire Countess. Then a later story mentioned he was turned in the Scholomance and these separate origin stories appeared to jar until I realised that he was killed post the Scholomance and it was his vampiric form that was brought back by Faust – the full story isn’t within this volume.

The vampires in this are burnt by the sun (mostly) though they can stand some exposure as they age. I liked the fact that they died during the daylight hours. There was an interesting lore around reflections, that the true state of the vampire was seen – Gretchen seeing a decaying corpse, Vlad seeing a ghostly skeleton and the reflection fading to nothing as their true form completely decayed. The invitation rule is deemed not to hold true if the house bears the vampire’s blood (ie if it is held by their mortal family). The ability to transform is not something all vampires can do and also relies on their true form to be sufficiently decayed to allow the dissolution of their body.

Holy items burn but it is not denominational – the Ganges, being a sacred river, would burn a vampire. Vampiric resurrection is achieved by applying human blood (preferably virginal and certainly not undead) to the remains under the light of the full moon. If a victim is preyed upon by a vampire and that vampire is destroyed, an occult law prevents the victim being further predated by another undead for seven years.

As well as these ideas – all of which I was impressed with – there are a cornucopia of vampires from myth, legend, literature and movies. Mostly this extended cast works, some of whom are active characters and others who are mentioned in passing. We get Ruthven, Carmilla, Erzsébet Báthory, Viy and Lilith (who is the vampire Goddess Strigoica, also called Kali). In passing we get such characters as Angelus (from Angel) and Mamuwalde (from Blacula). We get different vampire types mentioned including a vampire horse, vetal, and penanggalen. Most of the cornucopia worked well – though the tying in of Lord of the Rings was perhaps a conceit too far.

However, I said I had issues. Firstly it was within some of the language used. Lake deliberately chose to use thee and thou’s in the dialogue and, to be honest, they didn’t work, were inconsistent with the other language used for dialogue and just felt forced. Better to have avoided them in my opinion. I think the greatest failing of the book was, however, based within the short story style.

It was clear that many of the stories could and, more importantly, should have been expanded on. There was, because of the brevity of the prose, a dearth of descriptive prose and even more so a lack of characterisation. Some characters appeared to only die again in the same vignette, unfortunately still two dimensional. Others died off page (such as Faust). But there was an inability to really care as there was never a connection built with the characters. Of course they are all villains (the vampires are not good guys) but expanding the story and characterisation within the vignettes, indeed expanding the book to several volumes, would have made the reader care. At times I felt I was reading an extended summary rather than the final prose.

This is unfortunate because, as I said, there are fantastic ideas in volume and Perry Lake has a lot of story to tell… I just think he needs to take his time and tell those stories more fully. 5 out of 10 balances great ideas with a need for expansion (and the need for the loss of the cod-archaic dialogue). The homepage with an excerpt is here.


Khaia said...

Thanks for the review. I went to a Baptist school as a child--the "thees" and "thous" are staying. LOL.

You have some good points about characterization. This book was mostly about the action and scheming. I hope the other two books will bring out more about Dracula's personality.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Khaia (Perry) - thanks for the comment. I was genuinely impressed with the ideas in the book.