Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo – review

Authors: Alexandre Dumas & Matthew Baugh

First published: 2013

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: 1815 – Marseille. Edmond Dantes is young, in love with the beautiful Mercedes, and has just been named the captain of the merchant vessel, Pharaon. It seems as if there is nothing but happiness and prosperity in the young man's future. Unfortunately, Edmond's success has brought jealous enemies. Danglars wants his career and Fernand wants his fiancée. The two conspire against Edmond and frame him for treason.

He is brought before Prosecutor deVillefort, who recognizes his innocence. Unfortunately, the Prosecutor is a man with his own secrets and he fears that freeing Edmond could bring them to light. He convicts Edmond and has him imprisoned in a dungeon from which no man has ever escaped.

1830 - The Château d'If. After fifteen years in his tiny cell, Edmond nearly loses his sanity. Then he meets a fellow prisoner, the brilliant scholar and mystic Abbé Faria. The two become close and Faria teaches Edmond languages, science, philosophy, and sorcery. Using his occult skills of divination he reveals the conspiracy. Faria hopes the revelation will give Edmond a sense of peace but instead it fires his desire for vengeance. When Faria falls ill and dies, Edmond breaks his promise to his friend and turns to the darkest form of magic.

He makes a pact with an unspeakable entity to help him escape and give him the power to destroy his enemies. Edmond Dantes dies in the Château d'If and is reborn as a vampire, an undead creature who hungers for revenge as much as he thirsts for blood.

1838 – Paris. The wealthy and mysterious Count of Monte Cristo arrives in Paris. He is an eccentric who is never seen eating or drinking and refuses to venture out in the daylight. Rumors abound that the Count is a vampire, but this only adds to the charismatic stranger's mystique. He becomes the center of Parisian society, seducing the entire city with his charm… including all of Edmond Dantes' enemies.

Things have changed in the years since Edmond was framed and his enemies have prospered. Danglers is now a banker and one of the richest men on the continent; deVillefort is the highest legal official in France; worst of all, Fernand--now a general and a war hero--is married to Mercedes. The Count plays a dangerous game, turning his dark arts to the destruction of these powerful men, and even their innocent children are caught up in his byzantine schemes. Will the innocent perish along with the guilty? And what of Edmond Dantes? Will he find redemption, or will he be swept up and destroyed by the very forces he has invoked?

The review: I’ve not read too many literary mash-ups, where the original classic is taken and changed, modernised or made horror or sci-fi. The Count of Monte Cristo was, on reflection, an obvious candidate for such a treatment however. We actually looked at the original story here as Dumas had the Count likened to a vampire – even Ruthven himself. The scene I relayed doesn’t actually happen in this retelling as Dumas wrote it, rather the conversation is referred to.

As for the mash-up author, Matthew Baugh, I had come across his work before in the forms of submissions for The Vampire Almanac Vol 1 and Vol 2 and so he was remarkably qualified to take the original work and re-work it in such a way that it is seamless in the telling. Unlike many mash-ups there was a choice to make the story serious, rather than add a comedic element, and this was an excellent decision.

The vampirism – in this case – is satanic in origin, due to the summoning of Zathael the Angel of vengeance who just so happened to be Satan before he fell. As a vampire, Monte Cristo is undead and able to pass his curse on. He develops, through Alchemy, a pill that helps stave off the blood lust and if he shares his blood he makes a connection with the mortal and puts them in thrall to him. Sunlight weakens him considerably and whilst a wound from a bullet or sword would neither bleed nor hurt him, if silver is involved it will cause damage.

We do get other supernatural creatures mentioned. Cristo’s servant Ali is said to be ridden by the orisha Ogoun. The Count relays, in passing, having met a fox spirit, werewolves and “the loathsome undead of Haiti”. As for vampires the Count suggests “There are as many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey.

This was great fun and a compelling read. Highly recommended 8.5 out of 10.

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