Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Count Rothchild (A Vampire Tale): A Gothic Fantasy Novel (Gothic Legends Book 1) – review

Author: Michael W. Huard

First Published: 2019

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: HIS CURSE IS BLOOD, YET HIS HEART SEEKS LOVE In the likes of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Interview with the Vampire a new legend is born! Courageous and beautiful, young Gaylen Van Warden, scribe to the kingdom, embarks on a journey to a mysterious land. She is about to gather the story of a lifetime.

Lost within his gothic domain, Drakko Del Rothchild, seducer of women and master of the night, senses someone is seeking him out. The legend of his infamous family haunts the count. Lonely, he welcomes the young lady into his strange castle. He wishes to tell his story, but Gaylen reminds him of love lost. He could lose control!

Will the infamous bard learn his truth before her innocence is taken, perhaps even her life? Get ready for a great medieval adventure, but beware, for your worst nightmares may very well come true! Welcome to the world of Dracula’s brother.

The review: The strongest thing I can say about this is that it is clear that author Michael Huard is passionate about his subject. Unfortunately, the book had some misses for me, which I will explore a little.

So, the book is set in a fantasy world that is like ours, with fantasy creatures and (active) polytheistic Gods, but the names and geography are invented. This is not actually a bad thing (though the connection to Dracula might make a reader assume our world), but sometimes the detail could be jarring. An example of this is found within the use of Zeus as a primary godform but then having a vampire hunter relying on a cross (a particularly Christian icon, albeit with lightning bolts adorning it), which does cause the reader to pause for thought as does a reference to Victorian furniture.

One issue I did have was the overt use of plot points from Dracula in the first third of the novel. So, the visitor to the vampire’s castle is a female character (gender swapping the Harker character for Gaylen Van Warden – though her fiancé left behind is called Jonathan) and I thought that the idea of the three brides being gender swapped was clever and worked nicely. However, the subsequent inclusion of finding the Count in his crate, by her, and the hitting with a spade, through to a storm pushing his voyage (coincidentally) to a person connected to Gaylen/Harker. The Count’s predation on said friend, actually named Lucy, whom Gaylen visits after escaping, rather than returning home to her fiancé, so she can fulfil the Mina role (including the cloak pin moment). Lucy’s change to a vampire and the gathering of the crew of light who chase back to the vampire’s castle was borrowing too much for me. I will say that under-currents changed, but the broad brush was Stoker.

You can guess, from the above being crammed into the first third of this book, that the descriptive prose was fairly abridged, certainly compared to the Stoker novel. But, whilst the plot then jumped forward in time and moved to following Gaylen’s adult son, Paublo, and Rothchild’s half vampire daughter (not referred to as a dhampir, but certainly a vampire hunter), the brevity of the prose remained and at times felt skeletal. It seemed to me that there was plenty of scope to expand the descriptive prose with further detail, fleshing out the text, which would have solidified the world and explored the characters further, as some were a tad 2-dimensional.

My biggest concern, if I can put it that way, was around the writing style – though it might have been more me not getting on with the idiosyncratic styling, rather than an issue with the author’s approach. To me it felt that the unusual turn of phrase used through the narrative detracted from the book, as though the author was using a literary accent, and it prevented us hearing the author’s authentic voice.

Yet, as I noted, that the author seemed passionate about his subject, there were occasional illustrative plates that fitted the subject and there were ideas that worked – such as the gender swapping of the brides. The idiosyncratic language might not be an issue for you, however, and whilst some of the detail jarred me it didn’t make reading a chore. 5 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

No comments: