Would you like some wine with your pastiche?*
Understand, I didn’t mean to read this. But it was a recent monthly read, and I’m trying to be more open minded about urban fantasy. Why? Because I desperately want to believe in the worlds urban fantasy creates–if they weren’t so glaringly awful at it.
This is not awful.
This is, however, fairly obvious.
The most interesting twist in this world is that the vampires came out of the shadows in 1870, slaughtering millions and overtaking most of the cooler zones of the world. (The Passage). Humanity retreated to the tropics and has slowly regrouped, rebuilding nations along the old lines of the British Protectorates, the USA, China and other various world-powers.
The humans are finally starting to feel ready to take the war back to the vampires, and a political alliance has been made with an arranged marriage between a British princess and an American Senator. As he heads to the Empire to seal the deal, the plucky Princess is riding a heavily fortified dirigible to northern fringe nations on a goodwill mission, and her younger brother is along for the ride. Like many heroines, she is Destined for Greater Things, but she has No Clue About her Special Powers (Winds of Fate). Vampires attack the dirigible, it crashes, and she quickly discovers she and her brother are the target of the attack. Shortly after, she meets the legendary Greyfriar, a semi-mythical mysterious figure who fights for humanity in the north (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). Greyfriar safely gets her to a village and leaves.
MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW SO THAT I CAN MOCK THEM. [ Heroine is captured and imprisoned in a tower so that the King of the London Vampires can interrogate her. The King intends to take over the world. Her capture gives her American fiance and her father a chance to rouse the populace to battle under pretext of rescue. Meanwhile, we meet a clandestine group of special advisors who attempt to mount their own rescue mission, if no other reason than to assure the fiance she is still alive and further hint at her Special But Unknown Powers. During her imprisonment, she gets to know the brooding brother of the Evil Vampire, who has recently returned after self imposed exile. Eventually, Greyfriar appears to help her escape. She gets away, meets back up with Greyfriar and he takes her off to his castle where she learns vampires are human too (Beauty and the Beast). There is a side plot where King Vamp’s Captain of the Guard has a strange fascination for Gareth, the brooding brother. (hide spoiler)]
I enjoyed the idea of vampires used in an apocalypse type scenario, and then smashing it into a steampunk novel. The lead heroine is specifically described as of a darker skin tone, taking after her Indian mother’s side of the family. That’s about the only multi-culti nod, but it could be a hint of more interesting development to come. As it is, it provides the reason she believes herself unattractive, and a potential for alienation from the court.
Otherwise, it was overly-burdened with unoriginal ideas. Although the reader is given a fair amount of background on the species difference of vampires, I still can’t quite wrap my head around the visuals when the scenes focus on vampire-controlled cities.
Writing was acceptable, even above average in the UF field. I don’t mean to damn it with faint praise; that’s a compliment from me. While it didn’t soar, neither did it annoy with redundant word choice or simplistic structure. The story is decently paced with action scenes described well. I suspect it will appeal to fans of the Parasol Protectorate. While romance is an important part of the story, it is developed slowly, which may appeal to some readers.
Three redundant stars.
*For reference, similar books and tropes have been provided in links.