Susan Hamilton asked me to read her book "The Nosferatu Chronicles - Origins". This is a vampire book that, as it title says, posits an origin of vampires. It has an interesting take on this that I will elaborate in this review. I will Plot, Character, and Polish, and then assign a grade.
The main thrust of this novel is an alien race called "the Vampri" struggling to survive on Earth after a natural disaster forced them to abandon their native planet. It's impressive how quickly Miss. Hamilton established the rudiments of their society while introducing her protagonist, Kevak. How their society is structured and stratified, how they live, what they eat, etc. is all established in a non-intrusive fashion. This is done via contrast with the current emergency and all within a couple pages.
As their exodus continues, one truly gets a sense of their desperation. They are starving and grieving and doing everything they can to establish a new normal. Not only do unexpected hazards keep unsettling them but unexpected positive events provide for sharp hope. This prevents their trauma conga line from getting stale and turning into a Deus Angst Machina.
There are other, minor, plot threads that appear at first to have nothing to do with this main narrative. There are a Welsh blacksmith that wants to emulate King Arthur by joining a crusade, a Turkish archer dragged into Ottoman court politics, and a herbalist from Wallachia preparing for a resurgence of a local monster. They are small digressions from the main narrative and eventually connect with it without distracting from or bloating it. Indeed, the blacksmith only has one or two solo scenes before he joins the main event. Then there's the historical Vlad the Impaler, who you KNOW is going to be important later.
There are lots of different kinds of vampires here. All of the usual myths and elements are accounted for but given a twist to fit the setting along with original stuff from Miss. Hamilton. Few stories that I have read provide such a fine in-universe explanation for both Our Vampires Are Different and Your Vampires Suck.
1. The Vampri are the original aliens. They look the most like humanoid monsters of the group but they don't drink blood because they're herbivores. They have no vampire weaknesses except sunlight because their bodies can't stand solar radiation.
2. Vampri who ingest human blood become vampri-human hybrids. They look human but have superhuman abilities. Human blood acts like a drug, explaining their traditional horror hunger. They act viciously because adrenaline helps them manage this addiction. The only way to kill them is a headshot.
3. Humans who ingest Vampire blood also turn into hybrids with the same skill set and weaknesses but are weaker as a whole than Vampri. This is why they are called "vampires" or "sub-Vampri".
4. All the other usual weaknesses, like garlic and crosses, are a result of Your Mind Makes It Real. These humans believe they have turned into a folk monster called "Stigoi" and so they also believe they have the same weaknesses. It is implied rather than stated that they are also the weakest of the lot because they were created by a human-vampri hybrid.
Despite the fact that crosses are only effective against monsters that think they are effective, there is a intriguing religious element. Kevak comes across a bible in his struggles (among other books such as the works of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) and sees parallels between its contents and Vampri history. It helps him come to terms with his personal grief involving a tragedy that occurred during the evacuation of his planet and also his guilt about his involvement in oppression and murder.
The really interesting part about this religious element is that Vampri society is secular via Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions and even mentions that a similar belief about a deity that is friendly to the poor and downtrodden died out as technology made manual labor less necessary. Despite knowing this, Kevak converts to Christianity and is inspired to be "humanity's Good Samaritan". Furthermore, the staple of the Vampri diet, hemo-crops, are processed into two forms, a wafer for eating and a red liquid for drinking. They certainly provide a "salvation" of sorts.
Wow, that is long, isn't it? I totally didn't mean to do that. Anyway, I like the conclusion. It was surprisingly tense and gripping considering its parameters. It was this sense of "we're so close to making it but something could still go horribly wrong". It closes the book's conflict to provide for a sense of resolution while simultaneously planting seeds for future stories.
Kevak is the protagonist of this story and its hero as well. He is a Science Hero and a family man. As the story unfolds, a Real Men Love Jesus trait develops until he's basically a Good Shepherd. There is lots of personal conflict with him because he is an introspective sort. He grieves and has moments of doubt but it is not wangst.
Mazja is the closest the book has to a Big Bad, yet she's not really evil. I'd saw Lawful Evil at worst. She's basically dragged into villainy through a combination of anger, grief, accidental (and really quick) drug addiction and starvation. One can see how well-intentioned and reasonable she is at the start of things and see her morality erode as time goes on. Indeed, the Token Good Teammate considers her draconian disciplinary measures a Necessary Evil at one point.
Chaluxi presents an interesting question: how does a good man stay moral when only immoral options are available? How he copes with the events of the plot make him an exemplary foil for Kevak.
Vlad the Impaler is multi-faceted here. He is ruthless to his enemies and strict with his soldiers. He is a caring husband, but also has a number of mistresses. He is chivalrous but is also more severe with his punishments on "fallen" women than men. I did a little research and much of his life here is accurate to real life, aside from the vampire bits, of course.
A couple errors here and there. I don't penalize for this unless it is more common.
There was an event that struck me as such a narrative weakness that I was going to mark down a full grade for it. This is because it was a coincidental and foolish behavior with so many points of failure that it broke my willing suspension of disbelief. However, I thought about it and realized that lots of moments, for and against this character, as well as other characters, occurred. This was not a one-time device to heavy-handily shift the plot but a theme of the story. Mistakes happen and random chance events occur; that's life. Or God working in mysterious ways, as Kevak would put it. From that perspective, it was not a narrative weakness at all.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Nosferatu Chronicles - Origins" an A+
This has been a free review request. Susan Hamilton wanted an honest review so I provided one.
Click here for my next book review (for fun): Dungeons and Dragons - Player's Manual V3.5
Click here for my previous book review (also a request): The Adventures of Sir Edric
Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).