by Alex Bledsoe
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765323088
Date: 31 March 2009 List Price $13.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Once Judge Sir Francis Colby determined that the villagers' assertion that the Baron was a vampire was correct a crucifix was thrust into the heart of Rudolfo Zginski in Passelwaithe, Wales in 1915. Rudolfo ignored holy water thrown on him; mirrors reflected his body; and a crucifix did not burn him. The egomaniac assumed he fooled the Judge and became compliant while observant Colby noticed the accused did not breathe nor had a pulse. He hid the corpse in what he believed was a safe place in his home state of Tennessee.
Sixty years later, he wakes up when pathologist Dr. Danielle Rosberry removed the stake prior to her performing an autopsy of his remains at the request of a museum. He is out of control with blood hunger and drains the doctor before escaping. He quickly learns how different 1975 is from 1915 and knows that to thrive he must acclimate himself to all commonly used technologies that the humans employ. He finds a vampire nest living in abandoned warehouses and he chooses Fauvette turned at fourteen years old to assist his acclimation. She tasted some powder that her friend Teddy gave her which eliminated the blood lust but also left her wanting to die.
Once Zginski forces Fauvette to feed, the effect of the powder ends; he teaches her all the myths concerning vampires are false. For the first time in decades she sees the sunrise. When her friend Mark takes the powder, he sees what a bad impact it has on vampires and Zginski wants to trace it to its source to end the threat to all their existence as he knows someone with knowledge made the powered out of human ash and Egyptian mummy powder.
This is an edgy noir vampiric thriller that is at times satirically amusing and other times bitingly graveyard serious. The teen vamps are clueless as they do not know how to shapeshift, fly, sexually enslave a mortal, and believe in the sun's ability to kill them painfully. They sleep in coffins because what they know about vampires comes from Hollywood. This is one time the myth became the fact as their elders never taught them residual vampire 099 let alone the basic and advanced courses.
Thus Zginski is sort of a father figure professor who is willing to teach the teens for the price of their loyalty. He is an alpha who must be in charge, but none of the teens want a master-slave relationship with anyone even a mentor. Especially sensitive are the two blacks in the racially charged Nixon Era Tennessee. Over the course of the story line, Zginski's attitude changes from a despot willing to sacrifice anyone for his own security and luxury to someone who begins to think of others; at least of his kind. He goes so far as to risk his life to try to save Fauvette; something he would not have considered during his previous centuries-old undead life.
Alex Bledsoe has written a cutting edge urban historical fantasy that provides the audience with a sense of time and place as life in 1975 Tennessee has a major impact on how the vamps think. In spite of the overall serious tone, the sidebar pop word play is amusing as there is several jocular moments; for instance when a bewildered Zginski asks the teens why they failed to give "the horse with no name" a moniker; only in America. There are other word plays and escapades that lighten the mood yet bring out the era and how a transplanted person from the past sees the social turmoil.
Fauvette is an innocent despite being a vampire (a credit to the author for making her plausible). She charms the reader and Zginski as she is an emotional hybrid between a mortal and a vampire since she has deep feelings about others. In her way she teaches the ancient Baron how to be less selfish and more humane. The author uses Fauvette as the key to making the Bledsoe realm seem genuine.