Rating (out of five): *** 1/2
Genre: Historical/Urban Fantasy
Summary: Set in Victorian London, the story follows the efforts of several generations of two linked families to rid themselves of the ties that a couple of master vampires have woven around them. This takes several iterations, in which the families think they have succeeded but their success is only temporary. The story takes the characters through the sewers and underground caverns below London, and into and out of the Thames several times. Ghosts, and the ability to communicate with ghosts, play a role in solving some of the mysteries of how to permanently destroy vampires.
Comments: A fresh take on vampires. Some of the creative elements include that they are the source of inspiration for many great poets, and are very difficult to get rid of – the characters search until the end to figure out how to banish them for good. However there are enough traditional vampire characteristics, such as repulsion by garlic and needing to be invited in, to make them familiar. But they aren’t loveable or even very sexy. I found like the idea that the characters needed to discover how to get rid of them through trial and error refreshing and much like real life problems.
I have great sympathy for the characters in the families beset by the vampires but many of them, with the exception of Joanna and her father, weren’t very engaging, or at least I didn’t like them but that is likely because I prefer to read about slightly super-human characters. Taking the collective of characters, they were like a group trying to deal with a chronic illness that runs in the family. Individuals exhibited varying opinions as to how best deal treat it and how extreme the treatment should be. The family members varied in their degree of dislike for the vampires; some of this was effected by the vampires’ manipulation and some the result of human nature, specifically family-based values [ ‘but he’s family’/ ‘but he’s feeding the vampire’]. Two of the main characters were seriously flawed (prostitute and drunk) although it was easy to be sympathetic with them because of their situation – they did nothing to draw the attention of the vampires or to warrant the affliction.
The character’s excursions through the underground caverns of London had me reading faster and faster. From a literary perspective, these part of the novel were well done, as the action happened in the dark for these excursions. Generally, the settings are very vivid, including the grey, muddy cold London.
There was no black and white in this story, not in the characters, the magic or supernatural elements or the path that must be pursued to avoid evil.