Kim Newman, 1992
Hey, look! Alternate History plus monsters before it was a trend!
Premise: What if Dracula didn’t lose. What if his bid to settle in England was successful? What if he then - a prince of Transylvania, after all - married Queen Victoria? This is the story of a very different history.
I really enjoyed this book, despite a few glaring plot holes. Dracula’s rise to power, for example, is generally glossed over. All the things that follow from that: social positions of prominent vampires, rebellions, etc. work well from the premise, but how exactly he managed to get there is left a bit fuzzy. This was mostly only a problem at one point, when you see Dracula in person, that how he became so powerful became hard to picture for me.
Luckily the rest of the book is simply lovely.
The assortment of characters is delightful for those of us who like to play “spot the reference”: some are original, some from history, some from literature. The main plot follows the hunt for Jack the Ripper. The Ripper, like in our world, murders prostitutes. The catch is that these are vampire prostitutes. So is he crazy or fighting back against the spread of vampirism? Are those the same thing?
It doesn’t actually take long for the book to tell you the identity of the killer, so most of the story is figuring how and when the other characters will catch on, and what will happen then.
The two main characters are quite charming, and carry much of the appeal of the book.
Charles Beauregard is a young gentleman, still human to the dismay of much of his social set. He is affable, but with hidden depths, and is an agent of a particular club of unclubbable gentlemen. His relationship with his troubled fiancee is one of the more important emotional plotlines.
Geneviève Dieudonné I adored. She is a vampire, but of a different line than Dracula. She is older than he is, and has complicated feelings about the fact that Dracula’s rise is making vampirism socially desirable in London. She’s practical while still occasionally romantic.
There are an assortment of intriguing supporting characters and the period setting is quite well done, including an unpleasant darkness in some of the characters that many novels I read set in the time would have elided.
Overall, a satisfying historical supernatural read.
4 Stars - A Very Good Book
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