Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
In the previous volume, Bloodforged, Ulrika had managed to leave the confines of the countess and her gilded minions, and enter a life where she called the shots. Though she feels free, she also feels the hatred toward those like her, and she knows she will forever be watching her back for enemies. While on her travels, she also sees the plight of others, even those who are being burned at the stake and aren’t vampires at all, but believed to be witches. She has the hidden need to go to their aid, but dare not as she might also be killed. She is a fierce fighter when she wants to be, but she is no fool.
One character who spent a lot of time in Bloodforged is Stefan von Kohln, he had warned her of the bloodshed that would befall her former mistress, Gabriella, and every vampire in the empire if she did not act to help prevent it. There has been a great deal of bloodshed already, vampires beheaded, hung on gibbets, entire villages burned to the ground on a mass scale. She sees on her return that Stefan had been right with all he’d said, but even he wasnâ€™t who he seemed to be. The cause of all the deaths is clear, witch hunters and vampire hunters have taken a stand against all that they see as unholy, and for Ulrika her life could not be any more in danger than it is now.
Bloodsworn has a plot that starts fast and just continues to excite the reader with movie style thrills of ritual burnings, encounters in dark alleyways, and saucy brothel talk. The action is unwavering, and the dialogue carries the story on to its final conclusion. Unlike in Bloodforged, when Ulrika returns, she is met with nothing but death and destruction, hoping she can find her mistress and Famke alive, though images of them being decapitated or worse do run through her mind.
The hope that vampires and humans can co-exist isn’t an issue in this last novel in the trilogy, as it isn’t possible due to the threat of the witch hunters and vampire hunters swarming the Empire. Once the reason for the killings is discovered, they realise that they have to kill the Emperor, Karl Franz as it is rumoured he is infected with a strain of deadly pox too. Also, the rumours are mentioned that the pox is being spread by undead seductresses, but there is no real evidence to back this up.
It could be argued that in the last two books a lot has been said about keeping Ulrika a virtual prisoner in the countesses house, yet why did she let her live in the first place if she couldn’t be a free roaming vampire like some of the others. I know the answer is that she is considered too young to be let out into the world, but she has seen so much already, so when she returns to the countess in order to help her in the up coming battle, why would she want to imprison her again when she is so willing to fight for her.
What readers will come to find is that Ulrika can’t be imprisoned, or kept in a gilded cage as one of the chapters suggests. She is a free woman and needs her space. Despite the countess wanting her head for her betrayal, she is prepared to end the war for them in the hope that vampires can live in a certain state of peace and harmony.
Nathan Long has done the difficult task of stringing together three novels and keeping them as good as the next in the series. This he has accomplished, and unleashed a new style of fantasy horror that is a credit to its genre.