A Taste of Blood Wine. Book Review(0)
Titan Books, 501pp p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
Originally published back in 1992 — long before Stephenie Meyer and Charlotte Harris made vampires trendy again — the majority of those featured in A Taste of Blood Wine are charming, sophisticated, and to quote the author, ‘devastatingly gorgeous’; and they all debunk the popular vampire myths about exposure to daylight, stakes through the heart, garlic, crosses, etc. This makes for a promising start in my book, and I’m pleased to say this delicious tale of love, lust and a passionate affair that stretches beyond the grave, is truly delightful. Step forward Charlotte and Karl, a magnificent pairing, and a timeless couple that deserve a place up there with the very best of genre lovers.
Set against the decadent backdrop of 1920s England, a post-WWI society enjoying a hedonistic boom in which champagne parties and illicit substances are all par for the course, we meet the Neville family, and the incredibly charismatic Karl von Wultendorf… Needless to say, Karl is the vampire in question, and despite his best efforts, falls for one of the Neville sisters.
For her part, Charlotte is the odd one out: while her two sisters, Fleur and Madeleine, spend their days enjoying the social aspects of society; she herself longs for the isolated comfort and familiarity of her father’s Cambridge laboratory, away from what she considers a circus parade of bourgeois grooming rituals. It takes a special kind of man, like Karl, to bring her out of her shell, but alas, not before he is already engaged to be married to her sister, Madeleine… Cue the beginnings of a great love story, and a gothic romance that tugs at the heart strings and leaves you all a-tingling, with hairs down the back of your neck, the works… It’s interesting to note that at no point does Karl ever deny being what he is, and he goes to great lengths to keep Charlotte firmly ‘in the loop’ in a vain effort to steer them off a path that could — and inevitably, will — lead to a life of ruin and damnation for them both…
I should say that prior to reading this, I never really cared for vampire tales: surely there’s nowt new to say about handsome Dracu-likes and beautiful preening teen tearaways? And even True Blood seems to have wandered so far off base in later seasons as to be nigh unrecognisable… But there’s the trick, y’see… Blood Wine isn’t just a gorgeous love story at heart, it’s about social suffocation, about a pair of individuals who are striving to break free from family ties, and it’s about a divided family who through no fault of their own have become embroiled in vampire politics. Moreover, the author’s clarity of vision and interesting take on vampire myth is both original and dare I say, breathtaking.
Among the vampires on Karl’s side, we’re introduced to Kristian, the closest thing to a lord of vampires in the book; one who believes wholeheartedly that vampires will inherit the Earth and are servants of God brought to this world to cleanse it of humans by sending their souls — their very essence — to the Lord himself for judgement. Karl is but one of his ‘flock’, but he is the unruly child, if you will, the one who resists all attempts to bring him to heel, and yet still Kristian loves him over and above all the others, eventually resorting to dastardly tactics to try and goad him into submission. It’s a battle of wills that crosses time and death itself, and makes Kristian a truly frightening and obsessive antagonist.
There’s so much here to love, not least of which is the concept behind The Crystal Ring, a whole other realm that vampires can use to escape the binds of the human world; also, there’s the Weisskalt, a mysterious icy cold plane that Kristian uses to great effect to detain those who displease him. Then there’s the writing, the characters, the depiction of forbidden love, and betrayal, the setting… To be honest, there’s very little herein that I didn’t love.
To say more would be to reveal too much, and I want you to read it for yourself, but I would like to add that the writing is gorgeous, by turns haunting, lucid, and all-round beautiful, and I am hugely grateful to Titan Books for republishing such a great series — a series that many, like me, would have probably missed the first time round — and for giving them such a great set of new covers as well. This first instalment is eminently readable, absorbing, and all-round brilliant, a lovely piece of work, and definitely a must-have whether or not you’re a fan of vampires. It’s a book for fiction-lovers and anyone that claims to appreciate the written word, I think. And I for one am looking forward to reading the rest of the series: A Dance in Blood Velvet, The Dark Blood of Poppies, and The Dark Arts of Blood (the latter an all-new instalment due October next year).
Freda Warrington’s “Gorgeous Grave-throbber” Tour(0)
To celebrate the return of the critically acclaimed Blood Books in collectable paperback and e-book edition, Titan Books and Freda Warrington are serialising two rare and risqué stories set within the universe of the Blood Books across a series of websites and blogs.
We’re publishing the fourth part of a short story called Little Goose. Read the rest of the tale here: http://titanbooks.com/blog/freda-warringtons-blood-wine-tour/
Little Goose: Part 4
By Freda Warrington
Her designs grew wilder. Eggs of dark pink tourmaline cupped in storms of jet. Snow-white jade, cracked with veins of blood ruby.
One day her father came unannounced, and I must be stuffed like a corpse into a cupboard. Yet I have ways of watching unseen, and I saw.
He stalked the gallery, a forensic examiner. He frowned. His nostrils flared as if he could smell me. Rebecca watched in silent annoyance as he perused her workbench; the designs scattered everywhere, the new pieces taking shape in chaos. He picked up drawings, judged and set them down again, lips pursed.
‘You have done all this in so short a time?’ he said.
‘Why?’ Her voice was high and taut. ‘Is the work substandard?’
‘No. No.’ Then, harshly, ‘How long have you been taking drugs?’
She was indignant, outraged. ‘I’m not taking anything!’
‘Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?’
She clutched her dressing gown to hide her throat. For she had indeed the look of one who makes love to a vampire, then rises from bed to work the night through. Drained, pale skin. Eyes like feverish rubies deep in purple-brown pits. ‘I’ve been working hard, that’s all.’
‘You will burn yourself out! What is it that keeps you awake, speed, cocaine? For God’s sake, Rebecca, what’s happening to you?’
I chose my moment. Stepped out of the shadows, strolled up the gallery stairs in my robe, dishevelled, cool and ironic, as if in a movie. I said, ‘Rebecca, are you not going to introduce us?’
She looked mortified. There was a terrible silence. At last, in a small voice she said, ‘Father, I’d like you to meet Sebastian.’
It was worse than I had expected. When he looked at me – I say looked; really it was like being X-rayed – he saw what I was. Not literally, perhaps, but so keenly that he was half a whisker from the truth. His eyes burned me black.
‘I knew it would be something like this. Knew. I see it all. He’s the one forcing you to work too hard. He’s the one who procures the drugs, yes?’
‘No! He is my inspiration!’
A hissing sneer of contempt. ‘I know him, and dozens like him. They’re all the same. They want to feed off your glory, your money! “One more objet, dearest, for us. A few extra works, and we’ll be rich.” He’ll bleed you dry!’
‘Get out!’ she screamed. ‘You’ve never let me live my own life! You have to let me go!’
‘Make a choice,’ he said, droplets spitting from his lips. ‘Go on seeing him and you will never see me again.’
In answer, she drew close to me and slid her hand through my arm. ‘You make a choice, Daddy,’ she answered. ‘Let me grow up, or get out. They’re not all the same. Everyone I’ve ever loved, you’ve driven away! Well, not this time. Not this time.’
White-faced and vibrating with emotion, her father left.
And I would have been proud of her if only, sadly, he had not been so right.
Apart, they were paralysed.
For weeks they sulked and grew gaunt, while their workbenches lay idle, and their phones rang unanswered. I know, for I watched them both, even when they had no idea I was there. They wasted in every sense. Yet neither, straight-backed and stubborn, would give in.
I haunted the old man’s house. He was there at his workbench, playing a file, not on gold but on his own callused fingertips. Staring at the dark.
‘Go to her, Bartholomew,’ I whispered. ‘Take her in your arms and tell her you’re sorry.’
He started, but looked at me without surprise, didn’t even ask how the hell I got in. Hoarsely he said, ‘She sends you as a go-between?’
‘No. I came because I can’t bear to see her pining.’
‘She has her lover, what use has she for a father? I have only loved her all her life. I only taught her everything she knows.’
‘And this is how she thanks you,’ I added. ‘Have pity on her. She can’t work.’
‘Can’t she.’ A sneer of grim pleasure.
‘Nor can you.’
‘You only care for her work, for the wealth and glory you leech from it! I know you were forcing drugs on her. Nothing else could make her look so ill. I know your sort, predators on my daughter. Happy now, are you? You cut the goose open in your greed and look! No more golden eggs!’
‘I am irrelevant,’ I said softly. ‘It’s that your daughter dares to defy you, that’s what you can’t accept. It’s that she dares to step from under your wing and be an artist in her own right, to be better than you. And you know you’re in the wrong but you can’t admit it. You’d rather torture her for the rest of time with your hubris than admit you’re wrong.’
With a roar he leapt at me and I, taken by surprise, defended myself. The file jabbed into my eye. Searing pain jolted through my skull. My hand sprang out to grip his throat. What must he have seen? My white face, my eye socket a gelid mess with the file sticking grotesquely from it. And I, not screaming but enflamed, monstrous. For then he was unmanned. He turned purple, he screamed, he twitched and I – I swear I did not mean to harm him but the pain, turning from fire to ice as my unnatural body pushed out the foreign object – the pain took over and I had him to my lips, my mouth full of his neck, his neck a spouting hose of blood, delicious, hot…
The first book in Freda Warrington’s Blood Books series, A Taste of Blood Wine, is out now from Titan Books, £7.99. Read the rest of the short story Little Goose here: http://titanbooks.com/blog/freda-warringtons-blood-wine-tour/
© Freda Warrington
Venue and guests announced for Eastercon 2013Comments Off
It has been confirmed that the 64th Eastercon – appropriately named Eight Squared Con – will be held at the Cedar Court Hotel in Bradford, West Yorkshire, from 29 March to 1 April 2013. The Guests of Honour have been announced as Walter Jon Williams, Freda Warrington, Anne Sudworth and Edward James.
To keep up to date with announcements and information please see the website HERE
Book sales now on!Comments Off
NewCon Press is offering its vampire anthology The Bitten Word signed limited edition hardback, at half price. 336 pages, seventeen original stories from the likes of Kelley Armstrong, Tanith Lee, Storm Constantine, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Gail Z. Martin, Freda Warrington, Simon Clark, Chaz Brenchley, etc, all in a beautifully presented dust-jacketed hardback. This limited edition book is signed by all the authors on two bespoke signing pages and includes a full colour plate of the magnificent back cover art by award winning artist Les Edwards, plus a bonus story by Ian Watson. All for just £16.00 (plus p&p – £2.50 in the UK) rather than the listed £32.00.
In addition, they are offering the following at half price:
Limited edition hardback (unsigned) and paperback of the anthology Myth-Understandings: featuring all women authors, themed on ‘communication’, with stories from: Gwyneth Jones, Pat Cadigan, Justina Robson, Liz Williams, Tricia Sullivan, Sarah Pinborough, Storm Constantine, Deborah J Miller, Freda Warrington, Leigh Kennedy, etc.
Limited edition hardback (signed by author, introducer, and cover artist) and limited edition paperback (signed by the author) of Andrew Hook’s existential zombie novel And God Created Zombies (introduction by Sarah Pinborough).
Limited edition hardback (signed) and paperback of The Beloved of my Beloved – a collaboration between British SF author Ian Watson and Italian surrealist Roberto Quaglia. Surreal, shocking, inventive, bizarre, hilarious, outrageous, obscene, and quite, quite brilliant: Arabian Nights meets the Illustrated Man with added weirdness.
Please contact NewCon Press using the contact form on the website if you are interested in purchasing any of these titles.
Meanwhile, PS Publishing are having a clearance sale with several paperbacks at just £2.99. Some novellas, novels, collections and anthologies are priced at under £10, together with a handful of signed slipcased editions at just £12.99. ARC copies are being sold at £4.99 plus postage for the novellas and £8.99 plus postage for everything else.