Book Review: “Fevre Dream” by George R R Martin

Fevre Dream

I was looking for a good vampire novel to get my teeth into and this is it! Mix vampires with a Mississippi steamboat and the author of A Game of Thrones ( A Song of Ice and Fire) and this is the result.

“A vampire story,” said York with a sly smile. “Surely you’ve heard of them before. The living dead, immortal, prowlers of the night, creatures without souls, damned to eternal wandering.”

This story is set in 1857, a down on his luck protagonist Abner Marsh owns a shipping company plying its trade on the Mississippi and its tributaries, unfortunately four of his six boats were destroyed in a catastrophic ice jam in St Louis and a fifth had its boiler blow up. Abner’s misfortune leads him to a midnight meeting with a pale mysterious stranger, Joshua York, who offers to build Abner the steamship of his dreams in return for certain concessions. York dreams of bringing the vampire race and humans into a peaceful co-existence, he has created a drink which quells the monthly blood lust that grips vampires and has them seek out human prey.

The vampires in this book are a different species from humans, it is not possible to convert from one race to the other; garlic, crucifix, holy water etc. have no effect on them. Although sunlight is still deadly to them.

George R R Martin creates interesting characters, which are not simply good or bad but more complex. He also creates interesting plot-lines. The vampires add an element of fantasy to a historical tale of steamboats on the Mississippi. The period is evoked well and you feel some of the passion of the leading characters for their steamboats particularly the Fevre Dream of the title, built to be the fastest and most opulent steamboat on the Mississippi.

This book is a worthy addition to the vampire canon comprising works such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and  Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire.

The story is well paced, as you would expect from a book about vampires there are some horror scenes, but it is no gore-fest, there is also a lot of period detail about life on the Mississippi immediately prior to the Civil War. Slavery is touched upon, Marsh the protagonist is opposed to slavery but he is no great fan of the abolitionists. The way vampires look upon humans as “cattle” is paralleled with how whites looked upon blacks at the time.

I was going to mention something about Mark Twain meets Bram Stoker, but other reviewers have brought that up.

My rating 5 out of 5

Other vampire books I’ve reviewed:

“Blood Omen 1: Vampire Wars” by K.R.Davies

“The Last Wish” by Andrzej Sapkowski

“Dracula” by Bram Stoker

 

 

 

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“A Clash of Kings” by George R R Martin (Book Review)

A Clash of Kings” is a weighty tome and the second in the series “A Song of Ice and Fire“. My copy runs to page 1009, but this includes almost 40 pages of appendices, which I rarely used. The appendices list the various houses and have some maps.

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A Clash of Kings

The first book in the series is “Game of Thrones“, which I haven’t yet read, I haven’t read it because I couldn’t find it in the Tbilisi bookshops. This is quite common, the bookstores here, stock books from a series but often don’t have the first, maybe someone beat me to it. Paranassus has all the sequels to A Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but not the first book, Prospero’s has Brave New World Revisited but not Brave New World and when I was looking for Game of Thrones in Biblus; I found the second, third and fourth books of the series but not the first.  As I have watched the HBO TV series, this wasn’t such a problem, I had a good idea of the story. I don’t usually read a book after watching a film or TV series, but this was an exception. I love the TV series and eagerly anticipate the final season. Reading this book “A Clash of Kings” may have been a means to satisfy my Westeros withdrawal cravings.

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Robb Stark “The King in the North” in the HBO Series

Each chapter looks at the story from the point of view of a particular character : Sansa, Tyrion, Jon, Arya and even Davos. The title “A Clash of Kings” suggests a lot of kings and a lot of political intrigue, the chapters for Tyrion are particularly interesting in this respect.

Tyrion observes: “My most trusted advisers are a eunuch and a sellsword, and my lady’s a whore. What does that say of me?” (p632)

If you are unfamiliar with the whole Game of Thrones/The Song of Ice and Fire phenomenon, it details a fantasy world, where we learn about two continents Westeros and Essos. In Westeros there are many contenders for the right to rule the lands from the Iron Throne in King’s Landing, the capital. The Game is about how the different factions play against each other with the goal of becoming the ruler of the seven kingdoms of Westeros. The technology of the world is similar to that of England during the War of the Roses in the 15th century, but as this is fantasy there are added elements of magic  and dragons and a napalm like substance called “Wildfire“. The War of the Roses pitted York against Lancaster, here the principal two houses are Stark and Lannister.

In A Clash of Kings we have Joffrey, a cruel and juvenile tyrant like Edward of Lancaster,  sitting on the Iron Throne but he doesn’t control all seven kingdoms. There are Stannis and Renly, brothers of the previous king Robert, who contend their claims. In the north, there is Robb Stark, the self styled “king in the north” and over in Essos, there is Daenerys, who also has a claim on the Iron Throne and has three dragons to boot. The highlight of this second book is the Battle of Black Water which sees the forces of Stannis come to King’s Landing to fight the Lannister forces organised by Tyrion, the hand of the King.

In the book we see the Battle of Black Water from Tyrion’s viewpoint (we also have Sansa and Davos viewpoint but they see little of the overall picture), it would have been interesting to have Cersei’s viewpoint, the mother of the king, and master player in the game.

If I hadn’t seen the TV Series, this book would have been a veritable page-turner, the story is very similar, so there were no major surprises, in a way by seeing the TV Series,  I’d spoilt it for myself. The book does give a lot more detail on the motivations of certain characters. Some of the characters like Jon, Daenerys, Sansa and Arya are much younger in the books than in the TV Series. I have the third book in the series on my reading shelf: “A Storm of Swords” (1128 pages before the appendices!), many fans rate this one as the best. We shall see.

My rating : 4 out of 5