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: