Pros: A more old-school take on vampires; intriguing strains of Lovecraftian horrors; unusual historical setting for a paranormal
Cons: A few oddities (a French poem rhymes in English?) and a couple of dry passages
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review book (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Grand Central Publishing
Expected publication date: November 2010
Vampires have become kindler and gentler these days. The curse of thirsting for blood and giving in to the desire to rend and kill has all but vanished. Even little worries like getting burned to ash by sunlight have faded to mere annoyances. Thus, it was with great joy that I discovered that Jeremiah Fall, the vampire protagonist of Stefan Petrucha’s Blood Prophecy, was a bit of a throwback to an older style. Sure, he doesn’t go all the way back to vampire as inhuman killing machine, but some of his brethren certainly do, and he isn’t exactly immune to the lust for blood and violence himself. His abilities consist of more than just having a ridiculous haircut or being a bit strong, and sunlight—oh, yeah, sunlight’s a problem.
Fall was a Puritan farmer until he and his family accidentally uncovered the prison of a sleeping beast—a beast that killed Fall’s family and turned him into a monster. Fall has retained enough of his moral and religious bent to desperately want salvation, and when a whisper of a rumor of a cure surfaces, he sets off in single-minded pursuit. That pursuit will cause him to take up the mantle of a soldier of fortune, and leads him to Egypt during Napoleon’s wars. There he finds a mystical stone that might contain the cure he’s looking for, or could doom all of mankind. There he finds a woman he begins to love. And there he finds the birthplace of all mankind.
Most paranormal/vampire novels these days occupy fairly rigid niches, and this is the first one I’ve come across that used as backdrops places like Puritan Massachusetts, Egypt, France, and the Napoleonic Wars. It gave the book a freshness and originality. As much as modern vampire novels can be fun, they get old fast unless the author is extremely creative and has a very unique voice.
Jeremiah Fall is an interesting character. His Puritan background is unusual, and although there is a bit more moping on his part than I’d like, by and large he’s proactive and engaged with the world and people around him. He’s definitely the main character of his own story, so the other characters take a back seat; that said, Petrucha still does some interesting things with them, particularly Fall’s love interest, Amala, and a cultist named Hylic.
There are a few somewhat dry passages as bits of history are passed on to the reader, but those are hard to avoid when you want people to be able to get into a historical setting, particularly one that fewer people are likely to be familiar with. I also was a bit confused by the fact that a French poem, when related in English on the page, rhymed… in English. That seems unlikely at best.
Blood Prophecy is part war-torn action, part historical, part Lovecraftian horror (thematically, not writing style-wise), part vampire paranormal, and a touch of romance. What amazed me most is that I had a very difficult time seeing how Petrucha would satisfactorily wind up the plot—yet he did a gorgeous job of it.
How much do I love you for calling out a “French” poem happening to rhyme in English? (Very, that’s how much!)
*grin* I don’t always catch such things, but this time I was like, waaait a minute…
Thanks for the lovely review Heather! Glad you liked it!
As for the rhyming French poem – back in college I had a similar problem with a supposedly very scholarly edition of Homer’s Odyssey that rhymed, despite having been written in ancient Greek.
The prof explained that translators, particularly with verse or song lyrics, often sacrifice accuracy to keep the sense of the meter and rhyme, they twist things around a bit to make them fit. Any number of songs translated into English still fit the rhyme and melody, because the translator bends over backwards to make them work that way. Hence, Jeremiah did the same while translating the poem – which he admits is only his best guess. Not that you’re wrong to point it out, but it is done all the time. Thanks again and pax!
That was my first thought with regard to the poem, but I didn’t catch anything in the text that indicated he was working from a translation rather than translating it directly, hence the confusion. I definitely enjoyed the fresh milieu!
Not to put too fine a point on it, and I’m sure I could have made it clearer – but just to let you know it was something I kept in mind while working on the book — he writes down the French phonetically, then learns French over the next several years, then over many decades works on his translation. Having later heard the melody connected with it, Jeremiah is the one who makes it rhyme to fit the song.
Thanks again for the great write-up!
True, but on the other hand, I didn’t really have the impression he was the sort to go to great romantic lengths to make a poem come out rhyming on the other end—he was translating to a very specific goal-driven purpose. I get what you mean, but it didn’t come across to me in the context.
Fair enough! If there’s a second edition, I’ll certainly make it clearer. All best –