(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Set in the 1820s, The Tale of the Vampire Bride is sure to thrill fans of vampires of literary past with its lush, gothic atmosphere and terrifying spectacle.
All Lady Glynis Wright ever wanted was the freedom to live life as she pleased, despite her aristocratic parents’ wishes for her to marry into wealth. But her fate is far more terrible than an arranged marriage when her family becomes prisoners to one of the most fearsome and powerful vampires of all time, Count Vlad Dracula.
Imprisoned in the decrepit castle in the Carpathian Mountains, Glynis’s new life as a Bride of Dracula is filled with bloody feasts, cruel beatings, and sexual depravity. There is no hope for escape. Vlad Dracula has elaborate plans to use her familial connections in England and she has become his favored pawn. Even more terrible is the bond of blood between them that keeps Glynis tethered to his side despite her deep hatred of him.
It’s only when Vlad Dracula takes Glynis to the picturesque city of Buda on the Danube River and she meets a mysterious vampire in the darkened city streets, does she dare hope to find love and freedom.
Rhiannon Frater sure wasn’t kidding when she said that this book was ‘gothic horror’ on Goodreads. It’s pretty bloody and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart but at the same time none of the violence is really unnecessary. There’s always a point to it; none of it is gratuitous. And the most important part is that it really jars the reader in the same manner that poor Glynis herself is jarred as she’s thrown into the life of an unwilling wife to one of the most famous psychopaths in history: Vlad the Impaler.
Glynis is a pretty extraordinary woman for her time. She really doesn’t want to get married; she really just wants to be her own woman, independent and free. In her time that’s certainly unconventional but not an impossibility when you have wealth on your side so it’s not like she’s a stand-in for a modern woman. No, she definitely tries to rebel within the narrow confines of society and that’s part of the reason why she runs afoul of Count Dracula and his brides once her family is killed and she is turned. Glynis loves her independence and being raped and controlled by Dracula isn’t exactly being independent. So as she suffers, Glynis begins to plot to gain her freedom by any means possible. I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say that when Dracula begins to love her in his manner (because realistically he is not the sort of man to fall in real love) it’s the beginning of the end of his reign of terror over poor Glynis and the other brides.
One of the things that struck me the in the first novel I read by Rhiannon Frater, The Last Bastion of the Living, was the complex psychology involved. The Tale of the Vampire Bride is really no different in that it presents some pretty abnormal psychology without condoning or condemning it. She simply portrays the characters without judgment and leaves it up to the reader to figure things out. Is it a result of all of the trauma she’s gone through that Glynis starts to actually feel something (not love) for Dracula? Or is it that she’s finally accepting her vampire life? I personally think it’s a result of the trauma combined with an acceptance of her vampire life but Rhiannon Frater smartly leaves things up to the reader for them to figure out themselves. She’s not one of these authors that tries to beat her readers over the head with the obvious stick. Her writing is subtle and ambiguous, which is perfect for this kind of gothic tale.
I was a little hesitant about this book in the beginning because it starts off relatively slow with Glynis and her family travelling around in Transylvania to try yet again to find Glynis a husband. But things pick up pretty quickly when they get mysteriously diverted to Dracula’s castle and meet the count himself. After that the story involves a lot of the push-pull dynamic between Vlad and Glynis as both of them try to assert their authority. Sometimes Dracula wins, sometimes (particularly toward the end) Glynis wins. She learns to survive and there’s another level of intrigue dropped in when the two of them go to Buda and find that humans aren’t the only things they need to worry about. Glynis’ journey is one of sorrow, torture and strife while at the same time it’s a story of hope, redemption and even love. Even when the pacing itself is slow, it’s hard not to be captivated by the story itself and the amazing, memorable characters.
That’s why even if you’re not a big fan of gothic horror novels, The Tale of the Vampire Bride is worth a try. I certainly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did and maybe you’ll surprise yourself as well.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
The Bastion was humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. A fortified city with a high wall, surrounded by lush land rich with all the resources needed to survive, protected by high mountain summits, and a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, the Bastion became the last stronghold of the living on earth. But one fateful day, the gate failed and the Inferi Scourge destroyed the human settlements outside the walls and trapped the survivors inside the city. Now decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city as resources and hope dwindle.
Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her whole life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of her lover, Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness.
Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
I love zombies. I love a good action movie. I also love a good story with a well-developed protagonist and excellent world-building. The Last Bastion of the Living is all of the above in one awesome, heart-pounding package.
Maria Martinez is a kick-butt protagonist. Not only can she literally kick butt, she can think her way out of most situations. She’s not always the perfect obedient soldier that everyone wants her to be, even if she appears to be on the outside. At the same time, all she really wants to do is protect the Bastion and those living inside of it. Even if it means sacrificing herself to do it. Maria can be emotionally vulnerable, but I love how she’s also capable of sucking it up and just continuing on when work needs to be done. And even though she tries her best to ignore the facts staring her in the face during her mission, when there’s no way the inevitable can be denied she throws herself into the situation to work for the greater good.
Even if the rest of the book was awful, Maria would more than make up for it. Except that Rhiannon Frater has created a fascinating world of scary, futuristic zombies (staying true to the novel’s tagline). The technology is advanced, but is decaying within the Bastion as the living lost access to their natural resources outside the main citadel. There are signs of decay throughout the novel, both cultural and technological and it makes for a dark, brooding sort of atmosphere. Even though there are happy moments and glimpses of hope, Rhiannon Frater maintains that brooding atmosphere throughout the novel and I have great admiration for that. She does things like have Maria’s crew joke around without really breaking the tension she slowly builds up in the background.
The world-building here is amazing. The Last Bastion of the Living is no typical zombie novel, believe me. The combination of technology and plain old-fashioned zombie killing makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, refreshing sort of zombie novel. I never have pretended that I’m strong in the sciences and I never will, but I loved how Rhiannon Frater did include some scientific explanations for how Maria and her comrades can possibly succeed in their mission to kill all of the zombies. In addition to the science, the history leading up to this awful zombie apocalypse was well thought out, if not extraordinarily detailed. Really, I didn’t feel the need for a lot of detail and most of my questions were answered, but I just love the ending’s potential for a sequel.
If you love zombies and/or science fiction or have ever even thought of trying a zombie novel, this would be a great introduction. You couldn’t ask for a better one, believe me.
I give this book 5/5 stars.