Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
The Dark Blood of Poppies is the third book in Freda Warrington’s brilliantly evocative Blood Wine Sequence, and for me at least, possibly one of the best.
Following the dramas and tensions of the first two volumes, in this one we find that a new pretender to the Vampire crown has arisen and his grandiose plan is to gather a dedicated cult-like army of fanatical followers and turn them all at once, instantly creating a veritable army with which to overthrow all of mankind. Of course, things were always going to end up pear-shaped, and amidst the solid background already established — that of the deepest love between Karl and Charlotte, and the frightening power of Violette, Charlotte’s lady-friend ballerina who has now fully emerged in the role of Lilith, the demon mother of all Vampires — we can now add a new dastardly and twisted darkness to the mix, the deeply sensual relationship between the vampire Sebastian and Robyn, a high-flying courtesan who is used to having her own way with plenty of well-to-do would-be suitors…
Robyn seems to have come unstuck with Sebastian, however, as it soon transpires that he’s playing her at her own game, and has had plenty more years in which to perfect the art… In truth, the constant back and forth and give and take that characterises their tempestuous relationship is marvellously wrought, and while always unpredictable the twists and turns are many and varied, serving to keep the reader constantly guessing in classic ‘just one more page’ mode…
Rest assured, this is a chunky book and there’s a lot going on, yet the story simply flies along — while Robyn and Sebastian form a substantial part of this volume, we also have Violette demonstrating her immense strength and power effortlessly decapitating vampires, many of the other vamps fearing for their lives because of this, and the aforementioned evangelical Cesare trying to unite the rest in an effort to take control of the world under the banner of God’s will. As has become the norm, Karl and Charlotte have their own relationship issues to deal with as well, but once again find another plateau upon which to build on things, and the ‘satellite plots’ involving various other vampires are all developed further still (the ‘senior ones’ for want of a better expression), and there’s so much more to enjoy.
Anyways, I’ve yet to end any review of one of Freda’s books without referring to the impressive style of her writing — it’s smart, compelling, and simply fabulous.
Clearly, we’re being set up for a magnificent fourth volume which never did appear when this trilogy originally did (1992-95), so it’s been a long time in coming — indeed, I gather the outline for a fourth book is at least 15 years old! The fourth book, The Dark Arts of Blood, is now out, a review of which will follow soon-ish. It is so easy to recommend this. Indeed, it’s easy to recommend all of the books in the Blood Wine Sequence, frankly.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society (BFS) website here