The Dark Arts of Blood by Freda Warrington
Titan Books, 498pp standard paperback, £7.99 cover price
£2.99 on Kindle (Jan 2016)
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
It’s been over a year [actually, back in 2013!] since I was first introduced to Freda Warrington’s fabulous trilogy of vampire novels, the excellent Blood Wine Sequence incl. A Taste of Blood Wine, A Dance In Blood Velvet, and The Dark Blood of Poppies — and I’ve been waxing lyrical about them to all and sundry at conventions and such-like ever since (and yes, at my local library too).
[Indeed, my original review of A Taste of Blood Wine for the British Fantasy Society here has been quoted on the back cover of both this and Dance and I interviewed the author for BFS Journal #11, but anyway… let’s agree I’m a fan of her work and move on :-)]
Originally written back in 1992, long before the likes of Charlaine Harris and a brace of sexy movies made vampires a lot more cool and trendy than ever before (Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice notwithstanding), these books were re-released in 2000, and then reissued again in 2013 with a fabulous art makeover to boot. Lucky for us, she was also commissioned to write a fourth book in the series, and I’m pleased to say it arrived earlier this year [May 2015]: The Dark Arts of Blood takes readers back to 1920s Switzerland where a local filmmaker with sinister motives inherits the mysterious sakakin, a set of thirty ancient knives imbued with great power through countless years of sacrificial rituals and the invocation of an immortal god.
So what can you expect in this instalment? Well, if I tell you the brilliant dancer/vampire, Violette (a reincarnated form of Lilith, demon mother of all vampires) has opened a dance academy near to where our film director, Godric Reiniger, likes to make his movies, and then go on to inform you the vampire twins Niklas and Stefan (his mute brother) have also innocently purchased a home in the vicinity, and the ancient vampire Fadiya has returned to the area and wants her lovely set of knives back… well, I’m sure you can already imagine the ensuing carnage! In the midst of all this, vampire lovers Karl and Charlotte once again have their eternal love tested as they strive to prevent a war that could see the end of all vampire-kind.
I previously thought the third volume, Poppies, cranked up the conflict and mythical elements significantly, but this final volume proves an all-out demolition derby, a jam-packed rolling car crash full to bursting with one confrontation after the next; and it’s all the better for it, frankly. We have the mad director, Godric (who for some reason, always made me think of Russ Meyer) going all out in pursuit of his implausible revolution by blackmailing the majority of his staff and gradually turning himself into Mr Indestructible (even to vampires); we have the sassy, smart and viciously seductive Fadiya who serves a monstrous demi-god; the estranged dancer, Emil, who has fallen hopelessly under her spell, and Violette/Lilith trying to pull her leading man back from the brink… Topping it all, the beautiful twins come a cropper and have a fatal calamity of their own to deal with; while our lead duo, Karl and Charlotte, have to race against time and science itself to combat the increasingly effective anti-vampire measures (and ultimately, agenda) of our overly keen activist director… Oh yes, and with the introduction of doppelgänger this time round, sometimes everything is most definitely not as it seems!
I can’t praise this series enough, the author’s writing is poetic, enduring, and consumes you hook, line, and sinker. A superb ending to a marvellous series, and highly recommended.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society (BFS) website here