Saturday, May 29, 2010

“Bloodborn”, by Nathan Long (Black Library)


The First Ulrika the Vampire Adventure

Ulrika, recently turned as a vampire, attempts to adjust to her new way of life.

But when a fellow vampire is killed in Nuln, Ulrika and her mentor, Gabriella, are sent to investigate. Soon they find themselves facing danger from all sides as they attempt to solve a mystery that threatens the very existence of the Lahmian bloodline.

How can they hope to destroy something with the power to kill a vampire?

The first in another Gotrek & Felix spin-off series (the other being Thanquol & Boneripper), Bloodborn had a lot riding on it. Thankfully, it fails to disappoint.

The novel has the feel of some of the first Warhammer novels published; specifically, the Genevieve the Vampire series by Jack Yeovil. It leans a little more towards horror than fantasy, and has a darker, bloodier feel to it.

I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into the story, but Ulrika and her mistress, Gabriella have a relationship not unlike that between Louis and Lestat, in Anne Rice's classic Vampire Chronicles. Indeed, there appears to be some well-done homage to them in the Vampire lore here, as well as the Lahmians’ general strategy reminiscent of White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade. Hoffman and Ulrika enjoy something of a doomed Romeo & Juliet acquaintance, which leads to a touching and somewhat tragic ending.

The Lahmian vampires (predominantly women, who favour subtlety and guile to conquest and brutality) are clearly all so wrapped up in their own schemes that they see treachery and plotting behind every action. For Ulrika, it is a sharp and difficult education, so used to the blunt northern ways of her fellow Kislevites: Navigating the shifting loyalties and allegiances of her new vampire sorority can be treacherous and confusing, and forms a considerable amount of Bloodborn. Lady Hermione, for example, is utterly crazy, frequently acting like a spoiled child having a tantrum (for the most part, this was a good way of exhibiting the paranoid nature of the Lahmians, but at times it just comes across as childish, and Hermione was the only weak point in an otherwise excellent novel). I managed to figure out what was going on pretty quickly, but it didn’t ruin the story at all, and I enjoyed it right up until the last page.

As with Shamanslayer, Nathan Long has raised his game: his writing is much better and more assured, and the plot is more a thriller/mystery than an out-and-out adventure. Not only that, the author has managed to write something that has an original voice, distinct from the series that gave us Ulrika in the first place, while at the same time retaining the feel and atmosphere of the Warhammer world and other novels set in it.

The novel’s pace isn’t always as fast as one might hope, but when you get sucked into the story, you’ll fly through the novel. The ending was surprising, but also satisfying as Long avoided cliché, which would just have diminished the very nature and credibility of his characters. With vampire novels like this available, it is beyond me why people might read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series… [More on this in a future article]

A very satisfying read, Bloodborn is well worth seeking out.

Also try: Jack Yeovil, The Vampire Genevieve; Steven Saville, The Vampire Wars; Anne Rice, The Vampire Chronicles; Nathan Long, Gotrek & Felix; Mike Lee, Nagash the Sorcerer & Nagash the Unbroken; Robert Earl, Ancient Blood

Nathan Long’s next novel for Black Library is the 12th Gotrek and Felix novel, Zombieslayer (November 2010), followed by the second Ulrika novel, Bloodforged (release date TBC – the artwork, printed on the inside cover of Bloodborn, is great!)

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