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Child of the Night - Book I in the Power of the Blood World
Note: I read the ebook, which was published June 17, 2011 by Crossroad Press & Macabre Ink Digital.
Why did I purchase and read Child of the Night? Several reasons. There is the obvious: I love horror stories. I inherited it from my mom. She loved horror movies and called each, "a good, juicy scary one." She was a 74-year-old grandmother who referred to my son as Sugarman and adored fuzzy baby ducks and black kittens. On the other hand, she also giggled during the scene in 13 Ghosts when the man is bisected by a pane of glass. Maybe you had to be there, but it was cute watching her get excited about these movies. They were fun to her, and I guess that soaked into my skull over the years.
I also see horror stories mark rites of passage throughout my life. I remember when I was twelve or thirteen and I stayed up to watch Friday the 13th on my sister's cable. The movie started at 10:30 PM. I was alone and there wasn't a light on in the house, but I didn't go to bed until it was over. I wrote my best friend to describe my accomplishment.
Another milestone slipped into the rearview mirror when I read Stephen King's Pet Sematary. I stayed up for three nights during summer vacation reading it and Cujo. I said to myself, "I didn't know writing could be this good." Wonder (hope?) allowed me to touch with a ten-foot pole the thought, "Could I do this too?"
But, I'm wandering too far down Memory Lane and need to return to the original question.
Ultimately, the choice to buy Child of the Night came down to something much simpler than than life-altering epiphanies. Almost a month ago, on the day I turned 46, Nancy Kilpatrick messaged me on Facebook, "Happy birthday." I didn't know her. Had never spoken to her as far as I could remember. And I had read none of her books. She was nice. Uncommonly so, I thought--which I have since learned is as natural for her as breathing. So, I logged onto Goodreads and looked up which of her series caught my eye first. Then, I ordered book #1 and waited for the emotional payoff.
I am proud that Ms. Kilpatrick's book is the first I am reviewing. It would be a safe bet to say that more of her books will appear here in the future.
Speaking of the future, I plan to make MACABRE MONDAY a regular feature of this blog. (Which is kind of scary for an extremely slow reader. Get it? Scary? Yeah, I know. Don't encourage me.)
See my spoiler-free video review on my YouTube channel:
About the Author
Ms. Kilpatrick's style is descriptive, vivid, and clear. A short example:
As in the downtown of any insular city, everyone seemed to have a nodding acquaintance with everybody else. Mopeds and motorcycles swerved between small, gas-conscious cars. Many drivers were young, dressed in denim or leather clothing, shouting to their friends. The sidewalks quivered with life...
Even with the rich descriptions, the story is fast paced. Danger is always shadows Carol, whether it comes from Andre or her own past.
Vampire stories personify sex and appetite. I found nothing new along those themes, except in how Kilpatrick overlays the blood and fangs with domestic violence and how a dysfunctional relationship infects the entire family. I often forgot that this is a vampire story and read as if it were simply a romance that takes relationship to extremes and often inextricable mixtures of pleasure and pain.
I spoke online with Ms. Kilpatrick to ask her some questions about the book. Here is that interview:
RABID BOOKWORM: In this and future reviews, I am interested in tracing the pedigree of each book. For example, Child of the Night is a descendant of Dracula. What books do you feel live in Child of the Night's bloodline? Specifically, are there books the audience could read that would allow them to see your novel in a better light, something that would heighten the experience?
NANCY KILPATRICK: There are many more modern vampire novels that show the vampire as having evolved from Stoker's Dracula. There was a huge shift in the vampire in the 1960s in film, many of which the Hammer Studios in the UK brought in. Dracula became more modern, more erotic, found it easier to pass for living, and we saw other vampires as well that were not spawns of Dracula. This also happened in fiction. Writers like Anne Rice, whose work was published mid-1970s; Chelsea Quinn Yarbro--her character St. Germain, based on a real person living in Europe in the 1700s; Nancy Collin's Sunglasses After Dark and sequels; even comic book characters like Vampirella. Fred Saberhagen's books twist Dracula around to being a pretty-good guy. Poppy Brite's Lost Souls is a modern, youthful take on vampirism that doesn't include Dracula. Richard Laymon, Tanith Lee, P.N. Elrod, Laurel K. Hamilton, Tanya Huff, J.N. Williamson--there are way too many authors to name who were or are writing non-Dracula vampires and brought this supernatural creature hissing and biting into the present, even if the stories are set in the past. Barnabas Collins in the Dark Shadows series on TV and in books; Forever Knight; Buffy; True Blood, The Vampire Diaries... Dracula in a sense is perhaps seen as the progenitor of vampires, at least in the western world (but of course there were stories and novels that preceded Dracula in English and in other languages, and the mythology goes back to the first written records). But most of what's been written in the huge vampire sub-genre over the last 50+ years has been the vampire that is not necessarily Dracula, or related to him. Child of the Night certainly fits into this large body of work and readers of vampire fiction can see that right away. New readers just tip-toeing into the sub-genre will quickly get a sense that Dracula has evolved and his family tree has spread out pretty far from the source while still retaining the archetypal definition of vampire: they are predators, we are the prey.
RB: The book debuted more than twenty years ago. Why should we read it today? Is that answer different for vampire fans and the general reader?
NK: I believe that the entire series of Power of the Blood (which consists of Child of the Night, Near Death, Reborn, Bloodlover) is still very relevant, and new readers of the series tell me that. These books have been reprinted by several publishers, beginning with Pocket Books publishing Near Death (which of course immediately took the titles out of order!), and ending with Crossroad Press doing the ebooks and Audible audio book. I think the relevance comes because there are themes that never die out. Relationships between the genders have always been marked by beauty and sweetness and violence. Mars and Venus and all that. But ultimately, it's the difficulty in relating to anyone else for a species like ours that carries a consciousness of impending demise either on the surface or buried deep in our psyche. We don't have the luxury of not-knowing, even if that awareness doesn't hit consciously until the last moments of life. We still operate with the undercurrents always with us--just as we stand on the Earth knowing there is this enormous amount of molten stuff below us. Basically, we know, but we try not to think about it too much or we can't live.
Death is hard for us, it's hard for those around us, and that knowledge that we come into this existence and leave it alone (even in multi-births and deaths), is sobering. And what's hard to handle often leads to fears that drive misunderstandings and presumptions and havoc in relationships because death is one of the two huge and pretty much uncontrollable events in our lives. The vampire/human relationship is a great way to explore and explode that on the page so that the undercurrents erupt for the reader and what is fantastic or supernatural suddenly relates to real life. I've had that experience reading books, and I know many readers of my books have had that experience. It's what the arts do best--put us in touch with what it means to be human, warts and all.
RB: About ten percent or so into this book, I stopped reading, concerned whether I was the right audience. I'm tenacious though, and even through doubts, I continued and was rewarded with a great story. If another reader fell into similar doubts and you could stand at their elbow at that moment, what would you tell them?
NK: I think every reader is different. Some will persevere through a book that isn't quite right for them and find a gem, others will persevere and be disappointed. A book hits where we are at. Being a bookworm, to coin your word here, is that we tend to cut authors slack. Like you, I've read books that at first didn't grab me, but soon did and I was so glad I kept going. In fact, I've read a number of Stephen King novels that took about 50 pages for me to get into the story and then I'm always glad I did.
A person who loves reading usually gives the author a chance to weave the story because a novel is for the long haul. Having said that, I think, again, that readers are different. Many readers of Child of the Night have told me they were hooked from the first page. I've had many many guys email me to tell me that they relate to Andre and they are talking about their own mercurial nature they haven't quite understood but can now see better. As a writer, I learned a long time ago that I can't control the reader. I write from my heart and mind and from a creative source I still don't understand after all these years. I think in a sense if a book is meant for a particular reader, has a resonance for that reader, the book and the reader will find one another. It's a synchronistic connection.
RB: I feel that your idea of vampiric transformation is one of the most interesting and plausible in literature. Without spoilers, of course, what else in this story is new and unique? What makes a vampire a Nancy Kilpatrick vampire? Or, stepping back for a wider view, what makes a story a Nancy Kilpatrick story?
NK: There are two things I enjoy writing. When it comes to vampires, I tend (not always, I've done the opposite, of course, because hey, I'm a writer!), but I tend to use these wily creatures to bring opposites to the page. I love paradox. They hate and love. And that's fine. But I also like to create characters that can change, and have reasons for behavior, and again, that is easier to do with vampires than with mortals. They are a different species, with different rules as to what constitutes their species, so there's a lot more leeway writing relationships between mortals and immortals than having to tip toe around human to human. This is walking a fine like and I enjoy writing on that edge.
I also like to write from the spiritual perspective, meaning, delving into the deeper aspects of who anyone or anything is, and deeper meanings of life in general, which sounds quite grand, but I hope I do that in an understandable and not a pedantic way. A mortal is bound to have to dig deeper in the presence of a vampire. But that works both ways. If a mortal is only food for a vampire, it would be a very short novel, like one paragraph. Science Fiction (at least in the past) does this with aliens and humans very well. There's a wonderful Sci Fi movie out, Arrival, that shows how one species affects another. And it's a lovely look at language.
RB: I love the last paragraph from the back cover synopsis of your new novel Revenge of the Vampir King. "Hunter and hunted change places again and again..." That sounds awesome! I feel like this will be an action-packed story, and I am eager to read it.
- What new aspect of vampire lore or character do we get to explore in this novel?
- POWER OF THE BLOOD and THRONES OF BLOOD are obviously two different series. Are there any aspects that connect the two that might lead a reader's appetite from one to the other?
NK: Revenge of the Vampir King is definitely action-packed. I call this a 'Vampire Novel for Adults'. This is not Twilight and such fare. I've been a collector of vampire literature for decades with a library of 2500 vampire books (and I stopped being a completist about 10 years ago and since have just bought selective titles), so I've seen how the vampire evolved. In fact, wearing my editor's hat, I edited two anthologies I'd been dying to edit for years, Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead and Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead. Both were best-sellers. I was very picky about the stories I selected. The vampire had to have evolved and be in the here and now, and for Two, the writers had to envision how the vampire would evolve in future. I was so pleased with those books because the writers managed in an oversaturated sub-genre to get-it and make it happen. I really wanted to show that the vampire of the twenty-first century was not your grandmother's vampire. And what would happen in the future depended entirely on what happens to humans and how we evolve.
A novel from 20 years ago is me from 20 years ago. In those novels of the past, vampires had a hard time being together. In my current novel series, indeterminate time-frame (I like readers to work a little and use their imagination because as a reader, I like that), because they are being wiped out, vampires have been forced to join forces. They have had to band together in large groups for protection. Evolution for the two species goes hand in hand and as mortals altered, vampires had to as well. The two series can't be compared because the time frames are different and the social structure of the undead is different. Also, their relationship to mortals is different. Those who have read Revenge of the Vampir King (the ebook is out, print in April) have given it 5* stars on amazon.ca and amazon.com Which makes me think this book suits the times and sensibilities of now.
RB: Is there anything that you would like to add about either book or series?
NK: Only that fans of vampire novels might check out Revenge of the Vampir King. This will be a 6 or 7 book series with an overarching story, yet each novel can be read as a stand-alone.
And thank you, Sam, for being kind enough to read and review Child of the Night. I'm honored to be the first author profiled. I wish your Bookworms Blog lots of readers and a long journey into the future!
Thank you, Ms. Kilpatrick. You have been a pleasure to work with.
Now, I have to turn to things I don't like bringing up.
As banal as it sounds, people either love this book or hate it. It is erotic horror with scenes of bondage. So, it's not going to be for everyone--of course, you could say that about any genre.
I won't lie to you. The book has some problems--mainly with editing, at least in the digital edition I read. I found more than a few instances of clipped paragraphs and orphaned dialog. Even at that, though, it never dumped me out of the story, just left a momentary bump. I hope this (or the next issue) does not deter you from checking it out.
This edition also includes modern references that probably would not have bothered me had I been unaware of the original publication date. But I did know, and so it was jarring, for example, to see characters pick up an iPad. According to the Google Gods, iPads didn't appear until April 2010. Really, though, this niggle is unfair. The Mosiac Press edition is an updated one, and there is nothing wrong with bringing what was really a timeless story into today. I mean, it certainly didn't hurt Sherlock, did it? I am just describing my experience.
About 10% into the book, I thought, "I am not the right audience for this genre." I like vampire stories, but I don't normally read erotica. Not that there is anything wrong with the genre. It just doesn't hit the right emotional switches for me. So, I put it down for a couple of days.
Then, I gave it another chance.
I'm glad I did.
Child of the Night is told through a single POV. The characters behave in believable ways.
The story, set in Bordeaux, France, follows Carol, an ex-law student, ex-actress, and ex-wife. She witnesses the murder of a carpenter by an annoying man she just met in a cafe. To hide his identity and to stop him from murdering Carol, she is forced into a captive sexual arrangement. The murderer, Andre, switches frequently and without warning from a nurturing man to someone unstable and violent. He is a walking contradiction. Carol is constantly torn between attraction and fear.
After the initial launch into erotic romance, the story pivots into full-blown thriller and suspense. Carol goes from being witness to a murder, to a prisoner of a group of vampires, who she believes is a cult, and eventually to the hunter of her own abductors. All the while, she must fight an internal struggle with her feelings for a vampire who is practically two different men--one kind and protective, the other barely more than an animal full of rage. He can become violent in response to the slightest misspoken comment.
Carol reaches beyond her natural instincts through many trials that give her a well-defined character arc. She also pursues specific goals throughout the story, showing the reader she needs no saving. While doing so, she stays believable as a person. There are no fight scenes where she suddenly transforms from a mousy-haired two-dimensional character to Xena: Warrior Princess who magically can do roundhouse kicks in a pencil skirt.
Andre, the male lead, is frightening because of his unstable temper. I was afraid of Andre and afraid for Carol. That is one of the finest emotions in horror: the fear for someone else. I also believed that he felt he was the hero of the story. This is most evident in the gentleness he shows his child and how strongly he protects his vampire family.
The setting is mainly in the vampires' home. I might have liked to see it take on a little more character of its own, but still, it is appropriate for the story. It reinforces the gothic theme. One exception to this is Andre's room. It is always pitch dark. Symbolically it is an extension of his mind, mysterious and frightening.
I began reading Child of the Night fearing I had made a mistake in purchasing it, but ultimately, I enjoyed the book. I liked watching Carol struggle through obstacles, often alone. I like that she did not always make the politically correct choice. I liked that she was real, not a brassiere-bursting, high-kicking hero. And in my opinion, the latter is how this book stands out in the ocean of vampire stories. It brings with it the traditions from Dracula and Interview with the Vampire while juxtaposing a real person in an impossible situation.
While I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, I would recommend -- and have recommended -- it to the right audience--not just vampire fans. It was worth my time, and depending on the preconceptions a reader brings to the book, it can be worth theirs too.
Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 19 novels, over 220 short stories, 7 collections of her stories, and has edited 15 anthologies, including nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery & the Macabre, a finalist for both a Bram Stoker Award and an Aurora Award, and winner of the Paris Book Festival's best anthology of the year award. Recent original short works are included in: Nightmare's Realm; Black Wings 6; Black Wings 5; Searchers After Horror; The Darke Phantastique; Zombie Apoclaypse: Endgame!; Blood Sisters: Vampire Stories by Women; The Madness of Cthulhu 2; Innsmouth Nightmares; Stone Skin Bestiary. Two new graphic novels are: Nancy Kilpatrick's Vampyre Theater and her story "Heart of Stone" in Tales From the Acker-Mansion. Thrones of Blood is a new novel series. Volume 1, Revenge of the Vampir King is live as an ebook now, and the print book is out in April 2017. Volume 2, Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess, will be a fall 2017 release. Nancy lives in lovely Montreal with her calico cat Fedex, who appeared at her door one July 1st like a parcel.
Nancy's newest novel
Revenge of the Vampir King
Volume 1 - Thrones of Blood
Vampires and humans are at war!
Moarte, King of the Vampirii, is a prisoner of his Sapiens enemy. The beautiful Sapiens Princess Valada, believing that Moarte killed her mother, tortures him, even to the point of breaking the bones in his wings so he cannot escape. She intends to incinerate him to ash in sunlight, but Moarte escapes.
Moarte hungers for revenge. When, through an act of betrayal, Valada is captured by the vampirii, his first instinct is to drain her blood and annihilate her. But he realizes he can get revenge in other ways, using her as a tool to gain the upper hand in this conflict. But who is manipulating whom? Both want revenge, and control of the other, and Moarte wants to drink Valada's blood. Dark desires lead down a path neither had envisioned, a threatening spiral that can destroy empires.
Hunter and hunted change places again and again in this novel of twisted, violent passions. Seeds of deception are sown amidst love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, obsession and indifference, in an erotic tale of warring races, foes since the beginning of time, and two unlikely adversaries aligning to battle a common enemy.
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Child of the Night - Book I in the Power of the Blood World