Spooky Reads (7): Bloodline
When nineteen-year-old John Shaw enrols in the War and begins his duties in the trenches, he thinks that the horrors of war he will witness will be at the hands of his enemies. But it becomes clear that danger might not be across No Man’s Land after all when mysterious and charismatic Captain Quincy Walker, his superior, turns out to have rather unusual night-time habits.
When he is evacuated and sent home with a severe case of trench fever, he is haunted by nightmares of what he has witnessed, but he is slowly nursed back to health by Mary Steward. But Harker appears at John’s side unexpectedly and moves swiftly in the favours of his younger sister, Lily. When he convinces Lily to leave with him and lures her to Transylvania, John has to confront the fact that what he thought were hallucinations due to fever were in fact real. With the help of her father, both John and Mary follow the trail of the Captain. But as they get nearer to their goal, revelations shock them into realising that Dracula’s bloodline goes further that they could have ever imagined, with disastrous consequences.
Bloodline is a sequel to Dracula, and to be quite honest, although it is possible to read and enjoy the book without having read Bram Stoker’s classic, I think the reader would benefit from having read it before reading this. I haven’t, but the good think is now I really want to! However I have watched Coppola’s Dracula several times so recalled some of the characters from that. Still, it is not the same as reading the book!
I enjoyed reading this, and although I felt sometimes the dialogues were too wooden, I thought that otherwise the style was very much in keeping with the era it portrayed. I think particularly the courting conventions of the time are well conveyed and how Hacker is obviously breeching them particularly well crafted. You sympathise with Mary’s outrage, but still feel intrigued by Hacker all the more.
I think the build-up in the story is also quite well managed. There are many hints as to what is lurking: the maid dying, the bat or hound often seen before or after Hacker has struck. It helps to keep it quite sinister … you know what’s coming, even though it has not been “named” yet. It becomes quite gory once they are in Transylvania but not unbearably so (although the thought of infants being brought into the castle for food turned my stomach, even though I know it’s not real!).
One thing I did find disappointing is how quickly John gave up towards the end. I felt he was quite weak really, and certainly very selfish. It seems that he might have a change of heart in the sequel (and we might have a good dose of forbidden love on the way!), but I wish he would have put up a bit more of a fight. It is obvious the real feisty and deserving hero here is in fact Mary.
I think overall it is in good keeping with the tone of the original and I hope that this might encourage youngsters to seek it out. I enjoyed reading this more than I expected, and despite a few shortfalls it remains a good quality teen horror book.
Sent for review by publisher.