1918. A First World War battlefield becomes the cosmic battleground for two vampires, as Karl von Wultendorf struggles to free himself from his domineering maker, Kristian.
1923. Charlotte Neville watches as her father, a Cambridge professor, fills Parkland Hall with guests for her sister Madeleine’s 18th birthday party. Among them is his handsome new research assistant Karl – the man Madeleine has instantly decided will be her husband. Charlotte, shy and retiring, is happy to devote her life to her father and her dull fiance Henry – until she sees Karl …
For Charlotte, it is the beginning of a deadly obsession that sunders her from her sisters, her father and even her dearest friend. As their feverish passion grows, Karl faces the dilemma he fears the most. Only by deserting Charlotte can his passion for her blood be conquered. Only by betraying her can he protect her from the terrifying attentions of Kristian – for Kristian has decided to teach Karl a lesson in power, by devouring Charlotte.
It’s interesting to read A Taste of Blood Wine. Originally published in 1992, this series may have fallen out of print, but it gained such a loyal following that in 2013 the books began to be reissued and a new fourth book is set to be released in 2015 – nearly 20 years after the The Dark Blood of Poppies. This book is interesting because you can both see the past and the future of vampire novels contained within one text.
To look behind it is to see the very obvious influence of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire – there is an unmistakable air of Karl being Louis to Kristian’s Lestat. To look to the future is to see traces of The Vampire Diaries, even though technically the first of that series came out the year before in 1991. There’s a Stefan, a Niklas, a Katerina. There are Dopplegangers. They daywalk. It apparently is coincidence, but one that is hard to not marvel at regardless.
At its core though, A Taste of Blood Wine is very much vampire fiction in that classic gothic horror sense. Our introduction to Karl is built up slowly, Charlotte falls ill early on and you can’t help wonder if it is true illness or whether she was fed upon. There is a sense of constant unease throughout the early phases of the book as you get that tug of how much of these girls feelings are real, and how much have they succumb to the sway of Karl’s powers? There’s also a nice air of tragedy to the whole sense, that their romance is doomed as it must be. Even when the inevitable happens, you still wonder how much happiness they can be afforded in the long run.
As for the vampires themselves, I like them. It’s a rather modern take on the species: they can walk in the day, they can attend church, touch crosses/crucifixes, silver does not harm them and the like. What differentiates itself from most other vampire fiction is the notion of the Crystal Ring; this layer above the earth that the vampires can enter and exit to travel the world faster. It is a place they can seek solace and rest from the world below, and if they are not careful, it is a place where they can get trapped and slip into a coma that is as close to death as they can get.
If there is anything I’m not totally sold on, it’s how the Dopplegangers are created. It feels a bit of a stretch. That said, she does balance it with a rather striking weakness, so I think it winds up being a fair trade off.
All told, I can see why Warrington would develop a fanbase. This was atmospheric and lovely and felt like a lush old-school vampire novel that happens to weave in a tale of a girl, her genteel family and basically her fight to find her happiness, no matter how unconventional it may seem.
If you’re a fan of the genre, you owe yourself to check this out.
Verdict: Buy It