Sunday, 17 October 2010

Review: Bloodline by Kate Cary

Today, I have a guest review from my good friend, Adam Page. This book was sent to me for review, but isn't really my thing, so Adam kindly agreed to read and review it. This is Adam's first ever review, so be nice!

Bloodline by Kate Cary (review) - WARNING! This is a sequel to Dracula by Bram Stoker. This book cannot be reviewed without spoiling Dracula. Read no further if you plan on reading Dracula and don't want it spoiled for you.

This is the original vampire romance: go back to where the bloodlust began! When nineteen-year-old John Shaw returns from World War I, he is haunted by nightmares - not only of the horrors of battle, but of the brutal midnight exploits of his superior, Captain Quincey Harker. When Harker appears unexpectedly in England and lures John's sister, Lily, to Transylvania, John must confront the truth. Only the love of pure Mary can save him from Count Dracula's poisonous bloodline. But the line goes further than John and Mary can possibly imagine. A new seductive evil walks among the living... From Amazon UK

Bram Stoker's 1897 novel ‘Dracula’ is a work that resists classification even now. Some say it is straight vampire literature, others that it is horror fiction, a gothic novel or even a dark romance. The debate rages even today among various chat rooms, message boards and fan sites. Indeed, many bookshops seem at a loss as to where to stock it. Wander around a few in your local town and you will see it on the shelves of general fiction, horror, love stories and teen.

Whatever the classification, no-one can deny that this novel is a classic of the time, and thanks to the surge in vampire fiction on recent years, continues to sell.

113 years after ‘Dracula’ was published, Kate Cary, one of the authors of the ‘Warrior’ series, has published ‘Bloodline’. A direct sequel to ‘Dracula’ it is a very ambitious project and certainly not one to be undertaken lightly.

Set in 1916, in the trenches of World War One, it features the descendants of characters established in ‘Dracula’. We have nineteen year old John Shaw, communications officer who translates German radio messages, his commander Quincy Harker who is the son of Jonathan and Mina Harker, Mary Seward , daughter of Dr. John Seward and now running her father’s sanatorium.

It is an epistolary novel, like the first, written in journal entries, newspaper cuttings and letters. When used well, this technique balances believability and dramatic tension. The reader is aware of everything going on in the story and the pace moves along at a steady speed. In ‘Bloodline’ the pacing is somewhat erratic and you don’t believe you are reading a journal. At times, Cary slips into writing first-person narrative. While there is nothing wrong with this, it is jarring to read in the middle of a journal entry: ‘“I’m sorry. I-I didn’t mean...” I stammered.”
The reader is pulled out of the story. And while the original novel was sometimes guilty of this, I do not think characters breaking out of a vampires castle would stop to write their journals.

I think my main point of contention was in the reappearance of Mina Harker. Fans of the original novel will recall her redemption at the climax. When she was brought into the story here, I found myself reading back a few pages to see if I had missed anything. The Mina of ‘Dracula’ and the Mina of ‘Bloodline’ share markedly few similarities. Also, she is no longer married to Jonathan Harker but to a character I really didn’t expect. This could so easily have been a positive point but it felt almost shoe-horned into the plot as a way to shock the audience. But I must admit I just felt incredulous. A shocking plot twist at this point could have been done, and done well but unfortunately this failed to deliver. And her actions towards the books climax almost made me give up reading. Definitely not in keeping with the established character. At times it felt like Cary was writing a sequel to Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’.

Granted, I am hardly the books target audience. I am a 25 year old male and this is aimed at the Young Adult group. But I must be honest and say I found the characters as almost cardboard cut-outs with no development, the plot was quite contrived and far too “Hollywood style” with questions about a main characters paternity. And by the end I just did not care about the characters.

I think the main problem is that Cary has undertaken a monumental task. Writing a sequel to one of the most iconic horror novels is no easy task and unfortunately she falls far short. As I was reading, that was always in my head. I am a huge fan of the original novel and this book just did not work as a sequel. However, read as a stand-alone Young Adult book, it isn’t the worst. As with the original novel, it has romance, horror and action-adventure. But it could have been so much more.

Thank you to Egmont UK for sending a review copy.

Published: 4th October 2010
Publisher: Egmont UK
Buy on Amazon UK
Buy on Amazon US
Kate Cary's Website

3 comments:

  1. This is a really good review, well done, Adam. It can't be easy, writing a sequel to Dracula - which I really enjoyed reading. I'm not sure anything could touch the original mainly because the original is so ridiculous, no-one could get away with writing it today!

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  2. I've never read Dracula, so I can't really comment. But I like the idea that people are writing sequels to books that were written long ago.

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  3. Thank you. I have to agree with that. I read a modern epistolary novel a few years ago, the name of which escapes me, which was written in text messages, e-mails, etc and it wasn't very good. Hard to get into. I think it could be written today but not in a modern setting.
    Also a sequel could be done but it would have to be done right. Something like that either works or it doesn't. And unfortunatly Bloodline doesn't.

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