by Fred Saberhagen

Cover image

Series: Vlad Tepes #4
Publisher: Ace
Copyright: September 1980
ISBN: 0-441-80744-5
Format: Mass market
Pages: 347

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I picked this book up on a whim in a used book store because I'd not read any Saberhagen in quite a while and had never read one of his vampire novels. I liked his Swords books quite a bit, some of his Berserker stories, and a few of his other books, and was feeling like trying something different.

It's been a while since I've read his other books, but I remember Saberhagen falling into a pattern when he doesn't have quite enough material or quite enough good ideas to write a complete novel. He sometimes ends up with a basic concept and a good ending, and fills out the rest of the pages by meandering around the concept until he happens to get close enough to the ending that he can drop it in. Thorn has serious problems with this.

Saberhagen's descriptions and characterizations are competent but not really enough to carry a story for me, and certainly not interesting enough to be the entire meat of a book for any significant number of pages. Thorn starts by introducing a few characters, setting up a story split between two timeframes (present day and Italy in the mid 1400s), and then wanders through the lives and backgrounds of the characters setting up background for about 200 pages before anything really exciting actually happens. The past fork has somewhat more action than the present, but even it falls prey to extraneous detail about Italian politics (told only in dribs and drabs) and a sense of "why do I really care about this part of the story?"

The ending was interesting and engrossing, untangling a complex set of characters, relationships, and identities to a fitting, if somewhat unsatisfactory, conclusion, but I was left thinking I could have cut out at least half this book and not missed it.

Maybe if the ending had really blown me away, I would have felt like it was worth it. As is, not recommended, even though I did keep turning the pages.

Followed by Dominion, although the books in this series aren't closely tied.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Reviewed: 2004-11-09

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