BY NICO VREELAND
Author: Kate Cary
2005, Razorbill (Penguin)
I know, I know. Young adult vampire novels swirl around in a genre flooded with quick-to-press garbage. To be honest, I have no idea how this book wound up on my shelves. But when I found it while looking for a book to take on the subway, I figured I’d give it a shot. And I’m actually pretty glad that I did.
Bloodline is not the typical teen vampire novel the cover design might suggest it is (assuming the typical teen vampire novel these days is a Twilight doppelganger). In fact, this book borrows a lot more from Bram Stoker’s classic novel than it does from glamour-chic undead romance of contemporary vampire fiction. This is a book with plot, structure, and language that leans more toward classic horror than toward YA.
The book is cast with the progeny of Stoker’s characters. Quincy Harker is the son of Mina Harker from Dracula. He is a handsome and rich British officer commanding soldiers in French trenches during the first World War. He is also a vampire who feeds violently on German soldiers.
Upon returning to England, Quincey becomes entwined with the lives of John and Lily Shaw, and Mary Seward, a nurse who helps John rehabilitate from war/vampire injuries and who happens to be the daughter of another of Stoker’s characters, John Seward–the psychiatrist who cares for Renfield and a suitor of Lucy Westenra. When Quincey beguiles a lovestruck Lily, and absconds with her for Transylvania, John and Mary give chase.
Like Stoker’s, this is an epistolary novel: it is told through diary entries and letters of several characters, namely Lily, John, and Mary. I know the plot and structure don’t sound like the most original, and they’re not. But Kate Cary exerts enough originality that this doesn’t feel like an “Adventures of Dracula Jr.” kind of affair.
The plotting does eventually reach a pretty satisfactory degree of complexity–I don’t want to spoil too much but it has to do with Count Dracula’s bloodline. There is enough mystery and narrative tension to sustain momentum throughout the book, and I certainly enjoyed coming across characters and references to events that had some relation to a classic book I know and love. I enjoyed this book enough that I will consider reading on in the series.
Yes, as is to be expected of most young adult books nowadays, Bloodline has a jump-off ending that tosses up a softball for a serial. This is one of my least favorite trends in YA. Even if the intention is to launch a series (and clearly the money is there), a good first entry should always work as a standalone book.
However, though Bloodline clearly sets the table for a second entry, it doesn’t end with annoying cliffhanger. In fact, its ending is a strong one, one that went in a different direction than I was anticipating. The story closes up neatly enough that the book could stand alone without sequels. Bloodline is a good YA choice for fans of classic horror–if not so much for Twihards, which is probably for the better.