Vampire Thrall- Michael Schiefelbein (sequel to Vampire Vow)
You can't help but read Vampire Vow and want immediately to plunge into another story with Victor, the vampire "hero" of that story.
This one doesn't disappoint.
Vampire Vow was told all in the first person by Victor; this one alternates between Victor's perspective and Paul's-a young artist summoned to a monastery in Rome to illustrate a new hand-written gospel. Hiding from the authorities due to the incidents related in "Vow", Victor is also in the monastery, posing as a monk.
As with Michael, Victor's lover in Vow, Paul is not entirely all he seems. He suffers from epilepsy, and during his fits has visions, many of which contain a seductive vampire with whom he has already fallen in love.
Who is sending Paul the visions? How will Victor and Paul work through this apparently pre-destined love?
This is an incredibly tense story. The book moves at a furious pace; the sense of menace is palpable, which is credit to just how much the author makes you identify with Victor and Paul. You will be desperate for them to work out. Ironically, however, if they do work, it will mean their separation for over two hundred years whilst Victor waits for Paul in the Dark Kingdom.
As in Vow, the authenticity of the monastic life is impressive. The depictions of Rome make you feel as if you are there. It's a very real book, despite its supernatural theme.
But what makes this book really stand out for me is the gay relationship between Victor and Paul. This is sex as it should be. This is love as it should be. They are under each other's spell, and we're under theirs as we read about this passionate pair. Victor is not the all-powerful figure he was in Vow; he's so in love with Paul that he becomes vulnerable and in more human in so many ways. There's a lovely scene where he follows a young gay hustler home to eat him, but finds amidst the squalor of the city's ghettos, a beautiful soul. For the first time Victor emphasises with a potential victim and leaves him unharmed. It's Paul's influence on him, but this very vulnerability (actually allowing Paul to take him one night) could be the thing that destroys him. There are lovely moments of comfort and talking and sharing that are often neglected in other gay novels where the sex can be hot, but the quieter moments of love ignored. Victor is incredibly affectionate with Paul, at the same time as being this vicious "soulless" killer.
Buy these two books; shut yourself away from friends and family and experience them. You won't regret it.
DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED FOR VAMPIRE VOW.
Buffy and Angel are over, at least for the time being, and we're all in mourning, right? Well, here's something guaranteed to lift the spirits of all vampire-luvin' slashaholics like us: a new series (okay, two books, but I'm hoping for more) by a master storyteller with a unique take on the vampire genre (forget Anne Rice for starters).
I ordered this book together with Vampire Vow for Jenny and I to read/review by happy accident (I meant to get a different book by another horror writer) and when I'd finished the first one oh boy was I glad to move straight onto its sequel. Believe me, if you've read Vampire Vow you will not be disappointed. This one's even better!
You don't have to be familiar with Vampire Vow as there's enough backstory to bring you quickly up to speed, but I wholeheartedly recommend that you do, in order to understand its seductive protagonist and what makes him tick. Victor is a 2,000 year-old vampire, ex Roman soldier who was turned in Palestine when rejected by Jesus. The story picks up immediately after events described in the first book.
Victor is back in his home city, again taking refuge in a monastery (like English public schools apparently hotbeds of gay sex). There he meets Paul, a good-looking young man from Kansas, painter and epileptic on the rebound from a broken gay romance. The American is spending a year in the Eternal City illuminating manuscripts for a new gospel. Paul has erotic dreams of a vampire monk, and his ex lover entered a monastery out of Catholic guilt for his gay inclinations, so you could say he's destined to fall in love with the charismatic Victor.
Victor still seeks to escape to his vampire Heaven, the Dark Kingdom. Having lost his previous American lover, Brother Michael (see Vampire Vow), Victor seeks his replacement as a vampire to join him for a joyous, definitely not pious, eternity.
Victor continues to be haunted by tormenting visions of his first love, beautiful, sinewy, flesh and blood Jesus (Joshu), while he carries on his sworn vengeance against the church. This time out the focus of the novel is much more upon the love story between Victor and Paul, and the book is better for it, in my opinion. In fact, if you did read Vampire Vow and somehow failed to fall under its spell, then I suggest you give Vampire Thrall a go, because maybe this one will do it for you.
Victor has learned his lesson the hard way with Michael, who ultimately rejected him for Joshu's God. First he is wary of Paul's advances, sensing something disturbing about the young man, undeniably attractive as he is. Once he's satisfied this is due to Paul's epileptic condition, Victor once again is caught in the snare of his need to assert power over effete monks, supposedly celibate, and for physical pleasure and sexual release. Already half in love, Victor makes Paul his thrall, rather than destroy him when he's caught in a murderous situation. Neither fully human nor undead, Paul faces the difficult choice whether to fully transform into a vampire like Victor, at the price of solitary existence for a minimum of 200 years waiting to join his lover in the Dark Kingdom.
As though things weren't complicated enough already, Michael's Creole grandmother, Jana, is a hostile spirit determined to come between Victor and Paul in revenge for Michael's death.
I was seduced by Vampire Vow and its sequel had me totally enthralled, like Paul. You simply must read these books. I'm convinced anyone who appreciates Jenny's wonderful vampire stories (and you wouldn't be here if you didn't) will lap up these books as Paul takes to Victor's blood. Slurp.
Paul isn't Michael. Yay! He's totally in love with Victor and willing to do whatever it takes to spend eternity with him. I found the detailed process of his transformation spellbinding and totally believable. This is gay love at its most divine, something both physical and spiritual.
The book keeps you guessing right to the end whether Victor and Paul succeed against the dark forces arraigned against them. I simply could not put the book down. Of all the many books we've read/reviewed here, Schiefelbein's go straight to the top of the list, together with As Meat Loves Salt, Metes and Bounds and the PZB titles, as not-to-be-missed.
Go. Buy. Read. Enjoy.
Hey, maybe we'll be writing Victor/Paul fanfic next!
Publisher: Alyson Publications ISBN: 155583728X
Buy it from Amazon UK HERE
Or Amazon USA here: