The opening of a historical fantasy series with a vampire as protagonist.
Clegg (The Machinery of Knight, 2005, etc.) begins his story in the era of the Crusades; the opening chapters take place in Brittany, the protagonist's birthplace. The bastard son of a peasant woman who ekes out a living as a prostitute, Aleric grows up in the forest, tutored by his grandfather to know the ways of birds. This skill gains him a place in the baron's entourage as a falconer—a title that replaces his given name. Life in the castle exposes Falconer to new dangers, including bullying from another young servant and harsh discipline from the huntsman, his immediate superior. But it is also a huge step up in the world, and allows him to give some measure of support to his mother and her ever-growing brood. Two events precipitate his fall from this state of relative prosperity: an affair with the baron's beautiful daughter, and the arrest of Falconer's mother for witchcraft. Attempting to parlay the daughter's favor into a pardon for his mother, Falconer oversteps and is sold into slavery as a foot soldier in the crusades. After many battles, he enters a ruined city inhabited by a vampire, and becomes one of the undead, at which point the real action begins. Clegg invests his vampires with a long mythological history, in which Falconer finds himself a central figure: the long-awaited messiah-like figure of the vampires. In fulfillment of the prophecies, Falconer and his vampire companions undertake an arduous (and suitably bloody) quest through a vividly drawn fantastic landscape. Meanwhile, back in Brittany, we learn that Falconer's beloved, now a nun, has been seduced into the service of the evil forces against which Falconer and his vampires are aligned. The conclusion sets the stage for further struggles.
Well-paced fantasy adventure, and not just for hardcore vampire fans.