The second in a proposed trilogy (Covenant with the Vampire, 1994, not reviewed): an atmospheric, intermittently sexy, over-subplotted prequel to Bram Stoker's classic. Unlike Anne Rice's vampire books, which update the satanic blood-sucking legends to a fairly contemporary context and juice up the tales with a barely suppressed homoeroticism, Kalogridis sticks to the 19th century and puts the sauce right on top: Her family of undead Nosferati have sex with mortals and each other in plain view between bouts of gushy moralizing. Featured here are the nephew and progeny of Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Dracula, the nightwalking Transylvanian prince who has been imprisoned in his dark castle for turning members of his own family into vampires. Arkady, his nephew and freshly made vampire, is sworn to destroy Vlad, but since he doesn't execute his duty terribly well, the task ultimately falls to Bram Van Helsing, Arkady's natural son, a reserved physician with a mate and a homelife. Vlad is also out to kill Bram in order to emancipate himself from house arrest, but the effort is consistently thwarted. Hunting a demon as powerful as Vlad is no mean undertaking, of course, and so Arkady arranges for Bram to receive lessons from an ancient wise man. It's here that Kalogridis's story begins to sound less like a moody meditation on the seductions of evil than a netherworldly variation on The Return of the Jedi. Bram's struggle with Vlad at book's end is both morose and boring, with scads of brooding realizations about how futile it is to take on Vlad coupled with a slow-paced last showdown. A snoozy contribution to the cottage industry of vampire publishing.