A rambunctious fantasy novel filled with knights and vampires.
Valicek (The Dark Magical World of Alamptria, 2016, etc.) takes readers to the year 2255. In the land of Alamptria, the Dark Lord Makoor, along with his vampire minions, is “eager to destroy humanity.” Fortunately for humankind, there are knights like Caprius Seaton, the son of Confidus Seaton, the dashing King of Elysium, whose castle features such amenities as a giant indoor pool. Caprius is no softie, though. Like his fellow knights, he’s bound to the “holy council of sacred deeds” and must be ready to go whenever and wherever Makoor may strike. It’s also prophesied that Caprius’ unborn son will one day be responsible for Makoor’s destruction. Caprius, who has an enhanced sword called a “claymore of power,” and his partner, Calista, are tasked with investigating the recent deaths of two of the king’s agents. Their bodies were left in dirt-filled coffins, and they were found holding onto pocket watches set to precisely 8:10 p.m. It initially seems like a simple and relatively straightforward assignment, but Caprius and Calista prove to be a volatile pair. Meanwhile, a man named Colburn is planning to mass-produce a serum that can be used to turn relatively sedate, ordinary animals into superintelligent predators. Colburn’s plan, meanwhile, has caught the attention of a fierce and beautiful woman named Cynthia Davenport, who lives in the troubled town of Jethro, a place riddled with “hoodlums, bums, and grifters,” where toughness is essential for survival.
Cynthia is compelled to stop Colburn even though doing so will certainly bring her into some dangerous situations—and so the reader embarks on a supernatural journey that’s whimsical, intricate, and bizarre, by turns. The various characters engage in plenty of combat scenes, but at other times, they indulge in calmer pursuits, such as traveling by train and ordering fine wines. A scene involving vampires playing poker is hardly the most eccentric one in the novel, although it is a good example of its mixture of the absurd and the darkly serious. Plenty of blood is spilled (and drunk) throughout, and the surprises range from the fun to the silly to the questionable. In one scene, for example, Caprius is having dinner in an entertainment lounge when his waiter is killed and replaced by an evildoer. Caprius is well-aware that the new person isn’t a waiter, and as a result, the scene becomes comical but also puzzling: could the bad guys really be so naïve? Or has Caprius inadvertently entered a Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch? It is indeed refreshing to encounter a genre piece that doesn’t take itself too seriously—although the resulting mayhem can sometimes be distracting. Early plot questions are thankfully answered, but on the whole, the story is more of a patchwork than a tightly woven piece. The late inclusion of a hot air balloon is memorable, even if it doesn’t fit too well into the greater puzzle.
Entertainingly strange, though some portions feel more out-of-place than thrilling.