A dark, debut fantasy that chronicles a young man’s war against an army of vampires terrorizing his village.
Vlad Ingisbohr lives in the medieval town of Nocturne, which is full of Christian believers and plagued by bestial, winged vampires. Led by the savage Deadulus, the vampires spend each night tearing unwary people apart. Their feeding—or “vorbing”—is so brutal that no victims are left intact to rise from the dead as new bloodsuckers. The Nocturnians’ will to live is bolstered by a prophecy that claims that a blind man will “deliver them all from evil by defeating the vampires.” Vlad would rather take action himself, however, and get revenge on the monsters who killed his father at the battle of McLintock’s Spit. But when he tries to rouse the citizens of Nocturne against their common enemies, the village elders banish him for questioning God’s will. Distraught and separated from both his mother, Hana, and his love, Ula, Vlad heads for the garrison town of Mortis. There, he hopes to recruit knights to Nocturne’s cause. Along the way, Vlad meets some strange new allies, like Norvad the beggar, as well as enemies, like the tree-dwelling Yara-Ma. Meanwhile, Deadulus and his minions follow the courageous lad’s movements from Vampire Mountain. Stafford’s novel proceeds in a stately cadence that fans of H.P. Lovecraft and Lord Dunsany will appreciate. He finely crafts his Gothic atmosphere at every turn: “Birds had pecked out the dead man’s eyes and the gaping, congealed eye sockets...seemed to stare eerily at Vlad.” The “vorbing” descriptions are equally detailed and not for the easily disturbed (“[A]n arterial spray usually erupted forth from the victim and every vampire...captured all of it in their gaping mouths”). Stafford hasn’t just delivered a splatterfest, though. There are twists aplenty, as well as hefty bolts of wisdom throughout Vlad’s epic quest, including the notion that the hero shouldn’t run from the vampires: “By surviving, he could learn and transcend anything.” A monstrously satisfying—and shocking—ending allows for a sequel.
A novel that’s a gift to lovers of heroic philosophy, vampire lore, and gory action.