Adele and Gareth have successfully freed Britain from vampire occupation – and the Equatorian army is moving north into France. On every front humans seem to be winning the war against the vampires
Until vampires are, impossibly, seen again in Britain. The vampires have their own geomancer and the Witchfinder is not just content to protect the vampires from Adele’s powers – he may turn the terrible powers of the Earth against the Empire and humanity itself
Adele and Gareth must act quickly to stop his plan even as it takes them far from the lands they’re familiar with and challenges so many of their assumptions
I could say a lot about this rich world – but I’ve said that in other books. I could mention the fun plot – which is fun and swashbuckling – but I’m going to need all my space to talk about the characterisation of this book which was what really shone out.
I really like the evolution of Gareth in this book. Gareth is an interesting combination of self-loathing and arrogance. Steeped in human culture, he has come to hate everything vampiric, including himself. He hates the clans, he hates his species, he hates everything they do. He sees no value in their culture, their society – anything. He sees his species as not only doomed to extinction, but possibly even deserving of it.
But from that is also an incredible arrogance. He hates vampire culture and even himself – but he also puts himself on a pedestal – because he is willing to learn human language, use human tools, learn human ways. He is better than other vampires because he is willing to emulate humans – and he can’t accept that other vampires may be redeemable in anyway. When he sees other vampires using tools he simply cannot accept it, he doesn’t believe that anyone could mimic his own progress. Only he is special enough for that
Then we have Yidak who is even more unique – because he is a vampire through and through a vampire who is progressing and advancing through more than imitating human ways. I think the most powerful example is his “written” language. We see Gareth over and over trying to use human writing despite the difficulty of using a pen considering vampires’ limited manual dexterity – then we see Yidak developing a language based on sound (to fit their oral tradition) and with a writing system better suited to vampiric strength and claws.
I love how this is presented. How the choice isn’t “don’t change at all” or “emulate your ‘betters’” – that there is another way of neither being static nor being forced to conform to another’s standards. It’s a wonderful metaphor for colonisation, cultural imperialism and compulsory westernisation
Interestingly it’s Adele who continually pressures Gareth to see the value of his own culture, to see vampires capable of achieving more beyond himself, who continually pushes Gareth to see beyond himself. It’s an interesting dynamic because, of course, Adele has already adapted to see vampires as something more than monsters by seeing Gareth as a person.
There’s a lot of excellent racial diversity in the Equatorian Empire – in the world building the northern powers fled south to warmer climates to avoid the vampires that rose up (vampires hate the heat). It would have been easy to transplant the British Empire to the Equator – but many of the main characters are POC. Adele and her brother are mixed-race, their mother was Persian. Adele’s main confidant, General Mehmet is a POC as is Anhault one of the primary military leaders in the Empire – and the characters use Arabic as a go-to lingua-franca as well as commonly using Hindi and Swahili.
The vampire monks they stay with are also largely POC – Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese and it’s they who are leading the way in a new way to be vampires in contrast to the majority of the European clans (while it’s not reduced so simplistically because we still have the King of the Paris clan being very family and child orientated).