|A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Not a debut novel – far from it, but you might still be surprised at just how good this book can get, as it brings so many blood-related themes to the genre of vampire fiction and still manages to be a supremely enjoyable story.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: March 2014|
|Publisher: Mulholland Books|
One day towards the end of World War Two, Charles Jackson is dragged to a museum of antiquities just outside a newly liberated Paris by his commanding officer during their downtime. While the other looks at the unusual ancient artefacts, Jackson finds something much more horrific – a man in a wartime bunker in the grounds, squatting over a female figure, blood on his lips that could only have come from her neckline. Years later, Jackson returns to Paris for reasons to do with his medical career, and finds the same man in the company of someone who, were he only aware of the fact, is to become the first and possibly only love of his life. But that's not the only time the paths of Jackson and the mysterious male are destined to cross – the prologue was set in the late 1960s…
Reading the blurb (after the novel) it's blindingly clear what it doesn't mention – the V word. Yes, this is a vampire novel. The other male is continually of some unknown origin from some exotic corner of Europe, and it's clear to us what he is doing, but that's about where the stereotype of the vampire ends. For one, the brilliant story of this book allows us to see different ways in which a vampire may, for want of a better word, operate. Not only that, the author has put the whole idea of blood as one of his major themes, all the while completely succeeding in never belabouring the fact. Jackson becomes a haematologist, there are connections to blood here and there, and you feel sure a vampire novel has never dissected the liquid nearly as much as here, but we're continually in safe hands and nothing becomes too much.
If anything this only contributes to what is almost a slightly underwritten antagonist – he might not be the vampire that stands out the most in literature, which is perhaps how and why that blurb defines the book as a thriller. But that's not to say his machinations are not completely all over every page. And I might have reached that conclusion because of the strength of the character of Jackson. His first person narration brings everything to us – the blood knowledge, the very visual and compelling narrative that has us caught up in its spell from beginning to end, and the very mood of his character courtesy of all the events.
Principal of those moods, at least for the first major chunk of novel, is guilt – this is not a vampire hunter who sets out to be, or defines himself, as such. There are several things that instil a further character into the book; that perfectly realised guilt being one. The collegiate, scientific life of Jackson, the malevolent edge brought on by the vampire, and – without giving anything away – the major change in our hero for the final third, all make the book feel of a much older vintage than the setting of the twenty-odd postwar years.
It could as well be the sheer quality of the writing and the story's construction that make this feel like a well-loved classic from a century ago. I did find one side to it a little awkward, in that if it were filmed it would look like a Europudding, and some of it smacks of being formed from notes taken on a bizarre European coach holiday, scattering itself as it does across half the continent. There are also a couple of things I'd really like to collar the author about and check up on, or ask about – things I cannot reveal here. Other similarly unmentionable things crashland into the narrative a little too forcibly.
But make no mistake, this is a genre book (of whichever genre you choose, although I know which side of the fence I'm on) of great distinction and quality. Marcus Sedgwick has produced a galling amount of high quality children's and teen reads in a short career that shows no sign of relenting, nor of losing his way as he steps into the adult market. In my first mental draught of this review, before I'd read it, I was imagining myself saying 'there must have been something in the water in the Sedgwick household' to make him such a confident, firm and competent writer. But no, it has nothing to do with water – it must be in his blood…
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Mike Carey has been on hand recently to show us how much life there is in the zombie novel, and his equally intelligent book The Girl With All the Gifts is well worth considering. If you have scoured the more youthful output of Marcus, rest not – his brother Julian Sedgwick shows signs of following in his esteemed footsteps.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick at Amazon.com.
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