Wednesday, May 2, 2012

#Review: Sword & Blood: The Vampire Musketeers

Title: Sword & Blood: The Vampire Musketeers
Author: Sarah Marques
Publisher: Prime Books, 2012
Buy it on Amazon

What’s not to love about the idea of vampire musketeers? The idea bites me about as much as honest-to-bad-ass vampirates, and I admit it freely, that I love stories of swashbuckling and derring-do. If you’re looking for Anne Rice’s self-absorbed wangst-filled Louis, or Meyer’s glittery fangless offerings, then step away from this book please, and allow those of us who love dark adventure with an undercurrent of eroticism to enjoy the story.

Marques treads familiar turf for fans of Porthos, Athos, Aramis and D’Artagnan, and she adds a twist by plunging France into the depths of darkness. Vampires walk among men, and they are enjoying an ascendancy over mankind. Humanity is under siege, and the church has fallen, for Cardinal Richelieu is a vampire. The musketeers are the only force that stands between the king and queen of France and eternal damnation; and the lusciously evil Milady is the seductress who aims to tip the balance in favour of the undead.

While the musketeers pay lip service to the truce between man and vampire, they go out at night to wage a desperate war to stem the tide of darkness. Of course matters become less clear-cut for them when Athos himself is turned, and exists tenuously in that grey area that leaves him not wholly human.

First off, kudos to Marques for creating a believably grim setting. I could feel the characters’ desperation and gained the impression that civilisation as a whole was slowly plunging into a new dark age. We follow the story from the points of view of Athos and D’Artagnan, who each find themselves dragged deeper and deeper into trouble. Each has to fight preconceptions and, as the story progresses, find their fates inextricably bound.

Overall, the writing is clean and fast, though Marques does occasionally lapse into wordiness, which makes the pace uneven at times. There were a few moments where I felt she went a bit too quickly on key scenes, but this did not detract much from the overall experience. I’d also have liked a bit more detail on the actual sword-fighting, since this is key to the action sequences. Only one part felt a bit shoe-horned in—Athos’s scene involving a wolf cub—it seemed a bit random and too convenient, and could have safely been left out without damaging the narrative flow.

Will I read the rest of the series? Hellyeah. I’ll be honest and say I don’t think this is going to appeal to everyone, as the writing style tends toward classic, historical literature, and absolutely lush, gorgeous descriptions, but this is a novel that worked for me on many counts. I cared about the characters, and I was left wanting more, and that’s what matters. At the heart of it, this is a tale of high adventure that’s packed with action, which revisits an old favourite and paints it with a Gothic palette.

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