Title: The Bloody Red Baron (Anno Dracula #2)
Author: Kim Newman
Publisher: Titan Books, 2012
Newman continues to look at an alternate world history had Dracula survived, and picks up after the catastrophic events in book one. Vampires and mortals now fight side by side in the trenches of Europe while Dracula nurtures his secret weapon: shifted vampires that take to the skies to do battle against the Allied flyers. It’s Sopwith Camel vs. mutated bat monster, and things are not looking good for the jolly old chaps.
Dracula’s forces swarm across the continent, eerily reminiscent of the horrors of World War II rather than WWI. We welcome back old friend like the much-older (and wiser) Charles Beauregard who, although not nearly as spry as when we followed his doings in book one, nevertheless maintains a steadying influence in book two. Kate, whom we met briefly in book one, takes a more central role now paired with Edwin Winthrop, a mortal who plays a dangerous game in order to take down the chilling Bloody Red Baron.
In this novel, Newman pays tribute to many WWI epics, much of which I admit went over my head. If you grew up on a staple of Biggles books, then you’ll no doubt gobble up this story and relate to it far more than I did.
What I feel I must mention is that once again I didn’t connect with Newman’s characters. The ending, again, didn’t feel as if it tied together satisfactorily (much as in book one). The use of Edgar Poe as a viewpoint character was an interesting story arc, but ultimately felt like a bit of an author-insert on whim, and ultimately I feel that there is too much emphasis on aesthetics and world building rather than story craft.
That being said, there are most likely hundreds if not thousands of readers out there who will cheerfully disagree with me and have absolutely no problem with these points.
So, I’ll leave my review at that. I enjoyed the human/vampire dynamics and ambiance, and Newman’s attention to detail is as always faultless.