01/04/2010. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: Gollancz. 362 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK. ISBN: 978-0-575-08428-5.
check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk
There has been a serious upwelling of vampire fiction in recent years. Vampires have been around for a very long time, ever since Bram Stoker took them out of folklore and brought Count Dracula into literature. In the early days, they always lurked in the shadows. They were the bogeymen to frighten children with. Even the more benign vampires such as Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Count Saint-Germain needed to keep his activities secret. Vampires are glamorous and dangerous. Then vampires came out of the closet. Both Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris have both produced very successful series of novels about vampires. In the worlds of Hamilton's 'Anita Blake' and Harris' 'Sookie Stackhouse' book series, vampires have gained the status of an ethnic minority and all the legal protection this affords. They haven't stopped being dangerous. A lot of other authors have jumped on the bandwagon and, to be fair, there is a market for sexy vampire fiction. A lot of people want to read it. This is not a reason, though, for standards to drop.
'The Sweet Scent Of Blood' is a mess. It is a debut novel and tries to do too much too quickly. The setting is a contemporary London in which all kinds of mythical and magical people hang around and are accepted to some degree by humans. Yes, there are vampires. They are dangerous. The dangerous and exotic tend to have groupies. These are humans who frequent the vampire clubs in order to get bitten. Vampire venom is addictive. Like any addictive drug, it is destructive. The only cure is to persuade a vampire to make you one of them.
The main character of this first person narrative (this seems to be a common trend in these novels, too) is Genny Taylor. She is a sidhe fae, a glow fairy if you need a translation, the only one in London. She works for Spellcrackers.com. Not an Internet company but a group of witches based in an office who go out and deal with magic in the wrong places. Genny cannot cast spells but she can crack them. However, when the spell is cracked, the item they are attached to also breaks. If she doesn't have time to unpick a spell she can absorb the magic. This means that at intervals she has to be cleaned by the witches in a protective pentacle. She also has a serious health problem. When Genny was fourteen, she was promised to a rather nasty vampire as his wife. When she escaped, she became infected with a virulent virus which requires regular doses of vampire venom to keep it in check. This condition is a distraction throughout the novel and an excuse to describe her sexual cravings. She also seems to exist entirely on vodka and liquorice torpedo sweets.
The plot itself revolves around a favour she is asked to do by her boss. One of the pin-ups from the vampire calendar, Mr. October, has been accused of killing his human girl-friend. His father wants Genny to look at the body and determine if any magic has been used on her. Going to the police station, she is prevented from seeing the body by a member of a group that calls itself Protectors of the Soul. They enforce their authority with goblin bodyguards. The police sergeant is a troll and an old friend of Genny's, the chief inspector is a witch who is inexplicably hostile towards her. Throw into the mix a satyr, a brownie and a psychic along with the warring vampires and you have a book populated by almost no humans. There is no baseline for the reader to feel comfortable with and too many supernatural beings.
Although there is potential here and it is interesting to have something set in London rather than the United States, this is very much a first novel. Everything has been thrown at it and it could have done with an editor sitting down with the author to iron out some of the problems and save some ideas for later. This novel is over-enthusiastic and trying too hard to please.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA