Sunday, November 14, 2010

A fresh take on the vampire novel

It's ironic that Marcus Sedgwick's young adult novel, My Swordhand Is Singing, would have one of the freshest takes on vampire fiction. Why? Because the novel actually goes to the roots of the vampire myth in Eastern Europe. In highlighting the past, Sedgwick has written something new, in a genre that's becoming stale.

I loved reading this short novel which has Gothic elements in it. I enjoyed reading about 14-year-old Peter, his drunkard father, and their nomadic life. When these two characters settle in the town of the Eastern European town of Chust in the 17th century, horrible things begin to happen. People start dying, their corpses drained of blood. It's only a matter of time before Peter realizes his role in preventing these vampires from further killing the people of this idyllic town.

Sedgwick has indeed done his research in My Swordhand Is Singing. He traces the origin of the European vampire all the way back to ancient battles involving European royalty, gypsies, and religion. I was fascinated.

The novel also has a heart. It's not all gore and bloodsucking. There's the relationship between Peter and his abusive father to explore. When Tomas reveals something about his past life to Peter, you know that it won't correct all the bad things Tomas has done to his son. However, what's admirable is how Peter responds to this revelation. There's a bit of a romance too, a love triangle actually, which is wonderfully downplayed by Sedgwick.

I've read lots of vampire novels and I do tend to have a strong opinion on them. Recently, I've gone through Justin Cronin's The Passage (great), Meyer's The Twilight Saga (bad, generally), Melissa De La Cruz's Blue Bloods series (horrible), and Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain (passable), just to name a few. My Swordhand Is Singing is one of the good ones out there.

Read this book if:
  1. You're into vampire fiction.
  2. You love Gothic novels.
  3. You're curious about the history of vampires.

P.S. Thank you, Iya, for giving me this book. I had a grand time reading it. I just have one beef though -- it's too short! I didn't want it to end.


Portobello's coffee said...

ooh! another one to put on my wishlist!

lilly said...

I will definitely be looking into this one. I hate what's become of the vampire lore in novels recently (other than The Passage, which I also think is great). It's funny because I am in the middle of 'Salem's Lot now and was just thinking how awesome vampire books used to be.

Peter S. said...

@Portobello's coffee: Yes, this one's a keeper.

@lilly: Salem's Lot is my favorite vampire book!

Stepford Mum said...

Yay, Peter! Very glad you liked it :)

Portobello's Coffee, it is sometimes found in bargain bins. Will look out for a copy for you.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Stepford Mum! I liked this book a lot! You just know me so well!