Titan Books, p/b, 505pp, £7.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
I reviewed A Taste of Blood Wine, the first book in this series (the Blood Wine Sequence) last year, and at the time described how delighted I was with the evocative writing and original concept (elsewhere on the BFS site), so I’m pleased to say that A Dance in Blood Velvet contains more of the same, but this time with added mettle and a reinforced pair of star-crossed lovers.
At the close of the first book, we found out that Charlotte’s lover — the charismatic Karl von Wultendorf — had managed to save a number of vampires from the frozen plane where naughty vampires had been banished… Alas, one of those was the incredibly gorgeous Katerina, a fellow vampire who is now looking to reclaim her life and of course, her former lover, Karl…
This serves as the impetus to drive Charlotte elsewhere, and although her love for Karl never really wavers, she has become fascinated by Violette Lenoir, a prima ballerina who has a truck-load of her own issues to deal with, the like of which bring to mind thoughts of the 2010 blockbuster movie, The Black Swan (starring Natalie Portman).
All of this takes place against a backdrop of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ rival magicians trying to wrestle control of an ancient tome which they both believe will allow them to lord it over the other and command the vampire and ghost populations of the netherworld… Now I didn’t care so much for this aspect of the novel, to be honest, being more inclined to worry about poor Holly throughout (the young lady caught between the two brothers), but I recognise that this serves as a good backdrop in which to allow the main conflicts to move forward, as well as setting the reader up nicely for the next volume.
And conflict is where it’s at with this one — on top of the two rival occultist brothers mentioned above, the vampires have their own mysterious pecking order to argue about, Katerina and Charlotte are fighting for the attentions of Karl, and Violette (the ballerina) has a host of personal demons to battle against. Shortly thereafter everything starts to escalate dramatically in a crescendo of all-round bad news for every plane of existence imaginable, and an elaborate event which feels almost impossible to return from…
Once again I don’t want to say much more about this because it’s well worth seeking out for yourself, but I would like to reaffirm what I said before about the writing: it’s splendid, and by that I mean the style is genuinely drop-dead beautiful with a compelling elegance and subtly romantic bent — in a word, it’s seductive. In three words: charming, graceful and all-round lush.