Immortal Conquistador by Carrie Vaughn
Tachyon Publications, £11.99
Reviewed by Ian Hunter
I’ve always been a sucker – ouch, pardon the pun, for stories of historical vampires written by the likes of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and the late Les Daniels, so it’s great fun to read the backstory of Ricardo de Avila, or Rick as he is commonly known, a friend of Carrie Vaughn’s other creation, namely Kitty Norville, who just happens to be a werewolf.
What we get in this novella is Rick’s backstory, told through the framing device of recounting his past to an Abbot, and this is Vaughn’s way to connect three previously published short stories and some new material as well. The action starts straight after the battle with major vampire badass, Dux Bellorum, one of the best enemies of the Kitty series. We learn how Rich went from Spain to the land which would become Mexico, searching for gold and conquest, helping to achieve the latter, but not getting much of the former, then he meets an old friend called Diego who doesn’t seem to have aged a day and follows him to a village where he meets a Friar who unfortunately turns out to be a vampire master.
Diego is one of his get, and it’s not too long before Rick is too, turned into a vampire against his will, but he strives to hold on to some facets of his humanity and manages to kill his vampire master and become a free, well, sort of man, trying to stay on the fringes of society, but always getting involved trying to help other people and encountering other vampires, some good, like the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows, or evil, in the employ of Satan, determined to rule the world for their Satanic master. Of course, other supernatural beasties also show up throughout the tales.
Fans of the Kitty series will be chuffed that we finally get the story of Rick’s encounter with Doc Holliday, a meeting mentioned, but never detailed in the Kitty books. Detail is one of Vaughn’s strong points and she certainly has done a lot of historical research to get the background of her stories just right, my only minor quibbles would be that given the book is just some gift-wrapped short stories, it isn’t terribly long, and given the framing device, there is no real jeopardy for Rick, as he is recounting tales from his past, but fans of Vaughn’s Kitty series will be well-pleased to learn more about the origins and adventures of a much-loved supporting character.