Sunday, March 24, 2013

Prelude to the Night by Angela Ploughman


preludetothenightTitle: Prelude to the Night
Author: Angela Plowman
Cover Artist: Valerie Tibbs
Publisher: Loose Id

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Genre: historical, vampires
Length: novella 136 pages, 34k

Victorian England is a place of double standards and hidden mysteries. A chance meeting at the opera propels dutiful, innocent Christian into the seductive arms of an older man.

Valentine has come to England searching for a reason to live. He walks in the darkness listening for that siren's song which will recall him to life. He may have found it in beautiful young Christian but can he persuade Christian to give up the conventions of society and walk a more dangerous path?

Between the two there are perils in the London fog which could separate them forever. The conflict of his comfortable life on one side and the dangers of loving Valentine on the other threaten to tear Christian apart. Whichever path his choose, listening to the music of the night is likely to cost Christian his soul.
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This novel takes us back to a more formal time, when young men escorted their mothers to the opera and liked it, and young women could lose their reputations at a glance. Christian is the man of his family, his father being deceased, and is responsible for his mother and sister. It’s a year past the date when Oscar Wilde went to prison, and Christian doesn’t plan to tell a soul where his desires lie.

The writing is beautifully atmospheric, its slight formality and period word choice take us back 120 years. I had no trouble at all feeling transported to London of the late nineteenth century, where culture and appearances reigned in the well lit quarters, ruffians lurked in every dark corner, and modern conveniences like antibiotics didn’t exist. The story is framed as a flashback so there isn’t much question about which choices are made, but the language of the frame is lovely.

Valentine is a fairly standard vampire, the Count of somewhere Carpathian, centuries old and bored with having seen it all twice. He’s entirely too fascinating to Christian, and tends to turn up in the strangest places because of his attraction to the young man. It’s totally an insta-want/insta-love on his part, but to Valentine's credit, he doesn’t use Dracula’s less pleasant methods to obtain his desires.

It’s insta-lust on Christian’s part, though perhaps not of his volition. He, of course, is torn, but the choices become no longer his in a way that was both startling and perfectly in period. This was equally horrifying and suitable, and made me adore a secondary character.

I enjoyed this book, although in places I was thinking I’d read “generic vampire trope,” but something unique in the ending and the lovely language rescued the book from the mundane. 4 marbles

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