Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Parliament of Blood

by Justin Richards
Bloomsbury Publishing
358 pages
Reviewed by Melissa

Take The Mummy (for the raising of powerful Egyptian mummies), Raiders of the Lost Ark (museums, adventure, and ancient artifacts), and Dracula (vampires and atmosphere), throw in a dash of political intrigue, set it in Victorian London, and voila: you have The Parliament of Blood, a vampire adventure novel that's an absolute romp to read.

The book starts with a bang -- the murder of a photographer on the streets of London, followed by the raising of an Egyptian mummy (he actually gets up and walks out of the room, into a mysterious, waiting carriage marked with an ankh) -- and doesn't let up. Our three main characters -- dashing, engineering-minded George Archer; beautiful, aspiring actress Liz Oldfield; and the plucky (yes, he really is plucky) former pickpocket Eddie Hopkins -- are faced with all kinds of adventures and close calls in dark alleyways, graveyards, ballrooms, as well as the House of Lords, as they try to stop an exclusive gentleman's club, nicknamed The Damnation Club, from taking over the world.

It's often over the top, but like the aforementioned movies, that's precisely what makes it a lot of fun. Perhaps Richards meant us to take it seriously, cashing in on the hip vampire trends of the past few years, but it's much, much better if, as a reader, you sit back and just enjoy the ride. It's one of those books that reads almost like a movie; certain scenes were written in such a way that you could just picture Brendan Frasier or Harrison Ford (who are both too old for the roles) or Shia LeBouf (who's closer in age) with their trusty sidekicks muscling their way through. In some books it can be distracting, but in this one it just adds to the adventure.

In addition, Palmer seem to be channeling the spirit of Stoker: there are a couple of clever asides about the author himself, and Palmer takes his vampire lore (with a couple of clever twists) directly from Stoker's classic itself. In addition, there's an overhanging tension, the uncertainty that at any moment something dark will jump out of the corner and get you. Palmer has a way with atmosphere -- including making excellent use of the famous London fog -- that can completely take the reader in.

Which is exactly where you want to be when reading this one: excited, scared, thrilled, and amused. Fabulous.

No comments: