Blood to Blood

Blood to Blood
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 28-Oct-2001

A version of this review appeared in The Vampire's Crypt 22 (Fall 2000). The Vampire's Crypt web site is:

Elaine Bergstrom. Blood to Blood: The Dracula Story Continues. Ace, October 2000. ISBN 0-441-00774-0; $5.99/$8.99.

In 1994 Elaine Bergstrom, writing under the name Marie Kiraly, published Mina, a thoughtful sequel to Dracula in which Mina obtained a journal that one of Dracula's female companions had kept. Now using her own name, Bergstrom brings the sequel to Mina, which explores the complexities of exercising freedom once attained.

Mina would like to resume marital relations with Jonathan, but not on the stodgy, conventional terms he dictates: "I can't abide being useless." The adventures of the previous novel yielded financial independence for her courtesy rakish but honorable Lord Gance, who left her a house and a fortune in his will. But as Mina makes the little house her own and seeks a good cause for her efforts and means, another woman is similarly learning to exercise her newfound freedom, financial and otherwise. Joanna Tepes, sister to Dracula by birth and by blood, long hidden away alone beneath Dracula's castle, decides to depart the old world of Gypsies and vampire beliefs and follow her brother's footsteps to England.

In Dracula's land she is aided by a displaced Irish girl, Colleen, who needs Joanna's support as much as Joanna needs hers; once in England, she finds an additional companion: Arthur Holmwood, who wonders almost obsessively whether he did right to "set Lucy free" and is willing to woo a vampire to find out. Van Helsing is predictably convinced that Arthur has been seduced and solicits Mina's help to undermine what he considers a mad plan born of grief and fallibility. Mina, however, has too much evidence that the vampire, the woman, means them no harm, and takes a wait-and-see attitude.

Like Mina, Joanna must wrestle with a new set of circumstances, freedoms, and responsibilities. Because Joanna so fears the world she barely knows, Colleen is too often her source of sustenance; by the time Joanna realizes that she never needed to exercise vampiric powers to ensure the girl's loyalty, Colleen herself has developed an irredeemable blood hunger. When she falls victim to a killer with a taste for young women, Joanna is precipitated into a new set of decisions and responsibilities. Not only does Colleen need her help, so does friend-of-a-friend Mina, for she may be next in the killer's sights.

Both despite and because of her unworldliness, Joanna is the book's most compelling character -- certainly a stranger and afraid, but often bold and ingenious and adventuresome. When she and Colleen move into a little house in Chelsea, she deems it "The first home that is mine" and instructs Colleen: "Fill it with colors." Arthur's carefully tended gardens are a delight to her, and so are the many gifts he presents as evidence of his good faith. Joanna takes pleasure in giving as well as receiving, however: bringing food to the hungry children she finds in a London alley gives her a feeling that warms her more than blood.

Mina is also in unfamiliar territory, also willing to give: with her inheritance she founds a rooming house for unattached women with small children, so they can support themselves. However, unlike Joanna, she is never far from a circle of friends, even if she never completely agrees with their motives -- or they never completely agree with hers, whether regarding helping the poor or dealing with the vampire woman.

As in Mina, Bergstrom faces head-on the problems of Victorian-era propriety and the economic realities it exacerbates. If there is a deus ex machina quality to both Mina's and Joanna's means, it is more than compensated for by the obstacles both face in making their assets realizable and finding their way in a world that has little room for women's independence or vampires' existence. These two women's success stories are crowned by a truly suspenseful sequence in which a darker figure ultimately unites human and vampire much as Dracula drew together the "little band" who crossed land and sea to defeat him.

Having read Mina is not a prerequisite for understanding Blood to Blood (though it helps), but familiarity with Dracula is a sine qua non. (Familiarity with the historical Dracula, however, may lead readers to wonder about "Tepes" as a family name; this was a sobriquet the Turks applied to the him.) Bergstrom's universe blends a modern openness -- to women's initiative and ability, to vampires' underlying humanity -- into the framework of both the limits and possibilities that England of a century ago presented to men and women, rich and poor -- and certainly to foreigners and vampires.

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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