Blood Rites

Blood Rites
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 9-Oct-2001

Adapted from "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #5 (Spring 1992).

Review by Cathy Krusberg

Elaine Bergstrom. Blood Rites (Jove, 1991).

In Blood Rites Elaine Bergstrom presents yet more adventures of the inimitable Austras. Helen Wells, introduced in Shattered Glass, is the first half-human to join the Austra family in nearly two thousand years. The Austra women, in particular, consider her a welcome addition: since she is not pure Austra, she can bear children and *live*. The family blood that she shares in their ceremony of welcome puts her in mental contact with the entire Austra clan before she and Stephen Austra move to Canada--to the wilderness, away from the people that are too much for Helen's newly heightened senses. And it is there-- now as Stephen Audet and his bride--that Helen bears Stephen's children, Patrick and Dickie.

Even the Canadian wilderness is not remote from all complications. Dick Wells, Helen's uncle--until recently, her guardian--needs to get away from civilization. "Police! Drop it!" didn't have the desired effect on an armed robber: Dick Wells soon learned that he had killed Peter Carrera, son of underworld kingpin Dominic Carrera. Stephen would have forbidden Dick's visit had he known it was bringing danger to his family, but between his senses and Dick's police background, they can find no hint that Dick was followed.

Dick and Stephen have reckoned without Russ Lowell, Carrera's best hit man, who particularly cannot afford to bungle this job and proceeds very slowly and carefully: waits until the adults are away and kidnaps not only Patrick but live-in babysitter Hillary and Dick's son Alan. Helen returns and pursues her child and charges, but her plans go awry: in the fracas, Hillary is killed and Helen so badly wounded that Lowell takes her unconscious form prisoner as well.

Lowell tells Carrera that Helen is dead when in fact he wants to keep her for his own amusement. Stephen is not concerned; his blood knows that Helen is alive and that she has the right to deal with Lowell herself. For the others: Carrera is willing to exchange Alan for Dick Wells and Patrick for indefinite postponement of his upcoming trial. The former is a predictable but unhappy choice; the latter seems as impossible as Helen's regaining consciousness, let alone escaping.

The theme of shared Austra blood--shared either by drinking or by lineal descent--pervades Blood Rites, from its prologue in Romania of 729 through Alan's inheritance of just enough Austra to make him able to bond psychically with the twins to Russ Lowell's fascination with the blood he licks, again and again, from comatose Helen's wounds.

Despite Blood Rites many good qualities, I found the book disappointing. On finishing it, I concluded that Bergstrom's work is growing formulaic. On a page-to-page basis there's no lack of originality, but when Shattered Glass, Blood Alone, and Blood Rites are taken in_toto their outlines reveal the template they share: build a bunch of interesting characters; put an engaging one into horrible jeopardy; keep him (or her) there through most of the book, then bring the Austra powers into play for a rousing showdown. I enjoy both action and suspense, and I admire the richness and complexity Bergstrom uses to flesh out her skeletal plot: it's taken three books for that skeleton to draw my attention, and maybe it's just me. On the other hand, maybe Bergstrom's books are best read with an eye to detail rather than overarching structure--and not back to back.

Fanged Films

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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