Gifts of Blood

Gifts of Blood
Review by Rhiannon, submitted on 23-Mar-1992

"Gifts of Blood" by Susan C. Petrey (I think my spelling is OK)

This is a collection of short stories, all but two of them are set in the Eurasian Steppes of the 19th century and concern two brothers of the Varkela tribe. These Varkela are vampires in that they drink blood (needing a few pints per month to be healthy), but they are not undead. The tribe appears to be almost human, having a normal lifespan, but they have downy fur from the chest down to the pubic area on both males and females. They drink blood through hollow were-teeth, which are retractable like the claws of a cat, with the blood being filtered and entering the veins of the vampire directly without passing through the stomach first. The vampires eat and drink normally, are able to have sex and procreate.

The tribe are gifted psychic healers and herbalists, surviving by exchanging their services as healers for a small blood-price from healthy relatives of their patients. They consider it a point of honor to earn the blood they need. Without sufficient blood, the book hints that they would become maddened by hunger at the full moon and would attack to get what they need. This was never explored, but the author does mention that is is possible for these vampires to starve to death when no blood runs in their veins.

The Varkela sleep during the day in a deep trance, which might resemble death if someone wasn't observant. They are not really harmed by sunlight, but they shun it and have to bind their eyes to go out in daylight. They are not demonic, but the book explains their dislike of the cross by reminding us that it is the ancient symbol for the sun. One of the brothers becomes a Christian, and actually wears a crucifix.

The stories concern the lives of the brothers amongst the tribes of the Steppes, and their search for mates. Although the vampires can mate outside their race, it is rare for them to be able to produce cross-blood children (although not impossible). So, even though the vampire men will lay with human (or out-blood) women, they would prefer women of their own kind. Unfortunately, the Varkela race is dying out because there are very few females; many female children are stillborn, and more die during puberty. The few adult females have many husbands, perhaps 2 or 3 at a time, and will move on to others when the unions produce children, leaving the fathers to bring up the offspring.

The stories are well written, containing rich details of the interactions of the vampires and animals (especially horses), contrasting the personalities of the brothers and their chosen lifestyles. I am sorry that these stories will not be expanded into a novel (or several), since the author died in 1980. The other two stories (one science fiction and one fantasy) are also enjoyable. No blood and guts, but very entertaining. Four fangs out of five.

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  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 15
Fright Night V.1 N.15 January 1990
Vol. 1 No. 16
Strange Tales