Bloodline, by Kate Cary


Kate Cary’s premise is straightforward. This is a sequel to Dracula, picking up the narrative a couple of decades after the events described in Bram Stoker‘s novel.  Bloodline carries on the original’s format of having the story narrated through the journals and letters of the various characters, giving us multiple perspectives.

The early scenes are set in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, though that must be happening on a different part of the front and is never mentioned.  As we know from Stoker, Mina and Jonathan Harker had a child called Qunicy, and he is now a captain in the trenches.  His new communications officer is Lieutenant John Shaw, who has a rather insipid sister called Lily.  So you know in half a dozen pages which damsel will be in distress this time.

By page 25 you may be rolling your eyes in disbelief at the cavalier way history is treated.  A German newspaper would not be carrying graphic articles about some strange force tearing German soldiers apart on the front line, especially if it were available to German soldiers on the front line.  Lieutenant Shaw appreciates it would be bad for morale, so would German military censors.  Soldiers standing on the fire step peering at the enemy trenches opposite?  Has Cary never seen All Quiet on the Western Front?  It would be the quickest way to get a bullet in the head.  No one expects a vampire story to be realistic, but at least the setting could be plausible.

However, the action soon leaves this sub-Birdsong­ world and moves to Purfleet.  A traumatised Shaw is shipped home and is nursed by Mary Seward.  She recognises him because he happens to live next door at Carfax Hall, his family home, where the languid Lily, prone to sleepwalking, also resides.  Naturally it is not long before Quincy turns up, suddenly not needed at the front, and moves into Carfax Hall.

There is a saggy middle section where the various loves are declared, then it’s John and Mary chasing Harker and Lily to Romania, though someone in 1916 would have been more likely to call it Roumania.  The journey seems to be surprisingly easy given it’s the middle of the war and the Ottoman Empire, controlling the entrance to the Black Sea, was one of the Central Powers.  Fortunately neither ship is bothered by U-boats on the way.

They all land at Varna, and unfortunately Bulgaria was also on the side of the Central Powers, so the authorities might have been interested to know what English travellers were doing there, especially as Harker has thoughtlessly brought his British army uniform with him.  Getting into Romania from Bulgaria would have been a problem in the real world as well, as Romania was on the side of the Allies. Our cast had entered a war zone, which would have made travel somewhat problematic.  Never mind, this is a parallel 1916 in which such trifles do not matter, and flashing gold coins overcomes all obstacles.

Cary would have done better to have disengaged this from Dracula with a new set of characters, and written an original story.  The expectations aroused by casting it as a sequel to such a fine book sink it, because it does not stand comparison.  And whoever at Egmont Press billed it on the cover as “A sequel to the original vampire novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula” deserves to be staked.  Original vampire novel? Pshaw.

I fear I was in the wrong demographic for this novel, and had I been a teenage girl raised on a diet of Twilight I expect I would have lapped it up.  Bloodline improves towards the end and generates some tension, though the conclusion is rushed, but the first part in France and the journey to Romania are poorly constructed.  If you are going to employ a historical setting, it makes sense to try to get the history right, and teach the reader something about it.  Or why not get the kids reading Stoker and something by Pat Barker, not this ersatz version of both history and literature.


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