Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written two. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Ascent of Blood, a unity-of-opposites vampire romance, by Elizabeth Marx.
Characters: Sebastian Pearce, the powerful heir to the vampiric House of Imperials; and the willful, beautiful American scholar of vampire lore Dr. Everleigh Marbut dominate this tale of a human woman who finds herself immersed in vampire culture. In Sebastian, Elizabeth has created a portrait of power and “…noble arrogance, untamed black-nut hair, prominent patrician nose, silver stakes for eyes and a hunters grace,” as Everleigh sees and describes him.
Sebastian finds Everleigh equally attractive.
She pulled her glasses down from a perch twisted in her hair and the long ropes cascaded around her shoulders. Her hair was a vivacious black-sable and blended exotically with her light olive skin. Her white button-up shirt was so pure it could have been used in the sanctity of a cathedral to place the sacrament on. The only indecent thing about it was the fact that it was unbuttoned one button further than it should have been.
He avoided examining the deep plunge. Who knew what desires that might propel him into. His eyes skimmed her trim torso before traveling the length of her legs…
Both characters are irresistibly, physically drawn to one another. But their powerful personalities clash in the strange circumstances of their forced association, creating a psycho-sexual tension that carries the story.
The pair is surrounded by Sebastian’s vampire tribe, including frightening Vivian, red-haired vampire rival for Sebastian’s love, a love human Everleigh doesn’t even realize she wants. Gifted with immortality and preternatural power, the vampires, including Vivian, are only tenuously kept at bay by Sebastian’s command and the force of Everleigh’s own personality.
Elizabeth describes her characters with wit, and even snark.
Vivian had the exotic eastern European look; over waxed brows, pale skin, and iron rod straight hair dyed to the unnatural color of London telephone box. Vivian was a woman who labored over her beauty like a thief counting his ill gotten gains.
Love that “ill-gotten gains” line.
The characters’ dialogue matches; it’s filled with snark, humor and menace.
“If I didn’t still need you—” Vivian’s teeth and claws extended and her eyes burned in a throbbing rhythm. “I’d drink your antique virgin’s blood from a teacup and rifle through your entrails on the saucer.”
Plot: Since vampires can’t breed, continuing a line of succession for the House of Imperials is a problem. Everleigh, it turns out, can breed vampire children, an incredibly rare characteristic in humans. Since she’s already carrying an immortal child, Sebastian holds Everleigh, against her will at first, in the vampire compound at Cardiff Castle, in the remote English countryside. There, she must face vampires whose lusts are barely held in check, revelations about her own nature, and her own conflicted but slowly growing love for the vampire prince.
Setting: Much of the novel is set in the “…frosty corridors and mysterious rooms” of Gothic Cardiff Castle, perched on a hill, where Everleigh is kept prisoner. Elizabeth describes enough to support the story, without distracting. The library, for instance — “…two-story walls chocked full of books, ledgers and scrolls… The scent of old parchment and the metallic smell of ink hung heavy in the air.”
What I thought could’ve been done better: Ascent of Blood could have used a good proofreading. I noticed around three dozen typos throughout. In several places, paragraphs repeated. Most of the errors were wrong word; omitted word; and punctuation, especially apostrophes.
For instance: Shades act as bankers, moving large chucks (should be “chunks”) of capital and natural resources without the human world any wiser. They profess to know, down to the last penny, the exact total of every countries (should be country’s) coffers…
In a book of this sophistication, I was a bit surprised to find so many typos. Easy to fix, though. I will add that I edit professionally, so I might be more prone to notice than some other readers.
What I thought was good: Ascent of Blood is rich with goodies. Elizabeth has created a vampire culture that exists alongside and even intersects with mainstream human culture in sustainable ways, though prejudices still exist. She explains it well and consistently. I enjoyed the different classes of vampires, from the polished, erudite “Imperials,” to the monstrous “Nosferatus.”
Elizabeth makes great use of simile and metaphor in her descriptions: “A large man with a beer belly that over hung his belt into the next county greeted her by removing his fedora and bending low.” Love it.
I’ve already mentioned the sharp, snappy dialogue, of which there is a great deal. Here’s Everleigh and Sebastian, as the vampire prince tries to reassure his reluctant guest.
“You’re taking me to creepy, ancient fortifications in the middle of the night, and your girlfriend is going to want to skewer me into pieces of sushi, but there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Gillian will keep a close watch on you and once Cain returns he will act as your personal guard. No one will dare touch you, but they might very well try to scare you by toying with your mind.”
“Oh, I do enjoy a game of mind fuck with immortals.”
Sebastian turned on her very slowly. “I do not care for your tone or words.”
“Well I don’t care for fucking kidnapping!”
“I’m not certain of your capabilities with embraced vampires,” Sebastian growled, “but if you speak to one in such a crude manner you best hope Cain’s nearby.”
“And why won’t you protect me yourself?”
“For practical purposes, it’s better if we stay away from one another. I’d rather not anyone notice our unusual connection.”
“Cain already knows.”
“But he is the soul of discretion.”
“Philabe knows that if he breathes a word of what he saw that I will skin him alive, one layer at a time.”
“This is your reassuring side, right?”
I also liked the chapter titles, dramatic and with a touch of poetry — Chapter 4 for instance — “All Unavoided is the Doom of Destiny.” Sweet.
Overall: This tale of a contemporary American woman deep in the clutches of centuries-old vampires is a fine addition to vampire lit. Everleigh is a spirited, hardheaded heroine, who calls it like she sees it, unafraid of terrible power that could snuff her in a second. In fact, the dread vampire prince has his hands full with the willful woman, almost in the tradition O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief.”
In the end, neither is a match for the ultimate power of love. And in the form of Vivian, hate gives them a run for their money, too.
Good job, Elizabeth!
And for sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thrillers, check out my own novel American Goddesses on Amazon or Smashwords, and the newly published sequel Rogue Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!