Friday, January 3, 2014

Impaler by Kate Paulk

Impaler is the first novel I've tried by Kate Paulk. Every so often, I'd get the feeling that I was missing something, whenever the protagonist, Lord Draculea, mentioned something that had happened earlier in his life. At first, the events seemed so adequately described that they could just be bits of background, but eventually it became apparent that there's a first novel in this chronicle. Goodreads, fortunately, enlighted me to its name - Born in Blood. Now I have to go hunting, I guess. Like Van Helsing

As I've perhaps mentioned before, the first instance I recall of a writer telling the Dracula tale from the good Count's point of view was Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape, which I've reviewed before. At this late date, seeing the vampire as a sympathetic character is pretty common, so it's no surprise when Impaler follows the tale of Wallachia's infamous ruler in first person. Having survived torture and abuse by the son of a Turkish Sultan when placed in that household as a hostage to his father's good behavior, Draculea nurses a deep hatred for the Turks who have overrun much of Eurasia. He also was cursed while in durance vile with the need to consume fresh blood, which conversely gives him strength and speed far in excess of most mortal men. Rather poetically, the curse rebounds upon those who cast it, as Draculea takes the fight to them in their strongholds in Wallachia and beyond.

Aside from the Dracula schtick, this novel really isn't in the fantasy or even horror genre, but more of a historical (if you accept a supernatural Dracula's historicity) novel. Yes yes yes we all know Vlad the Impaler existed, it's his undead nature that creates the mythos.

Draculea seems also to be cursed in an incidental manner in that those whom he cares for die off for various reasons. At the start of this novel, his father and brothers are gone, and his first wife dead, and at about the midpoint, his second wife and his unborn child die by miscarriage and hemorrhage. However, some mystical signs occur at her funeral, and his subjects decide that Vlad is guided by angels, ensuring their deeper loyalties, so it's not a total loss. Vlad is also forced to make hard decisions about how to spend his forces and the lives of his people in pursuing his vendetta, which creates a serious conflict with his eldest surviving son, Mehnea, who is still a touch naive about the ways of power.

A good tale, though quite brutal, which is to be expected in a tale about "the Impaler", kept my interest, and I'll definitely have to pick up some more of Paulk's fiction.

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