A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoy the books Dan Wells writes. He tends to stick with urban fantasy, though, and fairly serious topics, at that. I wasn't sure what to expect from a comic historical fiction.
A Night of Blacker Darkness takes place in January 1817. Frederick Whithers needs to get out of prison to collect a fortune he forged papers to inherit. He fakes his own death, and, in emerging from his coffin, is mistaken for a vampire. Not just any vampire, though; a group of five vampires decides he's their leader, the Great One. When he escapes the graveyard, he winds up in a London-bound carriage with John Keats. Soon, John believes he's the Great One, too, and Frederick is running all over England escaping vampires, vampire hunters, mobs with torches, and anyone who might bring his whole scheme crashing down.
The humor is often of the absurdist variety, but it works for this story. If you can set aside the ridiculousness of the notion that Mary Shelley might've tried to build her own stitched-together monster to write a book about it, you'll enjoy it a lot more. The book also posits that gothic literature came about because vampires are too weak to overpower people, so they made themselves sound sexy so young maidens would seek them out. Jane Austen also makes a short but memorable appearance, and is probably the most believable of all of the historical literati.
In the end, this is an amusing tale that pokes fun at a lot of tropes of gothic horror, and, by extension, modern concepts of vampires. It can be forgiven some two-dimensional characters and a thin plot for its pure amusement value.
I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Sean Barrett. I thought the narration added a lot to the humor of the book, especially in its humor delivery. Barrett has an excellent sense of comic timing, and just the right dry delivery to capture Frederick's voice. If you do pick this up, I recommend the audio edition.
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