Fevre Dream by GRRMartin
Fevre Dream’s is one of my October reads although the review is November! This was one of my Halloween reads and it’s just an excellent story, well written and with a fresh take on the vampire legend.
The story revolves around a partnership formed between two unlikely characters. Abner Marsh is a steamboat captain. His luck has recently suffered something of a dry patch resulting in him now only owning one steamship – and a fairly old one at that. Joshua York is the strange character who offers Abner a partnership and appeals to his ambitious side by making promises to build the finest steamship sailing the waters. Joshua relishes his privacy. He keeps strange hours. He has pale skin and almost white blond hair. He has a grace and beauty to his movements which belie the power and menace that lurks beneath the thin veneer of civility that he has cultivated. If you can’t guess from the description – Joshua is a vampire. Of course Abner is not aware of this when they put out on their maiden voyage aboard the Fevre Dream but over a period of time, strange disappearances, the hours that Joshua keeps and the strange company – basically something doesn’t quite add up.
Alongside this we are introduced to a different group of characters. More vampires led by a powerful and unhinged individual called Damon Julian. This is when Abner and Joshua’s dreams are going to turn more into nightmares. I won’t go further into the plot. Suffice it to say that both Joshua and Abner have their own vision of the future and Damon Julian is about to stamp all over both their dreams.
The writing is excellent. If you’re no stranger to Martin then you’ll know he isn’t stingy when it comes to detail. He literally brings this era to life on the page. He’s a conjuror. I could visualise the places, the people, the steamboat. I could almost taste the food!
The people – you just can’t help really liking Abner – and Joshua for that matter. Although Abner was the outstanding character for me. And, as much as you like these two you’ll equally dislike Damon and his little ‘helper’ and very appropriately named Sour Billy. These are two downright nasty characters and are a perfect example of ‘evil’ both in the form of vampire and human, just as Joshua and Abner display the more temperate side. Are vampires evil? Or are some of them evil – just as some humans are evil?
Place – I suppose comparisons to Rice’s vampire series are a little inevitable given the setting and period. Martin manages though to create a wonderfully atmospheric deep south riddled with fevers, superstition and slavery. On top of which he takes a sideways glance at these issues when comparing the actions of vampires and the actions of humans. He takes a look at the double standards and morally ambiguous attitudes and yet manages to make this food for thought rather than preaching at the reader.
I have no criticisms for this book whatsoever. It’s wonderfully written and downright creepy in places. The ending is simply excellent. I think the only proviso I would add is that this is not a fast paced novel. It doesn’t just dive in with bodies, blood and viscera. I suppose you could call this the ‘thinking person’s’ vampire story. It certainly brings a whole new concept to the myth of the vampire which dispels certain beliefs whilst reinforcing others but in an almost believable way if you can credit that!
An excellent read and a little surprising that it hasn’t enjoyed more acclaim.