Daughters of Shadow and Blood by J. Matthew Saunders (Book I: Yasamin)

Daughters of Shadow and Blood is the first in a series by Matthew Saunders.  I think you could call this the thinking person’s vampire book as it is a story of mystery that follows a trail of breadcrumbs around the world in search of a strange medallion.  A medallion that once belonged to Dracula and is now sought after by many different factions.

The story is narrated in a number of different timeframes and voices.  We flirt back in time to Buda in 1599 where a young woman, Yasamin, is about to enter into an arranged marriage with the Governor’s son. Arriving friendless in a strange place it seems like she may have more than petty jealousies to worry about.  We alternately follow in the tracks of Professor Adam Mire, an expert in history who seems to have become obsessed with the clues he finds within the Pages of Stoker’s Dracula.  We also read various historical pieces that move the story along and bring to light certain characters whose lives have interwoven with that of Dracula throughout history.

I enjoyed this but will stress it’s not a typical vampire story so if you’re expecting lots of fangs and bloodsucking I’ll just throw in at this point that that isn’t really the main focus of the story.  You could say it is a mystery and I will say there’s a good deal of cloak and dagger action going on to support that theory.  In fact the main thrust of the book seems to revolve around the different parties searching for the medallion – ruthless people who will commit any crime to gain their desires.  And, on top of this we have a murderer who seems to be following in the footsteps of Professor Mire.  Basically the whole basis of the story doesn’t really become clear until the conclusion and I’m not going to give any spoilers away in that respect.

I think the author does a good job of writing a story that spans across many years and is told in a number of voices.  I actually enjoyed jumping back and forth and travelling around the globe and thought the writing was easy to follow, in fact I was intrigued to know what exactly was going on.

In terms of characters – well, I don’t think it’s a secret that Yasamin is actually one of the brides of Dracula – I enjoyed reading her story when she arrived as the young bride in waiting in fact I thought this side of the story was my favourite aspect and I could have definitely read more from her.  Presumably the next two books in the series will be the other brides and will involve some story unique to each one.  Professor Mires story is much more involved with the action side of the tale and following the trail of clues as they take him in pursuit of his goal.

In terms of criticisms.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this story and so in that respect it felt like an original idea, well executed and easy to read.  However, having now finished and reflected I think to an extent it is a little bit of a missed opportunity.  It’s not very often that you get to see a tale related from a different point of view and so the tales of the brides of Dracula could be incredibly interesting to read. Yasamin’s story was intriguing and was certainly my favourite part of the novel but strictly speaking you could as much call this Professor Mire’s tale.  Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the interaction between the two in the more modern aspects of the tale but I think Yasamin isn’t really focused on enough.  I wanted more of her tale and more of what comes next – but, that being said, there are more books involved and so perhaps I’m just being hasty.  I also felt that the characterisation took something of a back seat to the action which left me feeling a little ambivalent towards the characters overall.

I would be interested in reading more to see where the author goes next with this series.  At this point it feels like the brides of Dracula theme is just the backcloth to another story or stories but that could change entirely with the next book so I will be keen to see where this goes next and in spite of my criticisms I thought this was a good read.

I received a copy through the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.