by Leslie Ormandy

Scion Press, $14.95, 375 pages

Oh vampires, ye of rich legacy so lucratively corrupted by Hollywood, do you ever wish you could just be yourselves again, that you could go back in time, before you were the fodder of bad young adult novels? If you answer, yes, vampires, look no further than Leslie Ormandy’s modernization of James Malcom Rymer’s Victorian-era serial, Varney the Vampyre: The Feast of Blood. The book tells the tale of the Bannerworth family, driven to financial ruin and struggling to decide how to handle their future and finances. The Bannerworth children are all of an honorable bent and their lives seem to be materializing rather well—that is, until beautiful and vibrant Flora Bannerworth is visited in her bedchamber one evening by the most fearsome of creatures: a vampire! And, to make matters worse, a vampire who seems quite likely to be a relative from a few generations ago. And who really, really wants to own the Bannerworths’ estate. What ensues is a story that is by turns suspenseful and silly. It is never really surprising, but is a fun historical novel set very firmly in Victorian-era morality and behaviors.

While, having not read the original it is difficult to tell how far Ormandy’s version strays syntactically from Rymer’s original Victorian serial,  The Feast of Blood does not seem to stray much from the style and tone of Victorian writing. Ormandy has stated that her goal in authoring this version of Varney was to modernize the story and make it accessible to an audience to whom it had basically been lost, due to antiquated writing style. However, it is somewhat difficult to view this version of the story as particularly modern, as it still contains many traits owed to its original serialized nature.

In writing the original Varney the Vampyre, author Rymer would have been paid by the word. Additionally, having been written for mass publication, the story lacks some of the literary flair that it could have otherwise had. Ormandy’s modernization has done little to remedy this situation; dialogue is overabundant, too telling, and at times awkward, and the story would have benefitted from having this cleaned up some. That said, the story, which is a bit of a twist on our modern-day take on vampires, is engaging and a fun read. It isn’t perfect, and it would have been nice to see more changes made that improved the consistency of the story (after all, Ormandy’s name, not Rymer’s, is on the front cover of the book), but the trials and tribulations of the Bannerworth clan provide a fun read. Dated it may be, but it is a fun, light-hearted romp through the dangerous terrain of vampirism. There’s no need to be afraid…but make sure your neck is covered.

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