The Rest Falls Away

A Whisper of Rosemary

The Bleeding Dusk: the Gardella Vampire Chronicles
by Colleen Gleason
(Signet, $7.99, PG) ISBN  978-0-451-22326-5
For the first 100 pages, The Bleeding Dusk, despite its rather intriguing title, was a two-hearter at best.  If not for this review, I would most likely have given up after three or four chapters. One would think that, by the third book in a series, the author would have the knack down for snaring a reader. This is especially true since Gleason expects the reader to have read the previous two novels of the Gardella vampires. Which, as a series heading is more than a little misleading; Gardella is actually a family name with its roots in ancient Rome and a history of vampire-slaying super powers once a certain series of tests has been accepted and completed.

These vampire hunters are called Venators, and their current leader is a young marchioness named Victoria. You'll eventually pick up on the fact that in one of the previous stories, Victoria's great-aunt, the previous Venator leader Eustacia, was killed by another lead character, Max Pesaro. Victoria was recently widowed courtesy of the vampires, and suffers a great deal of guilt regarding these two losses.

On top of those things, her mother and her mother's two closest friends have arrived in Italy, and now she has to keep an eye on them while keeping her actions covert. Plus, she's got a thing for Sebastien Vioget, the grandson of the leader of one of the local vampire factions. He's adorable, charming, totally into her, completely flighty, and refuses to kill vampires because of one of his few moral codes: he does not feel it is his place to condemn a being to eternal damnation.

Yes, that's right. Eternal damnation. Much of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles sticks very close to "traditional" outlooks on vampires. They are strong, evil, soulless, immortal unless killed and turn to dust when killed (by fire, staking, or beheading, of course), have eyes in varying shades of red, and intend to bring evil down upon the world.

The story is peppered (and speaking of pepper, garlic and holy water will damage these vampires too!) with Stoker-isms. In fact, it's kind of Stoker meets Emily Bronte meets Mrs. Pollifax with a little of the Van Helsing anime series thrown in for kicks. Heathcliff has nothing on surly, love-torn Venator-turned-vampire-food-turned-human-again Max Pesaro. Victoria is an ass-kicking, take-no-prisoners, prim and fairly proper cozy mystery heroine, sometimes just slightly too delicate in the sensibilities but with an admirable ability to make quick decisions and impromptu plans.

Although their personalities vary greatly, Max and Victoria have their dedication to the Gardella cause in common, as well as an irritating selflessness that can also be attributed to understanding killing vampires a lot better than understanding of the human condition. Sebastien is by far the most entertaining and realistic (if such a thing is possible) character, even when you or Victoria are second-guessing his motives.

Unfortunately, the book is laden with scads of other characters that get little attention, few details, and are burdened with the author's assumption that everyone read her first two books. Most of the characters have a great deal of potential, however; the book was just overpopulated for the plotline. Or, perhaps, for lack of background information regarding the plotline. The characters all seemed to have a purpose, but on numerous occasions an individual's point in the story could have been made much clearer, or their particular scene eliminated altogether.

Assumption of previous reading is irritating, but this book has a cliffhanger that will have you - as it has me - waiting for the next one. If the first two books ended as this one does, Gleason may not be too far out of line expecting the entire series to have been read. It's hokey and old-fashioned - not only regarding the Victorian time period, but insofar as the black-and-white attitudes about the fight of good against evil are concerned - but in this instance, that makes for a fun combination ... as long as you can suffer through the first bit and skim here and there when things get too drawn out.

--Sarrah Knight

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