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Chuck Wendig
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The Vampire Genevieve (Warhammer Novels)

The Vampire Genevieve (Warhammer Novels) - Jack Yeovil So, here's another secret-that-isn't-a-secret: Jack Yeovil is Kim "Anno Dracula" Newman. Most folks who have heard one name or the other already know this, but in case anyone coming into the series doesn't know that, the foreword is credited to Kim Newman. It reminds me of how Stephen King continues (sporadically, yes, but still...) to use the Richard Bachman name, even though the general public not only already knows this, but the books also have his real name and his pen-name on the covers (seriously; look up Blaze and see which name gets the largest font). Still, in his foreword, Newman gives a good reason as to why he used the Yeovil pseudonym, and it's not like he's trying to fool anyone with any subterfuge.

The Vampire Genevieve is actually an omnibus collection of three novels and one short-story collection that feature his eponymous character. Fans of Newman know that Genevieve is also a character in his Anno Dracula series, and he considers this series of stories an alternate history of that same character. Interestingly enough, the character was created in this universe and then transferred over to Anno Dracula, so this also gives us a look at how Newman originally envisioned the character. It's also set in the world of Warhammer 40,000, which concerned me for not knowing much about that world (much as I had concerns over Charles Grant's Watchers set in the World of Darkness), but the stories still worked without having knowledge of the setting. A little research showed that Chaos is a faction, which explains some references in the story, but the plot still worked even without those references.

The first novel, Drachenfels, is about a handful of adventurers who are the survivors of a group who defeated an evil wizard. The story catches up with them 25 years after the defeat, as a playwright has been commissioned by a prince (also a survivor) to write a play based on the events. The story does feature Genevieve, but only as part of a larger cast (a much larger cast; I had trouble following who was who at certain points in the story). It took a while to get going, enough so that I wondered if I would stay with it through all four books, but it picked up considerably at the end, and had a satisfying conclusion. There were also a couple of neat tricks that Newman employed that sent chills up my arms. I'll leave it at that.

Genevieve Undead is the second part of the collection, and is billed as a novel but is really another collection of three novellas. One featured Genevieve and her playwright lover; the second featured Genevieve being held prisoner in an estate where she believed herself to be part of a royal family killing each other nightly for their father's inheritance; and the third story was about Genevieve undercover in a household with the intent of assassinating one of their number. The three stories were tangentially related, but only barely. They may as well have been listed as distinct stories of their own.

The third piece in the collection, Beasts in Velvet, hearkens back to Anno Dracula more than any other story in the book. This novel follows Anno Dracula by just a year, according to publication date (Beasts in Velvet was published in 1993, Anno Dracula in 1992), so the two books may have been written concurrently, and best highlights the alternate history Newman was attempting by featuring the same character in both series. Here, prostitutes are being murdered in a capital city, prompting small hysteria in the public, and a half-hearted investigation by the police. In short, this is another take on Jack the Ripper, this time set in a fantasy world. It might be worth reading this and Anno Dracula back-to-back just to see how much they have in common, but my interest isn't high enough to pursue it. Why it's a Genevieve story, though, is beyond me; she shows up in one scene, which isn't even relevant to the rest of the story, save to place it before the time of Genevieve Undead.

Silver Nails, the fourth piece, is made up of shorter stories, so now we're down to reading a compilation in a compilation. It's getting a little Inception in here.

Anyway, the first story, "Red Thirst", is a kind of combo buddy-cop/heist story, featuring Genevieve and an unwilling conspirator. It's an entertaining read that had a sense of importance as Yeovil gave it more of a purpose. "No Gold in the Grey Mountains" is another Genevieve story without Genevieve, save for an aside that mentions her. It's short. I remember that much. The next story, "The Ignorant Armies", is another story without Genevieve, though she's mentioned once, and the story features characters who featured in other stories that did have Genevieve in them. Following that is "The Warhawk", which features the two main characters who starred in Beasts in Velvet, and was a rather gripping little whodunnit story. Lastly, "The Ibby the Fish Factor", which does feature Genevieve, is an interesting story of crusades, power struggles, and murder, which takes everything that took place in Yeovil's universe and brought it around full circle.

So, despite being called The Vampire Genevieve, the collection doesn't feature her as much as I would have expected. Luckily, Yeovil is a talented enough writer to take all the disparate elements of all the stories featured here and bring them together in a rather satisfying conclusion. It also took me a long time to read, given that the book is actually four books, the print is in teeny-tiny type, and the narrative sometimes was so dense that I would read a couple of pages before realizing I hadn't grasped any of what had just happened. I do wonder if not having a knowledge of the Warhammer universe was a strike against me, too.

If I were to recommend either this or the Anno Dracula series, I would suggest the latter, hands down. Even with the last two books in that series not matching what he accomplished with the first two, and with the deftness with which he concluded his series here, Anno Dracula is the superior series of the two.