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The Lady of Serpents: The Vampyricon    by Douglas Clegg order for
Lady of Serpents
by Douglas Clegg
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

In book one of The Vampyricon, The Priest of Blood, readers were introduced to Aleric Falconer, a young peasant whose aptitude for training birds of prey led to a coveted position as a Baron's falconer and eventually a love affair with the noble's daughter. His indiscretion caused Aleric to be banished and conscripted as a warrior in the Crusades, which inevitably led to his death. But not by a Saracen blade; the deadly kiss of immortal seductress Pythia resurrected the young crusader as a vampire. Hailed as the prophesied messiah, Aleric led his new minions out of the abandoned desert necropolis where they were created, but they were soon captured and imprisoned by powerful sorceress Enora.

Years pass before Aleric is released from his dark tomb and he finds the world a vastly different place: plagues as well as climactic and geographic upheavels have taken a terrible toll. Too weak to escape - after years of being exposed to silver and having been denied blood - he becomes the pawn of Enora's power hungry alchemist Artephius, whose greatest wish is to discover immortality. He believes that vampire blood is the key, but thus far his grisly experiments have been unsuccessful and turned his test subjects into hideous mutants, completely under their creator's thrall. But there are other slaves within Enora's savage realm who would see Aleric free to follow his destiny as prophesied by the visions of the Veil. Moments before the alchemist's experiments upon Aleric are to begin, his shadowy supporters free him. Before he can break his brethren free of Enora's barbarism, he must fly across the great ocean to an undiscovered land where his species were first conceived millennia before. There his creator, the seductive Pythia, has also fled, for it is she who holds the key to the secret knowledge that could either destroy or resurrect the glory of the vampire.

The Lady of Serpents is dark fantasy at its best. This incredibly complicated and richly layered epic is riveting not only because of Clegg's masterful plotting, style and tone, but also the innovative way he's approached vampire mythology. His first book already captivated, but in this installment he's surpassed expectations, particularly in the last half of the story once Aleric escapes his tormentors. Blending aspects of medieval, Aztec and even, I suspect, mythical Atlantean history, Clegg's vision of the blood drinkers' origins is truly fascinating. Aleric is also a captivating protagonist whose dark nature never completely overpowers his human side as he struggles to understand and accept his new role of vampire messiah. His quest is far from over and I look forward to the next installment in this dark and spellbinding series.

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