Friday, January 16, 2009

Book: Hotel Transylvania (a novel of forbidden love)

You know this couldn't end well. (although I dig the cheesy 70s cover)

Apparently based on a real person, this is ostensibly a novel "of forbidden love" between the Comte Saint-Germain and this woman, Madelaine de Montoya (or something...I couldn't keep all these titles straight). The copy I have is signed by the author, and curiously the title page has this phrase scratched out and instead, she's written in "a tale of historical horror". So I don't know. Either way, it was a silly book.

Like I said in my earlier post, this book has got a lot going on. I can tell it's supposed to be some sort of historical romance or something like that, with a sexy vampire angle, and some alchemy/dark arts thrown in for drama. But really, it's just a showy kidnapping novel with a whole bunch of flair thrown around for distraction. Even the fact that the Count is a vampire is a relatively minor point in the book. But more on that later.

So. The plot is this. Young Madelaine, ready to be out and about in Paris and on the market for marriage, goes to stay with her aunt and uncle in high-society 1700s Paris. Lots and lots of talk about clothes, which I actually didn't mind. There is a mysterious character, the Comte Saint-Germain, who charms everyone, appears never to age, and never eats or drinks in public. He is, basically, a charming saint. Who is a vampire. Love those! Anyway. So apparently (this is never made entirely clear) Madelaine's father used to be in with a group of Satanists and promised his firstborn child to said Satanists. Of course he later came to his wits and left the group, and has hidden Madelaine away all these 19 years. But now he let her go back to Paris to find a husband. Hello?!? Everyone knows Satanists don't give up!

So. Madelaine is the toast of the town and Saint-Germain falls in love with her. I guess. This is all covered in about three sentences. More on that later. So they're in love (or something) but the Satanists are closing in. Many elaborate plots to kidnap her happen, and they are outwitted every time. Until, finally, they capture her. And start to do all kinds of bad things to her (but nothing *really* bad because it's just not that sort of novel. It's the sort of novel that alludes to things, if you know what I mean.) Her father and uncle and Saint-Germain come to her rescue and there's a big fire and all the Satanists (and her father and uncle) die, and Saint-Germain has to go away and Madelaine becomes a vampire. Or, at least, she will in the next book.

Or something like that.

I have many, many problems with this book. I will say, however, that if you are looking for a slightly dark summer read and you like historical fiction/romance (although there's not much romance, although it *sounds* like there should be), and you like a little bit (but not too much!) vampire, and you want a new series of books to plow through (there are apparently many sequels) then I will say that the book is fairly decently written and it's fun to read about 1700s Paris with all the clothes and such.

BUT. I thought it was dumb. First, let's talk about this supposed romance between Saint-Germain and Madelaine. It starts off promisingly, all veiled society manners and sidelong glances, but then, within the space of a page or so, suddenly they are in love and each other's soul mates. And, on that same page, we discover that Saint-Germain is a vampire (he says something like "I've been alive much longer than 500 years, my dear") and she is not shocked at all by this, but instead wants him to drink her blood (this feeding is a clear substitute for sex in this book). This all literally happens in about three paragraphs. I had to flip back to make sure I hadn't missed something, because I was like, "What?" And then, for pages and pages afterwards, we get very small reminders that he's a vampire, but it's not the central focus of the story or anything, which I found sort of annoying. I couldn't figure out what this book was ABOUT, until I realized it was a kidnapping book. Basically, the hero rescues the lady from the evil Satanists. It was about the Satanists more than anything, actually. Which is fine, but we are led to believe this is a book about Saint-Germain, or Madelaine, and it's NOT.

Saint-Germain as a vampire is a wimpy excuse of a vampire. He's been alive for centuries (the sequel books put him in various historical settings, which, if I didn't already think the book was crap, might be sort of interesting), and he doesn't eat or drink in public. He only needs a very little bit of blood, and mostly it appears that this is a substitute for sex, it's not really food. He's a master of many things: sword-fighting, alchemy, music, etc. He has to have his 'native soil' in his boots for him to stand sunlight or to cross running water. But... that's about it. He's certainly not evil in any sense. He's not violent. He's basically a highly cultured eunuch who never dies. Whoop-de-do. Whatever. I know I'm totally influenced by Anne Rice, but I like my vampires to be a little bit more... tortured. Violent. Conflicted. And definitely way sexier. Saint-Germain was a yawner.

And Madelaine was a cardboard cutout of a 1700s French noblewoman. She was supposed to be all feisty and intelligent and stuff, and we get a little bit of that, but mostly I spent the whole book waiting for some sort of character development anywhere. Madelaine gets a little fleshing out, Saint-Germain gets a little bit, the main Satanist guy gets a little bit, but everyone else are just paper dolls moving around in the story. Madelaine's father completely mystified me. He's a very confusing character. Is he a reformed Satanist? This is hinted at, but we never really know. He mostly seems like he's made of mud. He's not very good at rescuing her (he gets himself killed), he doesn't like to party, he doesn't like anything at all -- and he let his daughter go back to Paris when he knew he had promised her to the Satanists! Why?? Dummy! Gah!

Anyway. Suffice to say, I will not be reading any more of the Saint-Germain novels (although to be fair, I did read some other reviews and they say that the other books are better). When I was doing a little pre-reading research on this novel, I kept reading how it was a "classic" and how "so many modern vampire characters owe so much to this novel" etc. So I was expecting something a little better. I kept waiting for it to get good, and it didn't.


Kate said...

Ha! Sounds like vampires for the go-go boots set. Perhaps the title was lifted from the Eagles to increase its market appeal?

This sounds like just the sort of book I'd love to suck up overnight (no pun intended), giggling and chortling all the way through.

Daphne said...

yes, it was sort of wonderfully awful...