This was a beautifully written and executed story with quite a punch. Using an urban fantasy tale to give strong metaphors as to the actual situation in 1770s India, there is a lot more here to enjoy that just a simple tale of new and old world monsters. The illustration, coloring, and lettering work are all superb, further enhancing the story. It can be difficult to create something truly original using the vampire genre but it is done extremely well here.
Story: The old world vampires control the true power in England, including the extremely powerful East India Company. But they do so secretly for reasons of safety and security. When one aristo is caught indiscreetly supping on a servant, his brethren ship him off to India so the incident will be forgotten. But there are old world monsters in India, as well. Bishan is an immortal – a raakshas. When the aristo is killed after attempting to feed on a local girl, the aristos in England demand revenge. In the midst of the political machinations of sultans and the British, Bishan the raakshas and Count Jurre Granno the Vampire are about to clash.
The story is told directly and also through letters from various characters in the story. Although Bishan and his mortal love Kori are the two main characters, there is also the Aristo Vampire Pierre, a vampire hunter, a prince, and a Sultan sharing time. This isn’t just an urban fantasy; rather, it’s an exploration of the politics of India and the influence of the English as they began to take over the subcontinent. Their stories are all interwoven quite skillfully, never following one character too long and showing just how dangerous it is to be around the immortals. Most importantly, none of the characters are fools; some are arrogant and overconfident but this is shown to be a fault that often causes their downfall.
Most interesting for me was that there was a lot to say about the East India Company, a real entity at the time (they were the first corporation in the world) and extremely ruthless and powerful. In this story, the Vampires are a metaphor for what the Company really did to the people in South East Asia, especially India. Perhaps most telling was the fate of Kori in the story, which I won’t go into here for spoilers but she is the embodiment of India. But this isn’t a one-sided tale about the evils of England at the time; India’s squabbling was shown to help create the perfect situation in which English greed could take root and flourish.
The illustration work is solid – clean, easy to follow, and intriguing. The color scheme is rich and layered, which a nightly blue-green for England and a vibrant sunny yellow for India. It is no accident that the Britain scenes are all at night while the India scenes mostly take place in daylight. Panels are interesting and there are some wonderful angles drawn that make you want to stop and explore that page. But most impressive is the strength of emotions conveyed, from surprise to despair, resignation to avarice.
If I have one issue, it’s that once again the historical aspects as drawn are incorrect. For some reason, the artist has mixed 1770s Regency male fashions with 1870s Victorian female gothic fashions. E.g., in later scenes Kori is wearing clothing that is 150 years too early and it just looks sloppy. Perhaps it was done for artistic reasons (pairing gotchic with vampires) but it makes no sense considering the men are all dressed in more era-appropriate clothing. Just imagine a story set in the 1950s where guys are wearing jeans and t-shirts while the women are decked out in American Revolutionary War era clothing and you get the idea of the mismatch.
The above issue aside, I really enjoyed this book a lot. It improves even more upon re-reading and when you have a grasp of the history of this era. There is a lot being said about the people of both England and India within. This volume one contains a complete arc; I am intrigued on where it will go from here. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.