I had a chance to interview A Taste of Blood Wine’s author Freda Warrington before I read the book. In my research for that interview I found many reviews that raved about it; best vampire story ever was a common claim and best story ever was not uncommon either.
I asked Freda about the expectations these reviews set and the notion of taking them with a pinch of salt was returned.
I think that’s wise. I can easily see why some people fall in love with A Taste of Blood Wine. It’s written so that there is every chance to form an emphatic bond with one of the main characters. It’s also a romantic but action scene prone vampire drama. It would make a good movie; or TV series.
It’s worth saying that any suggestion that A Taste of Blood Wine copies some of the more recent vampire trends is ridiculous. This is a re-print of a book that came out in the 90s. This book came first.
The main female character in A Taste of Blood Wine is painfully shy to begin with. To be honest, a bit like her aunt, I found this shyness to be more than a little annoying at first. It’s odd to see shyness being used as a shield and it might not seem possible and yet that’s what we had.
Thankfully characters begin to toughen up when the vampires arrive.
These are interesting vampires. They walk in daylight. The biggest difference is a realm called “The Crystal Ring” in which the vampires can retreat too, travel in but must be careful of. We’re thrown fully into the Crystal Ring early on in the book and as the reader you have to land on your feet. You have to accept that this is just what these vampires do and move on.
A Taste of Blood Wine is (largely) set in post-World War England. Everyone is so frightfully polite; even the vampires. It’s an interesting time because gender roles are changing, society tries to hang to old customs and science is off on another growth spurt.
One of the hidden attractions of A Taste of Blood Wine for me wasn’t the realistic relationships of the family members or the appropriately balanced solemnity of the vampires but the occasional interplay of science and vampire. I don’t think this is Warrington wrestling with the expectation that she has to defend any of her decisions by trying to explain how things might be possible. I think this is Warrington exploring yet another contrast in a book of contrasts.
Just as we have a contrast in the shy female character at the start and the brave, but noble, vampire character who appears at first we also have contrasts between the vampires them themselves. One of the key relationships in A Taste of Blood Wine is that of Karl and Kristian. Kristian is the religious one.
It might have been the reviews I researched and their insidious ability to mess with expectations but I didn’t take to A Taste of Blood Wine as quickly as I thought I would. The first three or four chapters were not page turners for me. Again, perhaps it was the reviews I had read before, or perhaps I sensed the momentum because I kept on turning the pages. I’m glad I did.
A Taste of Blood Wine grows on you as a vampire slowly indoctrinating your thoughts with his mesmeric charms might. It’s charmingly persistent. I didn’t see the tipping point but I was flying through the pages by the end of the book. Even the odd side plot about cloned vampires was taken in stride.
Overall? This one is certainly recommended for vampire fans. Also recommended for people who think they should be a vampire novel fan but haven’t yet found a book that works for them.
My copy of A Taste of Blood Wine was provided for review. Titan Books, May 2013, paperback, £7.99 by Freda Warrington. A brand new fourth book in the series is expected late in 2014.