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Lily Wight

     Updated 16/10/2015

     The Bloody Red Baron (1995) is the second novel in Kim Newman’s superlative and ever-expanding Anno Dracula series.  Newman continues to weave effortlessly both history and fiction to conjure a world in which Dracula – formerly wed to Queen Victoria – has joined forces with The Kaiser to bring terror to Europe.

     The shift in time and tone may surprise some readers expecting more of the first book’s Victorian gothic.  Book two is a World War I novel that successfully captures the tropes of military fiction whilst broadening its appeal with genre-mashing wit and just the right amount of girl power so you won’t miss those smog bound cobbled streets whatsoever.

     A running theme of genetic experimentation and weird science ensures that the series becomes increasingly pertinent and there is plenty of action too…

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Lily Wight

     John Polidori (1795 – 1821) is best remembered as Lord Byron’s travelling companion and personal physician but his short story, The Vampyre (1819) is the first significant vampire tale in English Literature, following on from Lady Caroline Lamb’s less revered Gothic Novel, Glenarvon (1816).

     The Vampyre is rather prosaic and melodramatic for modern tastes yet its brevity and vital role in vampire mythology make it an essential read.  The Vampyre himself, Lord Ruthven, is the original frilly-cuffed brooding immortal; a character endowed with the dangerous dilettantism associated with the Romantic writers and artists who, for many, have come to define the tastes, fashions and attitudes of the Georgian era.  Ruthven’s style of vampirism bridges the gap between the demons and monsters of folklore and the modern vampire anti-hero with his magnetic charisma and troubled conscience.  This new archetype was later perfected and explored by…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 22/04/2015

     It is nearly forty years since Anne Rice refined and defined our contemporary Romantic Vampire archetype with her seminal and controversial novel Interview With The Vampire.

     Rice may have returned to The Universal Studio Monster Vault (vampires, mummies and now wolfmen) but her latest foray into the supernatural is distinctly light on familiar Gothic tropes and offers something entirely current via the imagination of an author steeped in history and mythology.

     The Wolf Gift is a superhero origin story with the werewolf or “Morphenkind”, Reuben Golding, glorified and elevated into a shape-shifting biological missing-link: a creature designed to track and destroy the very essence of evil.

     The bright, breezy world of modern San Francisco offers architectural and natural majesty a world away from the grim, historical Grand Guignol of Rice’s Vampire…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 21/01/2015

     Recommended reading 🙂

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Lily Wight

     Updated 15/01/2015

     Vampire: The Masquerade‘s role-playing world offers plenty of intrigue and diversity but the chronological re-editing of multiple novels tends to mar an otherwise engrossing series.

     Vampire Hesha’s story is over-written and uneventful yet it dominates this second collection whilst the laboured build-up to major events causes structural shortcomings.

     With future volumes offering more conclusions and twists this is still a series worth sticking with and a great introduction to the realm of role-playing games.

     Click here for a review of Volume One 🙂

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Lily Wight

     Updated 09/01/2015

     Every vampire fan should be well aware of White Wolf’s seminal role-playing game system, Vampire; which effectively collates and categorizes every bit of vampire lore and literature up to and including the work of Anne Rice.

     This book owns a hefty title – and well it might – as it boasts a doorstop-sized collection of spin-off novels and associated writings, re-edited chronologically into a complex and epic drama.

     With numerous authors at work there is some jarring in the narrative style and the structure suffers, albeit necessarily for the books conceit.  Certain events are needlessly re-played from different characters’ perspectives without providing extra insight whilst dramatic tension is often lost when chronology forces precedence over plot.

     There is however so much going on that new readers of all tastes…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 11/12/2014     

     Students of English Literature should be eternally grateful for this Graphic Novel adaptation of a core curriculum classic.

     The simple black and white noir-style graphics contemporise the satirical content whilst aiding differentiation between the many realms and circles in Dante’s compelling trawl through a unique afterlife.

     Chwast’s vision is a brief and entertaining read that may just inspire you to seek out – and perhaps better appreciate – Dante’s original.

     More Graphic Novel interpretations of Literary Classics please!

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Lily Wight

Updated 27/11/2014

     Recommended reading because Graphic Novels are about more than Superheroes…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 09/10/2014

     Another full-length prose novel from (the admittedly deceased) J.R.R. Tolkien is too good to be true and infinitely more satisfying than all those collected fragments with endless footnotes.

     It’s business as usual with The Children Of Húrin as ancient oral-storytelling traditions pervade Tolkien’s reliably rich and evocative prose.

     Húrin has much in common with Norse dragon slayer Myths and is almost unbearably tragic.  It’s a great place to start with pre-Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings’ history and the maps and glossaries are essential – although why Tolkien is the only author who can get away with such things remains a mystery.

     It is a book to make you homesick for Middle-earth all over again.

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Lily Wight

     Updated 30/09/2014

     The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies arrives in UK cinemas on December 12th!  If you can’t wait that long Lily Wight ~ The Arcade of Arts & Arcana can satisfy your Middle-earth cravings with a variety of Tolkien related posts (just click the category in the sidebar).

     Let’s get started with a flash review of a book that definitely deserves a trilogy of movies… are you listening Peter Jackson!

     

     The Silmarillion

     Genius is not a term to be attributed lightly but if any author deserves such an accolade it is John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.
     Traditional Mythologies contain a vast body of evolving materials collected over time by countless storytellers and authors.  So, for one man to invent arguably the finest and most emotive…

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Lily Wight

      H.P. Lovecraft’s longform novel makes a fine introduction to the author’s original mythos and recurring themes but, like Poe before him, the style and structure of his weird tales has not aged well and demands patience from modern readers.

     The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward reads much like a dry historical legal document and Lovecraft’s obsession with architecture is interesting but not thrilling.  The lazy dénouement owes much to Dracula – and vampire fans might catch the name “Ferenczy”: a major player in Brian Lumley’s superb Necroscope series.

     Lovecraft’s short fiction is far more satisfying but completists and occultists will love this nonetheless.

     View a trailer for The Resurrected (adapted from The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward)…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 21/08/2014 

     Kim Newman’s Glastonbury set tale of a year 2000 millenium apocalypse may have passed its sell by date (without incident) yet still offers a gorily fun interpretation of The Book of Revelations for horror fans who enjoy the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Herbert and Brian Lumley.

     There is a comfortable soap-opera quality to the slow-burn character-building of colourful locals and visitors but, in the final act, as chaos descends, the diversity of their living nightmares causes a loss of focus.

     Some of the sexual-horror is just plain nasty and there is a missed opportunity to explore the dynamics of cult religions with more intelligent depth.

     As an entry into the sub-genre of supernaturals versus psychic spies it makes a sufficiently fun but hardly a life-changing…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 12/08/2014

     A short sharp review of Once…

     James Herbert does little to shift his low-brow Stephen King associations with this perfunctory foray into the world of faerie.

     A spooky house and a missing testament provide Scooby Doo plotting while flat characters and shallow research create a strangely uninvolving tale of mixed-up folklores.

     Frequent sexiness will keep you reading but Herbert’s work remains dogged by seventies style misogyny.

     If you’re a Herbert fan you’ll love it regardless, but this is lazy work.

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Lily Wight

     NBC’s Constantine TV show is set to air on 24th October with Matt Ryan in the lead role so there’s plenty of time to familiarise yourself with Vertigo’s paranormal PI.

     Grubby, British, sociopolitical and astute, Constantine’s adventures will appeal to those who want smarts with their supernatural.

     There are bigger, more epic story arcs than the standalones in this graphic novel collection but time in Constantine’s company is always well spent.

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Lily Wight

   

     Updated 22/07/2014

     Billy Majestic’s arresting Graphic Novel, Humpty Dumpty is a Science Fiction/Horror yarn and definitely not recommended for children.

     Vivid colours and smooth digital blending achieve a film-like look; entirely appropriate for a snappy origin tale which plays like a movie storyboard and makes no qualms about its B-Movie intentions.

     Redneck grotesques, small-town cops and ethereal aliens provide familiarity whilst the titular Humpty is an atrocity to remind you of the heyday of direct-to-video prosthetic horrors.  Humpty’s conception and birth stray into uncomfortable exploitation territory but once the monster madness is underway sequels seem both likely and gory good fun.

     For more unique images follow the link to The Gallery.

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Lily Wight

     Audrey Niffenegger, best known as the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, spins a macabre yet enchanting novel in pictures.

     The Adventuress, an ethereal yet tenacious heroine, is created by an alchemist, has a love affair with Napoleon and gives birth to a cat in a quest of Fairy Tale subversions and surreal post-feminism.

     The text may tell us of wedding revelry and honeymoons but the fragile images betray subjugation and abuse as The Adventuress is repeatedly betrayed by the promises of love and motherhood.  This is a story in which transformation can lead to madness and happy-ever-afters may only be attained through cleansing fire or the release of death.

     Niffenegger’s images combine the uncanny distortions of German Expressionist cinema with  a sketchiness which invites universal interpretations.

     A truly beautiful, unique and inspiring work.

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Lily Wight

  

*Postage stamps, matches, refrigerators, lightbulbs, antiseptic, inflatable tyres, cars, buses, telephones, iron bridges, railways, cameras, bandstands and promenades are all Victorian inventions.

*After the death of Prince Albert (1861) Queen Victoria dressed in black and had fresh clothes and a wash-stand prepared for Albert every day.

*She also spoke of “the mad, wicked folly of women’s rights”.  No comment.

*Only two British monarchs have reached their Diamond Jubilee.  Victoria celebrated hers in 1897.

*Britain and China went to war… over Opium trafficking!

*A large part of the world still speaks English today because of Victoria’s empire.

*The Commonwealth is made up of countries which were once under British rule.

*The River Thames was so thick with sewage that paddle-steamers could hardly move.  After 30 years of work a new improved sewage system was completed in 1875.  It is still in use today.

*Victorian architecture favoured Medieval Gothic and Classical…

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Lily Wight

     

     Updated 14/06/2014

     It takes a writer as bold as Game of Throne’s George R.R. Martin to pen a Southern Gothic vampire novel just three years after the publication of Anne Rice’s genre-bending Interview With The Vampire.

     Martin’s Fevre Dream includes plenty of Rice’s familiar tropes – such as setting, era and two bickering immortal dandies – but Fevre Dream has less romance and more grit, as though two writers used the same remit to inspire very different tales.

     Martin pens marvellous prose in any genre, he is descriptive but never dull and poetic without being florid.  He has a knack for authentic, character-crafting speech and an ability to make even the driest detail fascinating so readers will come away with a new love and comprehensive understanding of life as a Mississippi steamboat captain even if…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 05/06/2014

     Pat Brien’s Denied is a refreshingly old-school vampire yarn that owes more to Hammer era Dracula than Twilight style teen romance (cheer or boo here as you prefer).

     
     Brien does an admirable job of honing and reinvigorating gothic folklore by finding ingenious and refreshing ways to reconnect disparate vampire archetypes.
   
      Monstrous Nosferatu and brooding immortals share an intriguing new evolution and the inclusion of werewolves takes the tale to new levels of adventure, mystery and page-turning excitement.
   
     The novel has two distinct parts, the first  – which acts as an extended prologue – is quite different in tone and location to the latter.  It’s a bold structural move, as readers may prefer one part of the book over the other, but Brien’s commitment, combined…

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Lily Wight

Updated 03/06/2014

     Despite obvious extensive research and the Stoker seal of approval belated Dracula sequel Dracula The Un-Dead is a wasted opportunity which panders to modern tastes instead of keeping faith with the original vampire classic.

     Dacre Stoker and collaborator Ian Holt throw in everything from Elizabeth Bathory and Jack The Ripper to The Titanic creating a convoluted yarn which, although fast paced, struggles to find themes and focus.

     This sort of  Victorian Gothic Alternative History, or Literary Re-imagining, has been done far more successfully before by author Kim Newman whose Anno Dracula series is both effortless and ingenious in its use of similar settings and characters.

     The Un-Dead reads more like a sequel to Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula movie and when Dracula intones to Mina’s son “I am your father!!!” you may just die…

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Lily Wight

     A “subtle” hint of Literary misogyny has confined Carmilla to countless Hammer-style lesbian vampire flicks yet J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s perfectly executed short novel (1872) preceded Bram Stoker’s Dracula by a good twenty years.

     Many familiar folkloric traditions were collected and presented here first, so Le Fanu’s tale has lost non of its relevance.  The foggy Eastern European locales, racing horse-drawn carriages, suspicious locals and masquerade balls are all present and continue to contribute to the variable laws of vampirism.
     The prose is fast-paced and contemporary with a tantalising cinematic quality.  Taut with tension and genuinely chilling Carmilla deserves just as much adoration as The Count!

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Lily Wight

     Updated 13/05/2014

     Carr’s self-deprecating camp infuses this autobiography which unfortunately stops short before his fame gets started, suggesting all the good stuff has been saved for later volumes.  It’s a shame because despite the good humour there is nothing remarkable here, unless you count the fact that Carr is surprisingly well-adjusted for a comedian.

     Alan’s formative years seem no different to those of any ordinary middle-class thirty-something;  nice family, depressingly menial part-time jobs, a pointless degree and some fun holidays.

     Unfortunately the opportunity to offer advice on the perils of building a stand-up career is overlooked, with Carr being unduly brief and modest about such a difficult profession.

     If you like Carr you’ll like this, but the best is probably yet to come.

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Lily Wight

Updated 06/05/2014

 Pure trash of course but also a fascinating insight into celebrity culture’s evolution throughout the noughties.

     As the founding editor of Heat magazine Frith makes for a flawed and fabulous narrator, jealous of the success of fellow publications, often derogatory about the stars he refers to as “playthings” and covetous of fame.   Frith is also fiercely loyal to his team and dedicated to a refreshing and  worthy ethos to de-bunk celebrity myth.
     Ironically and unfortunately, normalising celebrities created a space for ordinary folk from reality shows to seize the spotlight.  The subsequent rise of savvy PRs has enabled celebs to play the once revelatory magazines at their own game.
   
     It’s a fascinating insight into a unique period of modern history by a smart, flawed guy who was actually there.

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Lily Wight

Updated 03/05/2014

     Erikson is a writer at the top of his game with the fourth book of his Malazan series delivering more of the same and then some!

     Fans will be familiar with the author’s distinct style and structure featuring unlikely pairings undertaking strange journeys that impact upon the martial and political landscape in unexpected ways.

     Erikson’s tales mimic the evolution of real history so those who prefer traditional quest-driven yarns may feel frustrated by the lack of conclusions.  There is however a realism and sense of immediacy seldom achieved by the Fantasy genre.

     House of Chains concludes most of The Whirlwind Rebellion plot and getting there is a brilliant, challenging and addictive read.

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Lily Wight

     Updated 14/04/2014

     The third novel in the Malazan Cycle suffers the same highs and lows as its predecessor.  The first half is over-plotted and over-populated, more of an endurance test than an entertaining read.

     Once various subplots unite, for a spectacular midway siege, Erikson shifts up a league and delivers martial action and emotional character beats with familiar aplomb.

     Erikson’s enthusiasm for his secondary world is infectious, but his pacing and structure continue to irritate.

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