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Brian James Gage
The Nosferatu Conspiracy: Book Two, The Sommelier
An epic paranormal chase thriller set during the Battle of Arras in March 1917. The second book in the multi-award winning Nosferatu Conspiracy series is a gonzo horror mash-up of Gothic fiction, suspense-thriller, and historical fantasy that tells the shocking supernatural cover-up of Kaiser Wilhelm’s true intentions for starting World War I.
This epic gothic alt-history nail-biter continues the paranormal saga kicked off in The Sleepwalker, which purported to tell the true, uncensored story of the collapse of Tsarist Russia in 1916: turns out, Rasputin, influential advisor to Emperor Nicholas II, was a vampire who unleashed Nosferatu upon St. Petersburg. Now, with Rasputin apparently defeated, Prince Felix Yusupov vampire hunter Rurik head out to Bucharest to confront the growing vampire threat, while Gage’s attention turns to the first World War and the secret supernatural ambitions of Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm and his ancient demonic allies, among them the aptly named and vividly rendered “Death Witch,” shrouded—like Gage’s Europe itself—in a mesmeric fog of decay.

Gage again combines engaging, detailed accounts of inventively corrupted history with ersatz documents (redacted reports and letters, especially) and vigorous horror-adventure storytelling—the plot turns on a demon blade and the hunt for a bottle of “Drăculea”’s blood. His zeal for research and what-if? Gamesmanship is matched by a talent for shiver-inducing portents (“a harrowing ustrel howl echoed through the country quiet”) and Grand Guignol blood feasts, disintegrations, werewolf-vs.-vampire action that at times, despite the cosmic and historic stakes, proves downright playful. “Werewolves,” one character muses. “Why’d it have to be werewolves?”

This highly particular blend of flavors will thrill readers whose tastes line up with Gage’s, whose outsize ambitions make it inevitable that this series tends toward density and sprawl, with a daunting number of characters, intrigues, machinations, and sets of supernatural rules to track over many hundreds of pages. While this volume tells its own compelling story, with style and exciting pulp flourishes, full appreciation of its nuances and emotional impact demands reading its predecessor, which for readers inclined toward this material will prove a bloody pleasure.

Takeaway: A vigorously imagined vampire epic telling the secret supernatural history of the first World War.

Great for fans of: Kim Newman, F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-