Blood & Ice
Published 2009 495 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
When journalist Michael Wilde is commissioned to write a feature about a remote research station deep in the frozen beauty of Antarctica he is prepared for some extraordinary sights. But on a diving expedition in the polar sea he comes across something so extraordinary as to be almost unbelievable – a man and woman chained together, deep in the ice.
The doomed lovers are brought to the surface but as the ice begins to thaw the scientists discover the unusual contents of the bottles buried beside the pair, and realise that they are all in terrible danger…
Blood & Ice is a supernatural adventure by Robert Masello, whose previous works include the bestselling Bestiary and Vigil supernatural thrillers. With settings alternating between the modern day frozen landscapes of Antarctica and the mid-nineteenth century battlefields of the Crimean War, the novel has plenty of scope to thrill readers even before the addition of vampires to the plotline.
The story essentially follows two timelines; the main timeline is set in the current day and follows the journey of photo journalist Michael Wilde from Seattle to Antarctica on assignment for Eco-Travel magazine. Michael is ready to leave Seattle behind – for him it is now a place with haunting memories of a tragic accident that claimed the life of his lover. Antarctica represents an opportunity to forget about the past and he eagerly embraces the challenges of Antarctic living. Once he discovers two bodies preserved in the ice he has plenty more to think about than past tragedies.
The second timeline is set in 1854 and follows the story of Lieutenant Sinclair Copley, an English officer in the Crimean War and Eleanor, his sweetheart and nurse. The prologue sees Sinclair and Eleanor being chained together before getting thrown alive into the Southern Ocean by superstitious sailors. Throughout Blood & Ice frequent flashbacks provide a wealth of detail about how the doomed lovers ended up on the sea bed, encompassing everything from the work of British nursing heroine Florence Nightingale to the stupidity of the British generals in charge of the Crimean campaign, before eventually revealing how Sinclair and Eleanor become infected with vampirism.
If ever there was a book I was predisposed to love it should be Blood & Ice. After all, I love reading about the supernatural (especially vampires) and ever since I saw John Carpenter’s “The Thing” movie as an impressionable child I wanted to go to the Antarctic and discover exciting alien/supernatural things while risking death in the world’s most inhospitable place. It will never happen in real life (I have none of the necessary skills) so I’m left reading books and watching movies. However, as much as I wanted (and expected) Blood & Ice to be the best vampire thriller I ever read – it just wasn’t.
For a thriller the story’s pacing is initially slow. It takes nearly 100 pages for Michael to arrive in the Antarctic and still nothing much happens in the story until Michael makes his gruesome discovery of the frozen bodies in the ice. Once the bodies have been recovered the pacing picks up and there are plenty of opportunities for creepy danger and sinister scenes – but every time the story picks up pace the author flashes readers back to the nineteenth century plotline and momentum is lost. Overall, Blood & Ice feels like two completely different books, a modern paranormal thriller and a historical military novel, uncomfortably married together.
The supernatural aspects of Blood & Ice are subtle and understated which may disappoint urban fantasy or horror fans who might perhaps expect more overt horror and fantasy elements. Blood & Ice will probably appeal most to cross over readers – ones who don’t normally read dark fantasy – who can enjoy the book as a supernatural thriller without expecting more dark fantasy.
Melding polar adventure, science, vampires and danger together Blood & Ice is an enjoyable, if undemanding, story. I liked it – I just wish I could have loved it.
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