The Midnight Guardian
Sarah Jane Stratford
Published 2009 294 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Although it is not the vampire way to interfere with human politics, they remember the destruction of the First World War Their food supply was badly depleted, leading to a vampire famine, and a devastating vampire war. When London’s vampire tribunal senses that Hitler is paving the way for another human war, they are determined to break the spine of the Nazis before much more damage is done. But as they delve deep into Hitler’s war machine, they discover that the Nazis are more monstrous than they ever imagined, and that they are more encumbered by their inhumanity than they ever thought.
A vampire saga in the tradition of The Vampire Chronicles, the debut title in this exciting new series follows the beautiful and cunning Brigit’s attempt to escape from the continent and return to her long-time lover Eamon in London, while shepherding out dangerous cargo that is the only hope of salvaging their mission. As Brigit, a millennial vampire, over a thousand-years old and possessed of special powers earned by age, hurls toward her destiny on a Reich train, she is tailed by vampire hunters and Nazi officers out to destroy her. Her soul’s eternal love waits for her across the channel, and she’ll need his strength and the strains of humanity yet alive inside her if she’s ever to find her way back home.
The Midnight Guardian is the debut novel for Sarah Jane Stratford who gets her writing career off to a flying start with an intelligently written tale that combines World War Two, the Nazi party and vampires. Described by the publisher as the debut title of “a vampire saga in the tradition of The Vampire Chronicles” The Midnight Guardian is neither an urban fantasy nor a vampire romance but more of what I would call an “old-school” vampire story. It’s the kind of book vampire fans used to read before Buffy The Vampire Slayer changed the way people wrote about vampires.
The Midnight Guardian follows the war-time efforts of a group of English Millennial vampires to thwart the world domination aims of the Nazis. Millennial vampires are all vampires who are over 1,000 years old; the 1,000 year age is a special one for these vampires since it marks their acquisition of special powers. The small group of English vampires comprises of four Millennials (including Brigit the heroine of this story) and Mors, a rare double Millennial who was once a general in the Roman army. Prior to the outbreak of war the vampires travel to Berlin and infiltrate the German war machine but even with their great age and special powers they seem powerless to stop the Fascist madness that is sweeping Germany.
As mentioned earlier, The Midnight Guardian is an old-school vampire tale. The vampires have a pleasure seeking existence. Humans are generally irrelevant to them. In order to feed they kill people without a qualm - although as a general rule they are never overly cruel about the process. The only reason the vampires are interfering in human affairs and trying to stop the war is self-interest. They are worried that their food source will dry up if global war breaks out. These vampires are a far cry from the “vegetarian” vampires of Twilight or from some of the vampire heroes of urban fantasy who spend eternity solving mysteries and aiding humans. This might switch off die-hard vampire romance or urban fantasy fans who read this novel.
The Midnight Guardian concentrates on Brigit, one of the Millennial vampires chosen to sabotage the German war-efforts. The story is told through multiple timelines. At the start of the book readers find Brigit travelling home from Germany alone on a train bound for Switzerland. Next readers jump back in time a couple of years to see the Millennials arriving in Germany. After that the perspective shifts to Eamon, Brigit’s lover, left behind in London whose memories narrate Brigit’s 1,000 year plus history. Then it’s back to Brigit on the train again. For the most part the switching timelines integrate well with each other but for me personally I felt that The Midnight Guardian was a book of two halves.
Brigit’s dash for England through enemy territory is by far the strongest and most engrossing part of the story. There is something reminiscent of classic Hitchcock movies in the nail-biting suspense that is built up in these train scenes. Do the fellow passenger’s suspect that she’s a vampire? Is the Nazi officer on to her? Do they know about her cargo? Can she maintain the front of a harmless Irish girl or will she be discovered? These scenes really capture the imagination and are guaranteed to keep the book’s pages turning.
On the other hand, Brigit’s vampire history seems dull by comparison and the efforts of the Millennials to stop the Third Reich appeared poorly conceived for such an ancient bunch of vampires. To my mind this made the story drag in a number of places. The historical settings and events are spot on and the quality of writing always high, so I think it is fair to say that it is probably a personal peculiarity of mine that I didn’t enjoy these parts of the book rather than the fault of the author.
Comparisons of The Midnight Guardian to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are not outlandish. There are similarities between the attitudes of the vampires and the quality of the writing. I think its fair to say that if you like Anne Rice’s books you won’t be disappointed by The Midnight Guardian. Indeed, I feel that it might clarify my “loved it/was bored by it” bipolar review of this novel to point out that I love Hitchcock movies but have never been overly thrilled by the writing of Anne Rice. If you love Hitchcock movies and are a fan of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles then this book is clearly a winner!
LoveVampires Review Rating:
You can find out more about the work of Sarah Jane Stratford and read Brigit’s blog on the author’s website. Visit Sarah’s website.