Release Date: July 7, 2015
Synopsis ~ Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and –most terrifyingly–learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all are shape-shifters, and it is time for Davis and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate…or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.
I’m a fan of Jessica Day George’s YA fairytale retellings, so between that and the gorgeous cover, I was quite excited when I saw this. Then, when I read the summary and discovered it was set in 1897 and involved a family of shape-shifters in Romania, well, I was even more intrigued.
Cousins Dacia Vreeholt and Louisa Neulander, are actually more like sisters. Dacia is a bit flighty, while Lou tends to be more quiet and thoughtful. The first part of the book is set up through a series of journal entries and letters between the girls as they journey separately to Romania. Lou is traveling from New York with her family, and Dacia is coming with their aunt. Once in Bucharest, the girls realize their strange relatives, the Florescus, socialize only with the Dracula family, descendents of Vlad the Impaler. Dacia meets the scion Prince Mihai, and the girls ferocious and intimidating grandmother does everything she can to push Dacia into the arms of the Prince. While he originally exudes charm, it soon becomes apparent that not only is he unbelievably arrogant, but there is also something quite frightening about him. In addition both girls are being primed to take their proper roles in the family, but they don’t really know what that entails. They do know that everything will be revealed during a mysterious ceremony. Once they discover the true relationship between the Florescus and the Draculas, they will have to choose between family loyalty and what is right.
The weakest part of this book unfortunately involves the characters. Dacia and Lou are quite likeable, although Dacia annoyed the heck out of me at first. She’s a flirt and can’t seem to make up her mind regarding the men in her life. She does mature though, especially once the action starts kicking in about halfway through the story. Lou, who starts out as being very shy and frightened of everything, actually becomes pretty fierce, and it was a pleasure watching her transformation. The girls’ relationship is at the heart of the book, and it’s because of that, they are ultimately successful in their mission. There’s not a lot of romance, which wound up working out for the best because the girls’ romantic interests need a lot more development. Johnny and Theo were just a little too bland for my taste and there was very little chemistry. The secondary characters need more work as well. Except for the almost cartoonishly evil grandmother and Prince Mihai, no one else really stood out.
The story starts out a little slow, but once the girls meet up in Bucharest the momentum picks up. The storyline is helped by lavish descriptions of Bucharest and the Romanian countryside. It’s obvious that George really did her research. From the way the story ended it’s clear that Silver in the Blood is the beginning of a series. I think it shows a lot of promise if the author can just work on the character issues.
First, let me warn you if you like your vampires to sparkle in the sun, or be broodingly handsome, this book is not for you. Instead it’s an unapologetic portrayal of one of the most infamous names in literature: Dracula. The Carpathian Assignment takes the reader back to 1896 into the tiny village of Bistritz nestled in the shadows of the Carpathian Mountans where it seems a serial killer is at large. Kalvary Istvan, a recently widowed and retired Colonel accepts one last assignment as Bistritz’s Chief of Police after his predecessor disappeared along with his wife. There have been many such disappearances over the years and one name keeps popping up. Count Dracula. The residents are terrified of him. While at first dismissive of the stories as superstitious nonsense, as his investigation progresses it starts to become clear that he is hunting not only a serial killer, but one that is immortal. The Carpathian Assignment reminded me of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, but with much more of Dracula in it. The original Dracula by Bram Stoker is still my favorite, but this is a well written, meticulously researched book. Chip Wager is clearly passionate about his subject and it shows. I liked how Istvan is not perfect. He’s prejudiced about the people he’s trying to protect, seeing them as ignorant and superstitious, but that makes him even more realistic. This is also a man who as a result of life’s circumstances has had his faith in God shaken but desperately wants it to be restored. There are familiar characters such as Jonathan Harker as well as historical figures like Freud and Baron Krafft-Ebing. The events are actually related by Istvan’s grandson Stefan Dietrich in 1924 who was under orders to wait until both his grandfather and Harker were dead before releasing the true story of happened during the investigation. There’s a lot of history packed into this novel and I appreciated that it didn’t slow down the plot, although I did find the dialogue a bit stilted at times. I also didn’t care for the way Jonathan Harker was portrayed but that might be just a personal preference. Overall I found this to be an enjoyable read and have no hesitation in recommending it to Dracula enthusiasts.