My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
When I hear ‘Elliott Mabeuse’, the only thing I can think of is kinda loco, yet intensely hot BDSM stories. Those might or might not be my cuppa, still I’m so addicted that I always pick up a book by this author, new or old. So when I started Vampires of Prague, I expected something in the similar vein, only to stumble upon something quite different than his usual BDSM romps. A very solidly written erotic horror/paranormal story with a hot vampire hero and a feisty, devoted heroine, Vampires of Prague is much longer than the other stories I’ve read by EM, with a substantial plot and storytelling.
Set against the backdrop WWII, the story starts out with our h, Lydia, a Czechoslovakian, travelling by train, on her way home. She was supposed to be meeting Prof. Henckele, with whom she has previously done some research work, at the train station. But he, as usual, didn’t show up. The Prof. is very keen on the mythological subjects and folklores, his study centering on the vampires. The only joke is his staunch belief that vampires exist among us. To Lydia, it’s so unbelievable that she is currently doing a research on how vampires are a manifestation of weak, sex deprived women’s daydreams or sexually charged nightmares; that, vampires are wicked, evil beings but they certainly do not exist. I mean yah, if someone said to me they exist, I’d laugh at them, so I could see where Lydia was going and why she thought the Prof. a bit crazy. Then, at first, hearing the word ‘professor’, I thought he’d be our hero (why? If you’ve read EM’s others novels, you’d know why :p). Soon, I was divested of that notion as our H, one Dr. Szandor Arnyak steps in.
Times are not good and the relationship between Czechoslovakia and Germany is rather strained. Nazis are now everywhere, patrolling and scaring people off. When, Lydia thought she’s closer to her destination, a Nazi officer, Dolhardt and one of his Czech minions step in to question Lydia on some suspicion about the Prof. Lydia no idea that he might’ve been working as a spy etc. so she denies knowing anything. Lydia noticed some crazy stuff on these two, especially the minion, who kept giving her déjà vu that his facial structure was changing. But then there was nothing... When Dolhardt proceeds to rape her, something happens to the train. It shakes and jolts, the light in Lydia’s compartment goes blinks as if going off. The door bursts open and a man in dark suits and glasses steps in, asking for the Prof. There was no doubt that the light of the room is somehow attracted to him, playing with his body in wildly.
Because Szandor shows the officer some important paper, the man leaves them in a huff. Szandor then introduces himself to Lydia as someone who has known the Prof. for a long time. He’s also a Czechoslovakian by birth. They also start talking about Lydia’s current research, which inevitably turns into a discussion on vampires, wickedness and sexuality. Szandor at first, doesn’t tell her the truth, but Lydia kept feeling something in the environment. It was way too charged with some kinda energy and that was coming from the man before her. Lydia certainly couldn’t look at his eyes once he removed his sunglasses without feeling that he’s seeing her through her very soul. Szandor also keeps trying to indicate that vampires aren’t folklores and myths, and that wickedness is not evil. True is evil is something else entirely. It’s something so horrible that Lydia couldn’t even imagine until she experiences it.
I always had problem exactly envisioning Szandor. It was said that he was a man of middling height, not classically handsome but attractive nonetheless with dark longish hair. He possessed a manly, intense face that no one can ignore. Beyond that, I don’t know. Lydia was explained as a dark haired, petit girl with pretty features, (I thought) the type that instantly catches your attentions.
At one point, Szandor’s connotations get to Lydia. Even though she doesn’t believe it, somehow she knows this man is not lying to her. Szandor also tells her that the Prof. was here but never made it to the compartment with her… Then, after dinner, when Dolhardt returns to arrest Lydia because they found dried human corps in the crates with the Prof.’s name on it, things begin to unravel. The whole environment, it seemed, changes. As he led them to the back of the train to have a look at those corps, everything becomes surreal. Things start happening very quickly... Lydia finally learns that the vampires are indeed real when Szandor is forced to transform to save her. He throws one officer outta train, feeds on the other and Lydia is left in a haze as her life and its beliefs begin altering right before her very eyes.
The dried, corpse looking ugly things were ‘old ones’, matured vampires who were once humans. These are without any feelings or empathy, basically like robots, only know how to feed and hibernate and then more killing in order to feed. They can be controlled by a ‘master vampire’ who can animate and reanimate the newbies or create new vampires for that matter. The Prof. knew about them of course. These in the crates had wooden stick through their heart, so they’re just sleeping at the moment. Szandor wants to keep the strength he just got from his recent feeding. He had already told Lydia that he wants to die. He again emphasizes that he has to be killed before he becomes one of this old ones, a living dead thing. Szandor has previously tried to kill himself but nothing worked. Only the professor would’ve known what to do… and now it seems, he has no other choice but to turn to Lydia.
But Lydia can’t kill anyone, not certainly the person who has saved her life twice already. When she, still in a daze, refuses to help him (more like Szandor already knew she can’t), he asks her to help him out from his vampire-state to his semi-human form. For that, he needs to have sex. Szandor has heavily relied on sex thus far to remember his human part, the only intense thing that could balance his existence and remind him that there’s still some humanity in him. He lives sequestered away, not wanting to communicate with people, not even his kind. Still in a haze, Lydia accedes to his request... I didn’t know if I should like it, even if the sex was hot because Lydia wasn’t entirely in a conscious state.
As they’re having sex on Lydia’s compartment, Szandor forgets to shut out the curtains. He believes these forests they’re going through have ‘eyes’, and true enough, we find something/someone spying on him from the outside. This ‘thing’ decides they need to investigate on Szandor’s motives and his recent involvement with this human. And honestly, from the first moment, Szandor knew that Lydia is going to someone very special to him. It’s a hunch only a vampire could feel.
The next, Lydia wakes up in her house. It seems she doesn’t really remember a lot... until she begins remembering the hot sex with this stranger, who didn’t really feel like a stranger to her, how she came to be at her home escorted by the police. Her parents are in Paris for some reasons and can’t return anytime soon due to the political situation, so Lydia is practically left off alone. At this point, the police chief, who is also a friend of her father’s, contacts her and requests her to come see him. When Lydia goes there, he tells and shows her some damning stuff about the existence of vampires; the gross pictures of some recent killings that say vampires exist and they’re feeding on unsuspecting people. What does this mean? The chief seems genuinely worried and Lydia being the Prof.’s student who was famous for his theories, asks for her help. Lydia agrees somewhat half-heartedly since she doesn’t really have any idea what to do. Suddenly, she remembers that there’s one man who can help her; who, before leaving, left his contact card in her hand when she dozed off after sex.
Lydia travels alone to Szandor’s dilapidated mansion. He doesn’t actually live alone but with two young individuals; a girl and a boy. And I didn’t like knowing he has had sex with them when he feels the need… All I knew that both the girl and a boy came to him willingly to taste the ‘wickedness’, thinking Szandor only practices vampirism which is so popular with people these days. By now, of course, they know the truth of his state but he never uses them for feeding. Those he does with occasional drunk Nazi officers, lured in by the girl or the boy. So yah, not a happy living I guess. Lydia is certainly not amused. She’s also alarmed to find he’s using high dosage of morphine to try to kill himself. But she needs his help and states her case, appealing for his help. Szandor is reluctant, as in, why would he help out? He doesn’t care what happens to the world one way or the other, let alone all the politics surrounding it. So what if there are old ones scouring the skies of Prague for preys? Lydia gets upset and leaves angrily.
Walking alone on the streets of Prague is not a safe sojourn for a girl and Lydia is soon attacked... If only those were men! When some Nazis saw her, they set some old ones after her. The disgusting creatures begin chasing her. Desperately looking for a refuge, Lydia runs… and then finds herself in an abandoned house. Then she hears something, detects the presence of someone fighting outside. The description of the grotesque killing was something I didn’t expect, but that didn’t really revile me when I heard a floating Szandor coming close to the window where Lydia was hiding and asking her to let him in… This time she sees him in a new form; as big and dark as the night. She knew it was Szandor by his face but everything else has transformed. Szandor, apparently, has become a true Prince of the Night. She instantly knew what she has to do to help him- have sex. But can she do it, become his to use whenever he needed her?
The answer was not that tough. Lydia wanted him, and she’d do it, not because she needs his help, but because she wants to help him too from her heart. After that, late at night, they find Szandor’s mansion burning in a fire. The girl and the boy have somehow escaped but the mansion couldn’t be saved. This certainly takes things to a new level! Szandor begins to have his own suspicions about this. That it’s him someone is trying to kill, not Lydia. He has no idea what happened to the Prof. The disturbing news of Prof.’s body vanishing from the morgue only suggests one thing; he has been transformed too, a newbie and has been ‘instructed’ to leave. Now that it directly involves him, putting Lydia’s life to danger, Szandor promises to look into it. But Lydia has to help him out whenever he needs sex, to which she agrees.
I must say, every sex scene was hot because you can feel the need for them to be together... and the intensity. And even though, at times, Lydia got confused of her role, she knew she wanted to do it for himself, and maybe for herself too.
There were some superbly grotesque, surreal scenes in this story involving killing, maiming, vampire attacks on humans, vampires feeding on humans and each-other, even Szandor’s own feeding scenes were just as gross. Those gave me shudders and had me agape. I’m not sure how Lydia got through those but she was there, in almost every scene because she needed to be with Szandor.
Their journey next takes them to a range of ups and downs. Szandor takes Lydia to one of his closest friends, Janos Radibrano, who owns a big theater that is a center of dada arts (hence me googling ‘dadaism’). They don’t get a lot of lead from Janos but find shelter in Janos’s big hotel come bar. Next, they pay visit to a person who has been selling morphine to Szandor. But the greedy salesman betrays them by tricking them and locking them in a basement so that he can sell the information on Szandor, making it obvious that someone is surely willing to pay a huge amount for him, or possibly, his head! Now, both Lydia and Szandor know that the only way they can get out, and save themselves, is by Szandor taking his vampire form and breaking the jail-like door. But for that he needs to feed. Lydia offers herself up, knowing it’s going to transform her into something she probably wouldn’t like. Szandor certainly doesn’t want to lead her to a path that he’s been cursed with. Lydia is persistent and it seems there’s no other way left. But the truth is, she loves him enough to follow him down his path. Can’t say I liked this but I saw why she’d want to do it. Hence follows hot basement sex and blood drinking. It wasn’t as gross as I thought it’d be (a few vampire stories I’ve read in the past, I was grossed out... but maybe that’s because the H was sucking and f*cking some other women than the heroine lol).
Lydia and Szandor’s past talks on his state of being somehow has been around the fact that Lydia is Jewish, and the practice of kabbala. She informs Szandor about her uncle, someone who can probably help them as he’s the one who practices kabbala and is a wise, intelligent man. So after they got out of that basement, Szandor decides it’s high time to pay Lydia’s uncle a visit.
I loved the narration of the mad, confusing alleys and underworld of Prague because it seemed as surreal and sinister as the rest of the story. Somehow Szandor finds Lydia’s uncle and they get to talk on a lot of things, including this odd ‘connection’ that they’ve been feeling since they met. The reason why Szandor can’t think of letting Lydia go, ever. He doesn’t believe in connection, let alone love. So what is this thing they seem to share? Some very surprising revelation comes forth about Lydia’s own ancestry. Apparently, Lydia’s family, especially the women are blessed with second sights and in ancient days, have been connected to the vampires of myth. I’m not very keen on anything concerning kabbala so I can’t give any pointers on the rights and wrongs of the narrative but the history and how Lydia and Szandor is ‘connected’ to each-other was certainly very intriguing. The long and short of it, Lydia is Szandor’s complement, hence she’s destined to be with him forever.
Also, as her uncle points out, there is a third party involved who wants Szandor. We were already told of how he became a vampire in the first place through a woman named Trozia, probably the most prominent of his lovers. He was basically tricked by her, who neglected to inform him that she is, indeed, a vampire... a master vampire, before leading him down to her path of sheer debauchery. He wanted to have fun, only to find that he can’t even be ‘normal’ anymore. She obviously wanted Szandor with her in her mission of evilness, something he declined after figuring out his destiny. Szandor had to leave her because she was so adamant in this. In some of his previous investigations, Szandor has felt her essence. Could it be she is the one who’s behind it all, or at the least involved into this treachery, joining in with the Nazis? Now everything seems clearer as they ponder upon what Lydia’s uncle had to say about the whole mess they’re in.
The rest of the story was pretty action packed and even though some parts were nightmare-ish and made me puke-green, I enjoyed it a lot. Szandor does find that Trozia wants to rule the world and she indeed made him a master vampire so that he can be her escort. She even kidnaps Lydia, angered by the fact that Szandor is in love with this ‘silly human’ and not her. You especially gotta read the description of the evilness that Szandor has to deal with head on, following his lead to rescue Lydia, which includes Trozia and her reanimated gang of new and old/matured vampires and many monster-like creatures made from vile, horrid mixtures of human and various animals. OMG, I just remembered something regarding one of the new vampires, a bodyguard to Trozia and his genitals ew ew ew.................. *takes some times here to gather herself*
The process of this reanimation and the results are so repulsive, surreal that it’s utterly unimaginable. I keep coming back to this word because my mind went numb when I was reading that stuff. But I already knew that EM doesn’t mince words. In his stories, almost anything goes, so the description was pretty point blank. But sex and dirty talk-wise, I found this story rather tamed in comparison to his other novels. I’m not complaining though.
The ending, I thought was a bit confusing too. I also felt that Szandor defeats this huge army of ‘crazies and creepies’ rather easily with his sexy, night prince form (oh yes, he and Lydia manage to have sex among all these so that he can transform, heeeh :p). And it seems like they’re going to be living a very long life... maybe forever. I did wonder how Lydia will cope with this once her parents are gone... and, will she even have Szandor’s cute vampire babies? I was bummed because nothing was mentioned. *pouts*
4.25 stars. Recommended if above doesn’t bother you much. Just don’t try to compare and contrast with the history of WWII. You might be disappointed on that regard knowing Hitler had little or no idea of what was going on inside his army before Szandor kicked their collective asses. Bwahahahaha!