by Nicky Peacock
‘Modern vampires don’t believe in anything. They strut around with a new self-worth, declaring themselves to all and sundry. They’ve been brainwashed by TV and books into thinking being a vampire is cool.’
I’m way past my teens and vampire horror is not my usual genre. So, when I received a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair review, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, a writer must read widely, looking to the unfamiliar for snippets of unexpected inspiration.
In Bad Blood, Brianna, Britannia as she prefers to be called, is a centuries-old vampire created by magic. But she is not your typical vampire. Though she has drunk human blood and has taken human lives, her vampire life has been dedicated to killing others of her kind. With streaming blue hair that shows blond at the roots, and armed with deadly scythes, she wreaks havoc among the newborn creations of her nemesis Nicholas.
However, when London and the rest of Great Britain are threatened by a plague of zombies, Britannia takes the side of the humans and uses her talents to fight the encroaching menace. Now partnered by the annoying Nicholas, she gathers together an assortment of survivors at the Dead Hare Public House with the objective of transporting them to safety in Scotland. The group included Britannia’s neighbour Tracy, two trigger happy soldiers, Green and Rollins, a terminally ill teenager called Danny and the dog, Satan, most of whom know – or at least suspect – what Britannia and Nicholas really are but are too scared of the zombies to argue. It must be added that the younger refugees are rather taken with Brit’s powers and fancy being a vampire would be cool. Satan doesn’t seem to mind her at all.
“Clusters of undead still milled about on the streets . . . these guys seemed intent on congregating. Zombies were social creatures.”
Not least among the complications besetting this unlikely alliance is that Rollins is very probably a reincarnation of Langdon, the love of Britannia’s human life. More pressing is the need to find and destroy the alpha zombie with vampire abilities who is orchestrating the attacks.
The two vampires and their followers acquire a double-decker bus and, cleaving their way through mounting heaps of dismembered zombie bodies, head north. As the story evolves and they fight their way across England, we get glimpses of Britannia’s earlier lives – both human and vampire, her creative sense of fashion, her dietary preferences and her ambivalent feelings about Nicholas. Above all, we discover Britannia is a vampire with heart, one who kills with a conscience and is freaked out by the chamber of horrors in Madame Tussaud’s waxworks. Plans have to change as the bus approaches Liverpool and she discovers that the vampire Elders (reminiscent of the Volturi in Twilight) have another agenda.
Bad Blood is a fast-paced teen action horror, packed with odoriferous, decaying body parts, buckets of blood and a scythe-swinging, kick-ass heroine.
“This particular human had been a rather nasty piece of work who’d dedicated his life to making people suffer. I’d been drinking the tax inspector for five days now, and as I downed the last of him, I heard another more impatient moan . . .”
Of course, I am familiar with Stoker’s Dracula; I have read the Twilight Saga, and all of Lisa Jane Smith’s Vampire Diaries (those she wrote herself anyway). Meyer and Smith both play it straight with only the occasional touch of humour. Nicky Peacock writes with a sparkle in her eye and, we sense, with her tongue very firmly in her cheek.
Full of snappy dialogue alternating with colourful – mostly red – narrative, Bad Blood brings originality and a large helping of Britishness to the vampire legend. It is a novel in which the macabre sits comfortably with delicious (malicious?) and sometimes outrageous humour. It introduces us briefly to two vampires with the unlikely names of Tate and Lyle, a reference that, sadly, could be lost among American readers.
Bad Blood was a lot of fun to read. I feel certain that teenagers who enjoy dipping (dripping?)into the world of the undead will find Britannia and her exploits irresistible. They will love it.