Georg Freese Explores the Vampire Coven with Viviana (#bookreview)

Once again we're bringing some horror to the ruins, with another entry in our Halloween Read-tacular. Lock the doors, close the curtains, turn on all the lights . . . and enjoy.

Viviana is a short, self-published novella by Georg Freese that manages to succeed on several levels. It's a period piece, a love story, and a horror story, all mixed up and twisted into something unique.

The writing here is what immediately drew me into the story, deftly capturing the feel and the sound of a proper period piece. Georg mentions Dangerous Liaisons as an inspiration in his afterword, and that appreciation for the classics shows. It's not just the setting or the costumes, it's the mannerisms, the personalities, and the language of the tale.

This is the tale of an exceptionally cruel, self-centered, selfish vampire who, although she can never lose her looks, nevertheless finds herself losing the affections of her lover, the father of their coven. Her frustrations are further compound by the introduction of a new girl into their midst, a timid sort who nearly brings down a witch-hunt upon them with her carelessness, before Viviana reluctantly agrees to tutor Nicoletta in the fine arts of vampirism - for a price. Unfortunately, that price only serves to further strain her already tenuous position, even before a successfully tutored Nicoletta begins coldly manipulating her way deeper into the coven.

Freese's vampires are quite traditional, in that they are amoral, bloodthirsty, and deathly afraid of sunlight. They live in stone coffins, deep within their mansion, and feed indiscriminately upon the nobility. Their class structure - the coven - is a bit better developed than in many stories, however, and there are a few subtle tweaks to the 'rules' about turning humans. While they can be as emotionally vulnerable as they are petty, Freese is careful to never let us forget their monstrosity. In fact, one of the most memorable moments for me was a casual aside about how, after gorging herself, Viviana drains the blood of a newborn babe to bring some colour to her cheeks.

Short, but beautifully imagined, Viviana has the potential to appeal to a wide audience.

Paperback, 85 pages
Published March 18, 2012 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.