Kim Newman’s last “Anno Dracula” book was all Victorian, all the time. It was Holmes and the Diogenes club and Mina and Lucy and Dracula, and Jack the Ripper, and Queen Victoria, and…London. I was in allusion glee reading that one, weren’t you?

The second “Anno Dracula” book is called The Bloody Red Baron, so you can guess what’s happening here. We’re in the throes of WWI, the Red Baron is a vampire (duh, wasn’t he in real life?) and we have many many exciting air battles. We also get a lot about the horrors of war, and what monsters war makes of all of us, including people that are already monsters. Oh, and there’s a delightful novellette in the back that’s a meta murder mystery told from both a pre-teenaged live girl and an elder vampire’s POV. Packed with nods to modern vampiric romances, and the girl’s change of perspective is at once heartwarming and hilarious.

I enjoyed both Newman’s “Anno Dracula” books because not only are they super postmodern in their treatment of vampires (self-referential, rife with allusion to literature and pop culture alike), but the world he creates is quite real–it has all the trappings of good historical fiction, along with the trappings of good Fantasy: the world is complete, realistic, not many info dumps to speak of, and we want to know what happens next. And we do care about our POV characters (so much so that I was a little miffed to find so little of Genvieve in this installment, though I loved the novelette she appears in at the end).

I personally don’t know nearly as much about WWI-era Europe as I do about Victorian England (I am a Holmes nerd, big time), so I’m sure I missed most of the literary/pop culture characters and references beyond the big names (oh, Poe is a vampire too. I know, right?), but the story is so compelling it actually didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment. There was just enough horror to make me happily cringe (one name: Isolde. That is all), and I have to say that I dug Kate Reed’s role in this story. Oh, and Beauregarde. Isn’t he just your favorite guy, ever?

Bottom line: I highly recommend The Bloody Red Baron, and I don’t care a whit whether you read Anno Dracula first, though of course you will get much more from Reed and Beauregarde as characters if you do.   ~Prof. Jenn