Vampirates: Blood Captain

Vampirates - Blood Captain

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

Wow, back to Vampirates at long last. It feels like a long time since I’ve last talked about this series but let’s find out if there’s been any improvements since Tide of Terror.

Blood Captain was written by Justin Somper and first published in 2008. It is the fourth instalment of the Vampirates series, following Demons of the Ocean (2005), Dead Deep (2007) and Tide of Terror (2007) and preceding Black Heart (2009), Empire of Night (2010) and Eternal War (2011). The series is set in a future where rising sea levels have flooded most of the world, allowing pirates to rule the oceans once again.

Lorcan still refuses to take blood and grows weaker every day. In a final attempt to cure him, the Vampirate Captain sets sail for Sanctuary. This mountain-top haven is home to Mosh Zu Kamal, a legendary vampire healer who believes that any vampire can be taught to control their bloodlust. Naturally, Grace goes along with her friend to assist with the treatment and soon finds that Mosh Zu wants to take her under his wing, seeing that she is a natural healer.

Aboard the Diablo, Connor’s life has grown more complicated. In an attempt to distract his brother from seeking revenge against the Vampirates, Molucco Wrathe has planned a rather ambitious raid. Unfortunately, this has forced Connor into direct contain with Wrathe’s obnoxious nephew, Moonshine. Babysitting Moonshine almost drives Connor insane and he thinks that things can’t get much worse. Yet, as the raid goes horribly wrong, he is forced to question exactly what it means to be a pirate and whether he has what it takes to continue his career.

And all the while more vampires join Sidorio’s cause, choosing to indulge in their hunger rather than control it…

Firstly, I believe I should begin by correcting something that I said in my review of Tide of Terror. It turns out that Dead Deep is actually important to the plot of the series and so really does need to be read before Blood Captain in order to fully appreciate the story. The introduction of Moonshine Wrathe and Connor’s first meeting with the Vampirate Captain both occur within this novella. I think that you could probably still enjoy Blood Captain without having ready Dead Deep, but you would be missing out on a little of the bigger picture.

Blood Captain is the longest novel in the series so far, running for about 80 pages more than Tide of Terror, and unfortunately it suffered because of this. Much like the other Vampirate novels, it was slow burning and didn’t feel as though the plot really started to move until past the half way mark. Due to the book’s length, this felt all the more noticeable.

Connor’s half of the tale was very repetitive, explaining the same things over and over. This was somewhat of a disappointment, as Connor’s story was the strongest element in the previous books but this time round it really dragged. A few of his chapters were taken up by a formal dinner aboard Barbarro Wrathe’s ship. A few more were wasted on an impromptu trip to the Pirate Academy and little voyage with Cheng Li. While there is a lot of character development for Connor over the course of this novel, there is hardly any action and this made his chapters feel like a slog to get through.

Connor’s chapters also drew the focus away from Grace, which was a crying shame. As with the previous novels, the chapters alternated between Connor and Grace’s adventures and this time around, Grace’s was fascinating. Although it was also lacking in movement, it offered an interesting new location and further insight into the Vampirate way of life. I criticised the earlier novels in the lack of focus on the vampires. The series title always felt a little misleading to me, as the story seemed to follow Connor’s adventures with regular pirates more closely than anything that happened aboard the Vampirate ship. This time around, the plot was grounded firmly with the Vampirates and we finally began to find out more about their beliefs and practices.

I would had loved for Grace’s story to take up more of the book, as it was left feeling a little rushed to give Connor even page time. This seemed to be a bit of a daft imbalance, as Connor’s story was hideously padded out while Grace’s felt as though it had been shaved down a little too far. Lorcan’s blindness is cured off-page, little time is spent building up Mosh Zu’s relationship with Grace and Olivier is fully corrupted by Sidorio by a single conversation. If more time had been spent in Sanctuary, I think the novel would have flowed far better as a whole.

While the story did pick up pace in the final act, it was still somewhat lacking in action. Sidorio barely appeared in this novel and his attempts to entice other vampires to join his crew were largely bloodless. The climax of the story was also very abrupt. While it was interesting in that it finally revealed what was hidden beneath the Vampirate Captain’s mask, the events that followed were very brief and confusing, cutting off jarringly in order to leave an open cliffhanger to lead into Black Heart.

However, the novel did provide a little character development for the cast. Grace is beginning to show her gifts as a healer (though I do find it frustrating that this is nearly always the role that a female character takes on in a fantasy novel) while Connor learns the hard way that being a pirate means that you have to do some terrible things (though I’m not sure why it took him this long to figure out that pirates aren’t very nice people). Yet it was Molucco Wrathe’s growth that I found most interesting in this novel. Although he initially seemed to be kind and caring, cracks in his guise began to show in Tide of Terror and that has continued through into this story. As Connor begins to see past the glamour, he starts to realise that Wrathe is actually has a ruthless disregard for human life, ensuring that he is safe while sending his men into danger, and I found this to be far more interesting.

Unfortunately, some other characters suffered from an extreme lack of development. Let’s talk about Lorcan. I hate Lorcan. He’s just so changeable – clinging to Grace one minute and pushing her away the next. I thought we’d got past all of this in the previous novel but, no, there was plenty of time devoted to his angst in Blood Captain too. He tells her he cares for her one day and tells her he wants for her to leave the Vampirates the next (but still gets jealous when other Vampirates show an interest in her). I don’t understand what his problem is. I think the issue is that the novels still insist on keeping us ignorant of Lorcan’s past. It’s pretty clear that he knew Grace and Connor when they were babies but we know nothing beyond this. Now that we’re halfway through the series, I would have liked to have understood him a little better because I’m utterly in the dark about why he behaves so inconsistently.

I’m also not sure that the new characters in the story were introduced very well. Somper related Johnny Desperado’s back story to the reader on two separate occasions, yet we learned so little about Mosh Zu and Olivier. Perhaps Johnny is going to be a bigger character than these going forward but it just seemed strange to introduce so many important characters and spend time fleshing out some but not others.

All in all, I felt that this was a much weaker novel than Tide of Terror. Although it did take time to develop some of the major characters, nothing really happened. It was certainly the least action-packed instalment of the series to date as there were no real show downs with the rebel vampires or scenes that allowed tension to build. This unfortunately made the events feel a little dull, particularly in Connor’s chapters. Hopefully Black Heart will carry on directly from the cliffhanger (and therefore start moving a little quicker). While Blood Captain wasn’t the worst novel that I’ve ever read, it was unfortunately just incredibly bland.

Vampirates: Blood Captain can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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