“I hate vampire stories!” One of my co-workers made that statement at the dinner table this week. It’s a sentiment I sometimes hear at conventions when people glance at my vampire novels without learning more about them. Of course, what they mean is that they hate the proliferation of vampire romances and it’s actually a sentiment I can appreciate, especially when the protagonist vampire is creepily stalking a girl centuries younger than himself. I read a book this week that definitely doesn’t fit that mold.
J. A. Campbell’s novelette The Baron and the Firebird is a vampire romance, but most definitely not one involving a vampire pretending to be a high school student. The story opens with a Russian vampire named Peter in a New York diner looking for his lost love—a woman with a beautiful voice named Zoya. A waitress at the diner suggests he try a musical that recently opened. Having nothing to lose, Peter takes her advice.
The story then flashes back to Russia in 1725. Peter, known back then as Pyotr, is a Baron managing lands. Even though he’s a vampire, he’s learned to subsist on goat’s blood so he doesn’t have to drink the blood of his subjects. Pyotr is able to walk in sunlight through the aid of magical cherries that grow in his garden. Only a small number grow in the harsh Russian winter and he parcels them out carefully because they help him to be a good and effective ruler of his land. Unfortunately, a bird has entered the orchard and has started eating the magical cherries.
This is not just any bird, but a magical firebird. Pyotr traps her. Entranced by her beauty, he builds her a bigger cage. One day, he’s surprised to find not the firebird in his cage, but a beautiful woman. He lets her out and they talk. She makes a bargain to stay a year for each cherry she ate from his garden.
As you might infer, events happen which cause them to become separated, since Pyotr is searching for her years later. I was delighted by the fairy-tale like quality of this particular vampire story. I also appreciated that this story explored the love of two immortal creatures, one of light and one of darkness. The vampire elevates himself to become better than most would expect while the firebird comes down to Earth. Campbell effectively builds tension, making us wonder whether or not the vampire and the firebird will be able to build a love that can last forever.
The Scarlet Order vampires would be pleased to make the acquaintance of Pyotr and Zoya. If you like tales of timeless romance, classic fairy tales, or just want to read a good, non-formulaic vampire tale, then The Baron and the Firebird is the book your looking for. You can pick up a copy in print or ebook format at Amazon.