In the early 15th century Venice of The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, no one is safe from the political ambitions of the ruling family – not even Giuliette, beautiful cousin of the Duke. She becomes a pawn in the schemes of her aunt and uncle who are Regents for the simpleton Duke Marco. Meanwhile, Venice faces external threats from the Ottomans, the Byzantines and the German emperor. It is Atilo il Mauro’s job as head of the Assassini to protect Venice and enforce the will of its ruling family while trying not to be destroyed by that family’s internal power struggles.
Add a touch of the supernatural in the form of the German emperor’s krieghund (werewolves), the Duchess Alexa’s pet witch, and Atilo’s new young apprentice, Tycho and you have something that is definitely not your standard werewolves versus vampires novel. At the heart of the story is Tycho, an angel-faced boy with a mysterious past not even he knows fully. Stronger and faster than any man, he seems a perfect heir for Atilo in spite of his sensitivity to sunlight. In Grimwood’s alternate history, Tycho is the ancestor of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and his story is also that of the arrival of vampires in Europe.
This is a complex plot, its twists and turns punctuated by violence. Early in the book, the shifts of time and point of view can be a bit confusing. But as the action picked up, I found that I didn’t mind. I normally don’t read vampire novels and nearly passed this one by. But I am a sucker for a story of intrigue and assassination set in Renaissance Venice and this one came with an excellent review from a source I trust. I can’t say that I’ve become a vampire fan, but I did enjoy this intriguing book and look forward to the next installment of the trilogy.
This review was originally published on the Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Shelf Life blog.