By G P Taylor
Published by Faber and Faber
ISBN 978 0 521 22694 8
Graham Taylor's teen fiction writing career began with Shadowmancer and Wormwood, two horror novels that got the hairs standing up on the necks of readers all over the world. He took a bit of a detour with the wonderful Mariah Mundi trilogy, exploring the fantasy adventure genre, but now the author is back doing what he does best.
With his latest novel, Taylor has set himself the task of taking the vampire (or vampyre) back where he belongs: in the shadows, sucking blood.
While the first vampire story ever published - The Vampyre by John Polidori - appeared in 1819, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) set the original template for the blood-sucking villains. That is, a blood-sucking monster, not a lovelorn romantic figure resisting the advances of teenage females.
With his new series Vampyre Labyrinth, Taylor uses Polidori's spelling to underline the violent power of the ancient creatures.
Taylor opens his story in the bombed-out streets of second-world-war London. A boy and his mother are running through the devastation trying to get to King's Cross Station. German bombs are falling all around them. The British government is sending youngsters to unthreatened areas of the country, and teenager Jago Harker has been listed to leave London that day. But as they head to the train, a bomb suddenly explodes in front of them and Jago's mum is killed.
Some time later, Jago is pulled out of the rubble and pushed onto a train heading north. Before he has fully taken in what is happening to him, he arrives in Whitby. He knows no one here, and has no clue why his mother has told the evacuation authorities she wants her son to be sent to Whitby. Novels don't begin with a more exciting or promising opening sequence than the one Taylor delivers in Redeye.
There is a classic scene in Dracula, in which the vampire count arrives on a deserted sailing ship during in the north-eastern British port of Whitby. Taylor uses Whitby, a town he knows well, as the setting for Vampyre Labyrinth: Redeye. This is a clever decision: Whitby, with its storm-lashed coastline, and dark streets and alleyways, has the perfect atmosphere for this tale.
Arriving at his destination, Jago quickly senses all is not right. He takes lodgings in a local orphanage, run by a sinister female superintendent who knows more about Jago's arrival than she is letting on. As the London teen settles in, he hears stories of night creatures roaming the nearby graveyard, of mysterious disappearances and ancient curses. There is evil stalking the streets of Whitby.
Vampyre Labyrinth: Redeye is a vampire thriller not for the faint-hearted. Taylor piles on the spooks with an expert hand and refuses to hold anything back. He sets out to grip his reader by the throat, he succeeds admirably. RedEye is one scary read for anyone strong enough to take it.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com