When struggling riverboat captain Abner Marsh receives an offer of partnership from a wealthy aristocrat, he suspects something’s amiss. But when he meets the hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York, he is certain. For York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet. Nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York has his own reasons for wanting to traverse the powerful Mississippi. And they are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious his actions may prove.
Marsh meant to turn down York’s offer. It was too full of secrets that spelled danger. But the promise of both gold and a grand new boat that could make history crushed his resolve—coupled with the terrible force of York’s mesmerizing gaze. Not until the maiden voyage of his new sidewheeler Fevre Dream would Marsh realize he had joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare…and mankind’s most impossible dream.
Here is the spellbinding tale of a vampire’s quest to unite his race with humanity, of a garrulous riverman’s dream of immortality, and of the undying legends of the steamboat era and a majestic, ancient river.
First off, let me say that I’m blaming this review on Speculative Book Reviews for the reason I read this book. I had no desire to read anything by George R. R. Martin besides his A Song of Ice and Fire series until I read that review. For some odd reason I thought reading something else from GRRM would somehow ruin how much I enjoy A Song of Ice and Fire, so I’ve avoided all his other stuff like the plague (I know that makes no sense. I’m not expecting it to).
Fevre Dream is a book that happily mixes the 1850’s, riverboats, The Mississippi River and vampires. This book was first published in 1982. I did a search to see who came first, Martin or Anne Rice. Well, Anne Rice won with her book Interview with the Vampire, which was first published in 1976. So many people choose to write vampire books and place them somewhere in the south. New Orleans seems to attract vampires like flies on…. Well, fill in the rest. I was incredibly interested to see how Martin would make this typical geographic location any different from every other vampire book currently clogging the bookstores like bad arteries.
If you haven’t noticed thus far I’m rather cynical when it comes to vampires. I am so sick of reading about vampires and their sexy white skin and their amazing captivating eyes and their bodies that just exude sex, sex, sex and the hard up female investigator who is inevitably researching some murder mystery which will lead her to her fanged nightmare/heart throb and into a world she never dreamed existed blah blah blah. Oops. I forgot myself. I guess I just gave away every plot in the Urban Fantasy section of the bookstore. Gosh, sorry guys.
Anyway, rant aside, I read the review for Fevre Dream on the website I gave above and thought, hell, if anyone can breathe new life into the vampire scene it’s going to be Martin (even though the book is 20 years old). So off to the library I went. I wasn’t honestly expecting to enjoy it but I devoured the book in a day (which means 1 of 2 things with me: 1- I loved the book. 2- I absolutely hated it and rushed through it to end the pain).
Fevre Dream is filled with a unique cast, each of the main characters are interesting in their own way. Abner Marsh is a river boat captain who is down on his luck and, in essence, strikes a deal with the devil, Joshua York. Interspersed in this is plenty of action, mystery and intrigue as well as some twisted scenes toward the end which made me made weird faces and groan low in my throat.
The plot is fast moving. Martin writes his book like a riverboat trip. It starts out slow and easy with some happiness and good news. Then, with each additional mile down the river he adds a layer of…something to his plot until, by the time they reach New Orleans, you couldn’t put the book down even if you wanted to. Fevre Dream is very dark, which is Martin’s specialty. The setting along the Mississippi pre-civil war just adds a layer of interest and depth to the plot. He writes candidly about the slave trade and adds plenty of period-current events and traditions to his narrative to really make his world interesting.
I wasn’t incredibly shocked by any of the unfolding plot. It was easy enough to guess at most of the developments, but remarkably where something like that usually bothers me, it didn’t with Fevre Dream. Martin’s world is alive, his larger than life characters are easy to understand while remaining interesting and captivating in their own right. His writing is, as always, strong and fluid.
This is no A Song of Ice and Fire, but I found the change of pace refreshing. It was rather fun for me to see what else Martin could cook up in that big huge brain of his. And despite the fact that this book involves vampires, it had to be one of the most refreshing, revitalizing vampire books I’ve read. There was no horny investigator woman or some vampire that heightens your libido with each mysterious breath he takes. No, instead this was a book about life and death and passion (in a pretty nonsexual way).
He chose the perfect setting for a story of this magnitude. I found myself almost as interested in the riverboat culture and politics of the time as I was by the story itself. This book is dark and the plot is unforgiving and relentless and yes, parts are even grotesque, but it’s well worth reading. It will be the cheapest trip down the Mississippi you will ever take and once you put the book down, you’ll feel as though you were actually there on that riverboat floating down that river.
This is a stand-alone book, so fans of series books beware