August 21, 2014 | Posted in LGBT THEMES, PARANORMAL, ROMANCE | By sockii
A Unique (and Steamy!) Take on the Vampire Genre
Vampires are everywhere in fiction today, from Anne Rice‘s classic “Interview with a Vampire” to Edward and the rest of the Cullen clan of the Twilight novels. But for those who love vampire stories and are perhaps looking for something a little different, I recommend checking out author Michael Schiefelbein’s Vampires Series, beginning with the book “Vampire Vow”.
Dark, dangerous, erotic – and perhaps more than a little bit blasphemous – the Vampires Series follows the life, loves and challenges of 2,000 year old vampire Victor Decimus. Victor is definitely not your typical modern-day romantic “hero” vampire. He is brutally amoral, has little regard for human life, and is in fact on a centuries-long vendetta against the Christian church thanks to the personal rejection he suffered from the first man he ever loved: the man we know today as Jesus Christ.
In turns scandalous, disturbing, vivid, romantic and exceedingly steamy, this series is not for every reader by a long shot! But if you enjoy fiction that asks challenging questions as well as entertains, and if you have an open mind to exploring darker, erotic fictional territory, then you just might enjoy this four-book series of vampire fiction. Read on to learn more about the books, author Michael Schiefelbein, and what you can expect to find in the pages of these startling vampire books.
“I wanted Jesus. That’s how it started. Yes, the Jesus they built a religion on, the one they say rose from the dead.”
– The opening line of Vampire Vow, the first book in the Vampire series by Michael Schiefelbein
About Michael Schiefelbein’s Vampires Series
A brief introduction to the storyline
The Vampires Series follows the life, loves and sexual/romantic exploits of Victor Decimus, a one-time Roman officer who served under none other than Pontius Pilate. At one point in his military career he is sent to Jerusalem which he finds dreadfully boring – save for a captivating and beautiful Jewish youth whom he calls “Joshu”. He and Joshu become quick friends despite their differences, and despite the fact that Victor finds himself extremely attracted to the other man who continually rejects his sexual interest and advances.
Enraged by his repeated rejections, Victor becomes increasingly violent and reckless to an extent that he faces imprisonment by his superiors in the Roman army. Refusing to accept such a fate, he seeks refuge – and enters a new stage in his life – at the fangs and blood of a mysterious visionary woman who turns out to be a vampire. Because she has created a new vampire, she is free to leave this world for “The Dark Kingdom” while Victor must struggle to find his way, coping with intense bloodlust and still trying to get Joshu to accept him – even to the very day Christ is crucified.
Victor finds himself only increasingly enraged and driven by a need for vengeance against the new Christian faith growing after the death of the man he had loved. He vows to seek vengeance against Joshu’s God by destroying their sacred places, especially the monasteries which ironically provide Victor good cover through the centuries, where he can sleep by day in their tombs and feed by night – and also work to corrupt the monks before destroying their homes. Victor knows there is only one way he can escape this world and join his maker in The Dark Kingdom: by finding another worthy of his love, someone who will give up his human life and become a vampire, destined to roam earth alone for at least two centuries before earning their own place in the vampire “heaven”. For two millennia, Victor thinks he shall never find someone worthy of his love again – that is, until he comes upon Brother Michael in a monastery of St. Thomas, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains.
Is Michael “the one” who will provide Victor with freedom from Earth? Or is he too devoted to Joshu’s God – and perhaps controlled by his own demons and ghosts, possessed by spirits as dangerous in their own ways as Victor? Thus is the basic story behind “Vampire Vow”, the first story in Michael Schiefelbein’s Vampires Series.
Michael Schiefelbein spent ten years studying for the priesthood. He is now a professor of writing and literature in Memphis, Tennessee.
Vampires Book #1: “Vampire Vow”
This first book in the series was published in 2001 and introduces us to Victor and his history: who he was before he became a vampire, how he came to know Jesus, and why and how he became a vampire. It’s a fast and fairly easy read (provided the subject matter does not scandalize you). We see Victor as very much a character of his Roman youth and upbringing, a good soldier if one who thinks little of abusing those he considers less than himself. That’s why his interest and deep attraction to Joshu seems to disturb him so much at first: here is a Jewish man who should be everything he is supposed to despise, yet he is the most beautiful and desirable man Victor has ever known.
As a vampire, Victor is completely without remorse most of the time for the humans he kills for blood – and he kills often, sometimes multiple humans in a night if he stumbles upon a family and must kill all to avoid being identified. While it makes him a somewhat difficult character to empathize with, the author does a good job of developing his character (through a first-person narrative strictly from Victor’s point-of-view). And it is somewhat refreshing to read a book where vampires are presented as truly bloodthirsty killers, not the overly romantic “sparkly” vampires of today’s popular media.
Author Michael Schiefelbein is adept at creating interesting characters quickly and evoking different atmospheres and environments. The backroads, remote Appalachian setting of “Vampire Vow” is quite vivid and creepy, a place Victor finds well suited to his evening prowls until the local police start getting suspicious of the many deaths and missing persons reports of elderly and isolated individuals. The heat is especially on when one of the young brothers, whom Victor had been having an affair with, “disappears” – Victor had to kill him after the young man became too suspicious and jealous that Victor was showing more interest in Brother Michael than himself.
Indeed, my one complaint about “Vampire Vow” was that I found Michael one of the least convincing and interesting characters in the book. It was difficult to see exactly what it was about Michael that so entranced Victor, save for the fact that he initially rejected Victor so strongly and considered him a threat to the order and peace at the monastery when Victor first appeared, pretending to be a brother himself whose monastery had recently been destroyed in a fire. The story sometimes seems to be a bit rushed and in fact I believe it could have done well with some more fleshing out of the storyline, setting and characters.
Even so, the entire premise of the book was something I found intriguing and I enjoyed the author’s unique take on vampire lore. This book is most certainly for adult audiences only as there is considerable violence and sexually explicit language and scenarios. However, if you are willing to give the storyline a chance then I think you would be pleasantly surprised by this book.
A thoughtful and different take on the vampire genre, mixing in religion and gay romance/erotica convincingly. I finished this book in several quick reading sessions and found it suspenseful and continually engaging.
Spoilers and details follow for the other books in the Vampires series. If you haven’t read “Vampire Vow” yet, you might not want to continue…
Vampires Book #2: “Vampire Thrall”
Continuing Victor’s story in modern day Rome…
In “Vampire Thrall”, Victor has moved on after the rejection (and death) of Brother Michael. He is now seeking sanctuary and disguising himself as “Brother” Victor at the Monastery of San Benedetto in Rome, Italy. Still haunted by apparitions of Joshu, trying to get him to reject darkness and accept that it is not too late to come to the light of God, Victor is unprepared for the arrival of Paul Lewis – an artist from a small town in Kansas. Paul is staying at the monastery to illustrate a new book of the gospels, and is struggling with his own demons: his last lover left him for the priesthood, he suffers from epilepsy, and he has been haunted by visions of a dark and sensual vampire.
Paul is quickly attracted to Victor, with whom he goes on evening explorations of Rome (until Victor leaves him to feed.) But Victor resists Paul despite his own attraction, until Paul witnesses him killing another. In a panic, Victor turns Paul into a “thrall” – a being caught between human and vampire existence, totally dependent on Victor until either completely made vampire or killed.
Both Paul and Victor face difficult decisions: is Paul really the one Victor has sought all of these centuries? Can Paul stand spending at least 200 years alone on earth before joining Victor in The Dark Kingdom? Why is Michael still haunting Victor and now threatening to turn Paul against him?
I actually read “Vampire Thrall” before “Vampire Vow” and I’m glad I did, as I think it is a much better novel with more interesting character development – and some really steamy, hot writing! This book alternates in viewpoint between Paul and Victor, allowing the reader better insight into both of their mindsets and motivations. Paul is a wonderful character, well developed in his struggles with his sexuality, difficult family life, medical problems and issues with the faith he is trying to portray in his art. I fell very quickly for Paul myself and could see and understand the mutual desire between him and Victor.
I also loved the setting of Rome for this book. Having visited the city several years ago myself, I could vividly see the locations and scenes the author describes throughout and it really added to the atmosphere of the story. This was Victor’s home, 2000 years ago, and he still remembers how it once was and can walk among the ruins remembering its one time glory.
This book also seriously amps up the steamy content as compared to “Vampire Vow”. Like, several hundred percent! *Blush* If you enjoy really erotic gay fiction this book delivers on all fronts (many, many times over) yet I love that the story line always remains prominent and the driving force throughout – not the sex scenes.
I recommend this book strongly – in fact, I almost recommend that readers go to this book first, and then read “Vampire Vow” second for more of Victor’s story and point of view. I found this a much better written book overall and a fascinating look at the crossroads of sexuality and religion.
This book features a well-developed romance between our two main protagonists, Victor and Paul. The other brothers in the monastery are also interesting characters, the setting of Rome is beautifully described, and the tension builds steadily throughout until the book’s climactic chapters.
Vampires Book #3: “Vampire Transgression”
Victor and Paul take a bite out of Washington…
Vampires do not have many rules on Earth, but the few they have are meant to be followed to the letter. They are not supposed to mingle with other vampires, and when a vampire convinces a human to take his place, he must leave Earth for The Dark Kingdom.
But Victor has never been one to play by the rules. After turning his lover Paul into a vampire, he has refused to leave him and instead remains with him on Earth. Now they live in Georgetown and mingle with BDSM devotees at a club they run in a former church. But Victor’s transgression is not being taken lightly by agents of the dark, and everything they hold dear may fall apart as punishment for his actions.
This third book in the series is set one year after the events in “Vampire Thrall”, with Paul and Victor well established in their “happy household” life together in Georgetown. Paul paints at night while Victor manages the club that is, apparently, his next step in his war against Jesus and the church – a private BDSM establishment where anything goes, and clients from all over the world come to indulge in their darkest fantasies. One such client is the mysterious Sonia – whom Victor quickly realizes is a vampire herself, and she warns Paul and Victor of the danger they are in for violating the rules of the Dark Kingdom. Will Sonia help Paul and Victor stay together, or is she in fact there to make sure they are torn apart?
This book was a fast read – I read it almost entirely on a single long plane ride – but I did not find it as satisfying as the first two books in the series (hence my long delay in actually finishing it!) For one, the narrative voice changes here from first person (alternating between Victor and Paul) to third person. This sets up a bit of detachment and distance between the reader and our two “hero” vampires, which makes it a little more difficult to get inside their heads and sympathize with them. When Victor starts suddenly trying to push Paul away from him and acting very differently from previous, it is especially jarring as the reader doesn’t fully understand the reasons for it.
I also didn’t find the on-going setting and plot revolving around their fetish club especially interesting, either. I’m not into BDSM play at all, so the sections detailing some of the club members’ activities just bored instead of intrigued me. It felt somewhat like the author went down this path with the storyline just to try to find a new way to shock readers after the first two books focused so much on the church.
The ending of the book is a bit of a let-down as well. After a confusing series of climactic events, Victor seems finally ready to make a certain decision only to do exactly the opposite. It leaves the book to end on a very unsatisfactory note with very little resolved. I know there is a fourth novel yet to go, but it seemed as though this one deserved more of an actual ending first.
That said, of course the fourth (and last) book is on my reading list to get to before the end of the year. After investing this much time into the series I just have to know what happens to Victor, Paul, and some of the other characters introduced in this series!
A bit of a change of pace from the first two books in this series, but still one that fans of the series will want to continue reading.
Vampire Book #4: “Vampire Maker”
The conclusion (so far?) to Victor’s story
Victor loved Paul, but had to abandon him to save himself after refusing to play by the rules of The Dark Kingdom. Now in New Orleans, he has a new thrall to consider turning: Kyle, the priest we first met in “Vampire Transgression:. But there’s also a young priest named Charles wants to break Victor’s control of Kyle, and the Kingdom fears Victor is going to upset the balance of the universe by becoming a “Vampire Maker” – one who creates vampires without leaving Earth himself.
Victor’s powers are only growing stronger and stronger since he chose to leave Paul and remain on Earth. Will be become strong enough to one day walk the Earth in full daylight and create his own Dark Kingdom?
I returned to this series after a long break away from it to finally ready “Vampire Maker”. I suppose part of me did not want to see the series be over, as I have seen no mention of their being a fifth or any other continuing titles to be published about Victor. And that’s a shame, because my main complaint about this book is that in no way does it really feel like a satisfying conclusion to the series.
That’s not to say it isn’t a good read; it absolutely is. I found it much more interesting and a better story than “Vampire Transgression”. Charles is an interesting character, as a priest who is struggling to stay true to his faith while falling in love with Kyle and wanting to protect him. And once again Schiefelbein did a fabulous job bringing to life the story’s setting, here in New Orleans not long after Hurricane Katrina.
My problem is that the ending, while it reaches a certain conclusion for Kyle and Charles, leaves everything about Victor’s future wide open. After all of this build-up, we never get a full battle between the Dark Kingdom and Victor. There is a lot suggested, there is the return of Victor’s own maker and the danger of his growing powers, but we are left hanging at the end as to where all of this will lead.
Could the author himself not make up his mind, or get stuck on where to go next? It’s a shame if so as I really want to know what happens next for all of these characters. And what of Paul: will he ever learn that Victor is still on Earth? I missed Paul in this book as I really loved him as a character and his relationship with Victor; Kyle was nowhere near an interesting a companion to me.
All that said, I still devoured (pardon the pun) this book in just a few days time and found it hard to put it down at all. I suppose I will hold out hope that some day we might find out Victor’s fate in another book in this series. (If not, I may just have to write some fanfic for it to satisfy my own need for a real resolution!)A solid title in the series with lots of love, (blood) lust, and religious angst. It just didn’t feel like a fully satisfying end to the series.
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sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.
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June 22, 2016
Great reviews. I’ll admit I didn’t bother with Vampire Maker when I discovered Paul wasn’t in it. He was really the only character I came to care about. Victor is a selfish asshole. I hope Paul finds a vampire man worthy of him… I mean seriously, the final book and we NEVER find out what happens to Paul. Pfft pass.
And honestly after reading your review of the 4th and possibly last installment I have even less desire to read it. If you do write your own fanfiction conclusion would you be willing to share it?